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Cybersecurity Reading
books : by Tommy - August 2, 2019, 12:44PM
Having worked in Cybereducation for a a few years now, I am sometimes asked what sort of books or further study is out there on the cyber world. There are plenty of technical and academic books on all manner of subjects, but sometimes you want something other than a technical manual to read at night or on a lunch break.
I put together this list of books from a few different sources (at the time of this writing, I'm slowly making my way through each of them in no particular order). If you have any recommendations, connect with me and let me know!

tags: cybersecurity books computers amazon

( Comments : 0 | Full article )

Life ProTip: Converting Unused Gift Cards
news : by Tommy - October 12, 2018, 1:32PM
This week I came across some unused gift card money on some pre-paid Visa giftcards. We're talking scraps - like $2 on one card and $1.63 on another. In total, I had about $15 worth of credit spread across these gift cards.
At first I had the same thought "$1.63 isn't even worth it" - but $15 is, right? Now, I do a lot of buying from Amazon (as do a lot of people), but Amazon does not let you split a charge across different credit/debit cards. Then I discovered a clever way around this problem. Enter Amazon eGift Cards!

Using my prep-paid gift cards, I purchased Amazon eGift Cards and emailed the credit to myself. At first glance it looks like you can only buy in denominations of $25, but there's a box that allows you to specify an amount (so long as it's greater than $1). Again, Amazon doesn't let you spread a purchase across separate payment types. However, it does let you combine Amazon credit and your normal payment method. I was able to apply the $15 to my purchase which was a pleasant surprise when I ended up only paying $1.99 after applying my newly discovered giftcard money.
So, next time you find some left over giftcards or a modest mail-in rebate (which are increasingly coming back to you in the form of these prepaid cards) and you want to cash in on them, remember this handy workaround.

tags: amazon

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What is the point of ham radio
radio : by Tommy - October 16, 2017, 09:14AM
I hear this question quite a bit. "What's the point of ham radio?" usually tied in with "You know you can just pick up a phone and call someone right?" or "The internet lets you chat across the globe too, you know?"
Yes, I know it's possible to accomplish a task in a seemingly more efficient way, but that's not what makes ham radio interesting. What's the point of sailing, fishing, rock climbing, hiking, gaming, hunting, knitting, auto racing...? There are more efficient methods of travel, attaining food, clothing, etc. So what's the point of any hobby, really? Those who enjoy the hobby will say "it's fun", but that's not a very clear answer because what is fun to one person is boring to another.

With ham radio, like any other hobby, it's a pastime - one that happens to have a lot of electronic underpinnings.

In fact, I liken it to catch-and-release fishing more than chatting or phone calls. Yes, you talk to people, but the majority of hams don’t care about the content of the conversation as much as where the other party is.
In my fishing analogy, I say casting out your lure is like calling out on the radio. "Will I get a bite?" = "Will someone hear me?"

Someone probably will hear you and answer your call. So you respond and find out how well they're able to hear you, where they're from, and perhaps some other information about them. That's like reeling in a fish to measure and weigh them. "Wow! This guy's in the mountains of Nepal!"/"Wow, what a big fish!"
Sometimes the "fish" isn’t very big, the radio contact may be relatively close distance to you, so you say so-long and "cast" again - hoping for bigger fish.
Or maybe a rare fish...
Or a hard-to-catch fish...
Or a relatively famous fish...
Or maybe you want to try fishing with different equipment (bigger, smaller, new technology, relay through a satellite, etc) and see if that helps or hurts what you "reel in".

Continue reading...

tags: ham radio diy

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Things to See and Do in Galveston
galveston : by Tommy - March 11, 2017, 6:12PM
With the summer season upon us, a lot of folks will be heading to the beach. If you're headed to Galveston, Texas, there's quite a bit to see and do. Whether it's for a day trip, Spring Break or family vacation, I hope the following list of items helps you plan your trip to the Texas Gulf Coast.

First up, ride the "TxDOT cruise" (Bolivar ferry). Walk on, don't drive it. (Unless you're going to explore Fort Travis Park on the Bolivar side.) To walk on, park your car at the ferry building (1000 Ferry Rd.) then follow the crosswalks to the loading ramp. The guy/gal loading cars will tell you when to walk on. Go up top for some great views. (Feed seagulls from the back of the boat on the lower deck only.) Watch for dolphins and enjoy the views of passing ships, harbor scenery and keep an eye out for the USS Selma off Pelican Island. [I tell folks to walk on because driving is a pain to turn around and come back - it'll just cost you time sitting and waiting in a line. A problem made worse during peak tourist season!] I suggest riding the ferry when you can because nothing lets you know you're on the coast like taking in all the scenery, hearing the seagulls and ship's horns.

Once you're back, head down to The Strand district for plenty of tourist trap stores. Personally, I like Eighteen Seventy One, Nautical Antiques, and The Admiralty.
Be sure to explore along the harbor. There's a dolphin-spotting cruise around the harbor or it's fun to just sit and watch the water, birds, and a few boats in the harbor. (The Ocean Star oil rig museum is also there in the area.)

Also stop by to check out candy being made at La Kings Confectionery on The Strand.

Continue reading...

tags: galveston

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Amateur Radio Starter Kit
radio : by Tommy - September 26th 2016, 07:16PM
I recently posted on Facebook for some friends about an incredibly cheap radio out of China. It's the Baofeng UV-5R.
The little dual-band radio has been the source of much consternation among the old guard of amateur radio because of it's cheap construction, low quality display, and some technical problems with the radio (some which make it technically illegal to operate on some frequencies). However, it is 100% legal to operate on the 2m amateur band (144-148MHz). The price of this radio is what makes all shortcomings able to be overlooked. It costs $25 on Amazon with free shipping for Prime customers!

Now, the radio is not a super great radio, but it's a phenomenal starter radio. (Or, as I call the one I keep in my car, a "burner" radio. I can drop it, lose it, or have it stolen and I simply would not care.) If one were to purchase this little capable radio for the mere $25 price tag, one should also get a couple of pieces of kit that should be standard: a better after-market antenna (Option 1 or Option 2) and a USB programming cable in order to program all the frequencies of nearby repeaters using software like CHiRP. All in, the whole kit still comes in around $40 which is still a fraction of the cost of a dual band radio from one of the major amateur radio manufacturers like Icom, Kenwood, or Yaesu.

Study, study
Anyone interested in amateur radio should consider studying for their license before dropping any money on a radio. While the radio is cheap, it's still money wasted if you can't use it because you don't have a license. The student guide's I most often recommend are the Technician study guide by Gordon West, WB6NOA, or the Technician study guide by the ARRL.

Continue reading...

tags: ham_radio license radio

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CW Works
radio : by Tommy - February 16th 2016, 04:32PM
I posted earlier about my new MountainTopper Radio. They're only being made and sold in small batches so I was never able to get my hands on one until January 2016. When I visited the site and saw they were for sale, I jumped at the opportunity to secure one of the little radios and it arrived a couple of weeks later. I had a business trip to go on so I wasn't able to fully get to know the radio until I got home. After I got home, the following Monday I got on the radio with the manual open on my computer. I got a feel for all the features packed into the limited number of buttons. After a while I really got the hang of it.
The next night (Tuesday) was a NAQCC Weeknight Sprint (a mini 2-hr radio contest) and it was also a night when class was cancelled. The 40m band was in pretty decent condition that night and I easily nabbed 5 different states. At the conclusion of the contest I made a couple more contacts and decided I loved the little radio. I've been using it nightly for the past week, making at least one QRP CW contact each day ...and that's where I've learned something.

It's something I heard guys say over and over again and, like you reading this, I've seen others write about: CW Works.

It's not just some old geezer claiming his tastes/choice mode is superior. What I mean to say is when the bands are great or incredibly noisy, CW still gets through. To modify the slogan "When all else fails... CW". Sure, digital modes get through when conditions are equally rough. (I first learned that late at night during Field Day one year using PSK31.

Continue reading...

tags: ham radio cw

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MountainTopper Radio
radio : by Tommy - February 16th 2016, 10:25AM
It's been quite a while since I last made a post but this is one I have to mark the occassion for. For the better part of the past 6 months I've had my eye on the MountainTopper Radio. It's a small QRP CW radio designed by Steve Weber, KD1JV, and sold by LNR Precision. The model I got is the 3-band version. (At the time of this writing there are rumors stirring about an upcoming 5-band version. Since I'm really only active on 40m and 20m, I'll pass on the 5 band model.)

The radio is very small - about the size of a deck of cards. There's no internal antenna tuner or battery. The volume, RF gain, and filter settings are fixed so there's no need for adjustment knobs. Nor is there a tuning knob. Tuning is done by two push buttons (UP and DOWN) that nudge the VFO up or down 50Hz. Holding down the button will change the frequency in 100Hz steps at a rate of 10 steps per second.
The elimination of knobs on the face of the radio allows the radio to pack very small. It's so small in fact, I was moved to get a Micro key from KK5PY. It has to be the smallest paddles I've ever used. To match the small size, the MTR can be powered by a 9V battery or a small 12V LiPo battery pack. Pack in some earbuds, a wire antenna, and a paper logbook and the whole kit fits into a small padded, zippered case ready to go. It's a radio meant for travel! I can't wait to take it on the road with me.
I've been using it to make QRP CW contacts each day for the past week and I'm going to try to get QRP Worked All States on 40m CW.

Continue reading...

tags: ham radio qrp cw

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WebSDR on Raspberry Pi
radio : by Tommy - August 10th 2015, 05:12PM
In Fall 2014, I setup my first Raspberry Pi WebSDR receiver for the 40m amateur radio band. In late July 2015, the Raspberry Pi stopped working at all. Once I hooked a monitor up to it, I learned the SD card had been corrupted. I'm now in the process of rebuilding the receiver and will be updating the steps required to setup this project on my project page.
The receiver hardware itself is fine and operational, it is only the WebSDR host (Raspberry Pi) that is out of commission.

For now the WebSDR and ISS iGate must connect to my home network via a wireless link from my ham shack behind my house. I'm in the process of digging a trench to run a network connection out to the shack so I don't have to wrestle with spotty wifi coverage. I'm going to be running fiber optic for the main run for reason I'll explain that in an upcoming post.

tags: raspberrypi ham radio raspi linux

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Raspberry Pi TNC ISS iGate
radio : by Tommy - April 8th 2014, 02:04PM
Not so long ago I completed construction of my Raspberry Pi TNC, the TNCPi. Construction of this kit was very straight forward. A few additional pictures would have made this a great kit for beginners, but still the same it's an easy build.

Building Tips
A couple of items to note regarding construction. Ensure the correct polarity of the electrolytic capacitor (C1): The negative stripe goes toward C15.
The transistor (Q1) PN2222's flat side goes away from the edge of the board.
The voltage regulator (U1) MCP1700's flat edge goes toward the edge of the board.
Crystal X2 (20MHz) is near U1. Crystal X1 (3.57MHz) is neat Q1.
Note the pin 1 position of all ICs.

Interface cable
After completing assembly of the TNC, I set to work on creating a radio interface cable to connect to the DB9 port on the TNCpi.

The pinout for the TNC Pi matches the TinyTrak cabling:
Pin 1TX Audio
Pin 3PTT
Pin 5RX Audio
Pin 6Ground

Tuning Audio Output
After creating the cable, I set the audio output level as noted in the instructions. To do this, you'll need two radios. I used 2 HTs, one that I had created the interface cable for and a spare. Tune the radios to the same frequency (I used 144.44). On the radio with the interface cable, I pressed the PTT button and heard a tone being transmitted to the neighboring radio. Adjust R7 to it's maximum volume before it begins to distort.

After tuning the audio, the TNC Pi project is complete. How you plan to implement the TNC Pi is entirely up to the software you choose. For many, this may be Xastir for an APRS GUI. For others, it may be aprx to create an APRS beacon, iGate, digipeater or any combination of the three.

tags: raspi aprs ariss iss tnc raspberrypi

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HOWTO: Configure Hamlib for Linux Hams - Part 2
radio : by Tommy - December 3rd 2013, 06:48PM
This is a continuation of a two part series about how to configure hamlib for Linux ham radio users.
To get started, be sure to read through Part 1.

In the last post, I pointed out that hamlib was create to simplify the once fragmented world of computer control for amateur radio. With hamlib in place, developers can interact with hamlib which serves as an abstraction layer of sorts for software development. Developers don't need to worry that you're running a particular model of radio, so long as you get your radio working with hamlib, your radio is supported.
I'm going to assume you have /dev/radio and /dev/rotator already configured (since we did that in the previous post). Now, we're going to configure the daemons (servers) that allow a myriad of radio related applications to interact with your amateur radio equipment.

Hamlib centers around two core daemons: rigctld and rotctld. The daemons receive commands from applications via TCP. It is possible to have these daemons controlled via the network if you so wish. That functionality is a bit beyond the scope of this article, but the concepts below are exactly the same and just requires the correct ports be opened. Speaking of ports, rigctld and rotctld use ports 4532 and 4533, respectively. Also note that there is no security built into these devices. Should you need external connectivity, you should create an SSH tunnel.

Find your equipment
The first step in configuring rigctld is to find if your particular radio (and rotator for rotctld) is supported. Here is a list of all supported radios for rigctld (chances are, if it's a modern radio with computer interface, it's supported). For rotctld, things get a little more difficult. In order to see if your rotator controller is supported, you need to identify which protocol is supported.

Continue reading...

tags: ham radio hamlib linux satellite

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HOWTO: Configure Hamlib for Linux Hams - Part 1
radio : by Tommy - December 2nd 2013, 8:11PM
Linux and ham radio, where two of the geek worlds collide. Fortunately, with so many geeks involved in both pursuits, a lot of great tools have emerged. Unfortunately, documentation on how to configure some of it was hard to come by. (At least, it seemed that way to me.) Here, I hope to layout as quickly and easily as possible the steps required for other hams to configure hamlib on their linux computers. I'm going to assume you're running a modern version of linux and have a USB connection to your radio and/or rotator.

What is Hamlib?
First of all, Hamlib is a set of ham radio control libraries that allows amateur radio operators to control their radio and antenna rotators via their computer. Hamlib abstracts many device-specific control issues from application developers, allowing for a more robust user experience across several programs. Prior to hamlib, there were several different tools and libraries. None of these tools provided a common API for programmers to interface. As a result, the application landscape was fragmented and functionality suffered. Now, with hamlib, programmers can utilize hamlib to interact with a whole range of devices.

To use hamlib, you must first have a computer interface cable from your radio to your computer. Without this, everything else here is pretty useless. If you don't have a cable yet, look on eBay for cables tailored to your radio. (It's where I found mine.)
My radio is a Yaesu FT-847 which has a DB9 serial port for CAT computer control. To interface with my computer, I use a cheap USB-to-serial adapter - nothing special. My antenna rotator is a Yaesu FT-5500 with the brilliantly simple WA8SME Satellite Tracker Interface from the ARRL.

USB, Linux and udev
Most modern distributions of Linux include a subsystem to handle when USB devices are inserted.

Continue reading...

tags: ham radio hamlib linux satellite

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Higher Ed Enrollment Database
news : by Tommy - September 3rd 2013, 11:45PM
This is something I thought today during a meeting...

I recently learned we have had several students not report *all* institutions they've attended before. (Ex: One student "forgot" to mention they had taken courses with Univ of Phoenix for ~70hrs and stopped attending. Univ of Phoenix is holding that student's transcript until they settle up on their bill. [Transcripts are the one thing a school can hold over a student for failure to pay.] It came to light when the student's Financial Aid was processing...)
School's usually require this because prior scholastic work is taken into consideration when placing the student in courses, academic standing, etc. and ensures a students will make good on their financial obligations - like a gentlemen's agreement among institutions. I asked in our Registrar's office what happens if a student doesn't divulge all schools they've attended, "What's the worst that could happen to them?" "It could get them suspended from our school." In the grand scheme of things, so what? They could move down the road to another school and take classes there. It would be a huge headache for the student, but a driven and motivated student could navigate the system and get their degree one way or another from some institution. (especially from certain schools that are willing to do anything to get money and could care less about the other schools down the road...)

So. What's the big deal? The trouble is Financial Aid fraud.
Unscrupulous individuals will solicit the school for financial aid, scholarships, grants, etc. in hopes the grants and loan money comes to them directly and/or any overage in scholarship/grant money gets sent to them directly, all the while never intending to *actually* take classes. Before any financial aid is disbursed, the student will usually sign a short-term loan with the school to cover the courses in the meantime.

Continue reading...

tags: highered college education

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HOWTO: NOAA Weather Satellites
radio : by Tommy - August 7th 2013, 11:31AM
Most people are aware that every day weather satellites pass overhead to get a glimpse of the nation's weather patterns. Many people, especially those outside the ham radio community, are unaware that the signals these NOAA weather satellites transmit are readily accessible with a minimum amount of equipment. These satellites use a technology known as APT, or Automatic Picture Transmission. NOAA-19 is perhaps the easiest APT satellite to receive because it provides the best, strongest signal for visual satellite imagery. Because of this, we'll focus on NOAA-19 for this post.

All you really need to receive the satellite's signal is a radio receiver like an old police scanner (found at thrift stores) or a simple 2m ham radio handitalkie (like the Baofeng UV5R). An external antenna is usually better, but not a requirement for casual reception of the image. Other than the radio, the only other pieces are a computer with sound input and an audio cable (to get the audio out from the radio to the input on the computer).
If you would like to get the best images possible from every pass of the satellite, use an outdoor antenna connected to your radio. Discone antennas for scanners work well, as will any 2m amateur radio antenna. These antennas do suffer from "fades" where the gain of the antenna is weakest. To minimize these anomalies, eggbeater antennas or the very common quadrifilar helical antenna are used by serious hobbyists and weather professionals.

Once you have the required hardware, download the free WxToImg software which is available for Windows, Mac and Linux. There are other features and enhancements to the software if you upgrade, but it's still not a requirement.
Once the program installs, the first time you start the program you will be prompted to enter your Latitude and Longitude.

Continue reading...

tags: radio noaa-19 wx satellite howto

( Comments : 1 | Full article )

RTL Software Defined Radio
hardware : by Tommy - May 9th 2013, 10:56PM
Last week I got my newest toy in. It's a USB DVB RTL Receiver featuring the Realtek chipset beloved by radio enthusiasts. The chip functions by receiving radio signals and converting them to audio streams which the computer can decode/demodulate using software. The software tells the chip what frequency to tune to, and demodulates the signal. This concept is known as a Software Defined Radio or SDR for short.

The Realtek is cheap and agile enough to tune a wide range of frequencies (52 MHz-2200 MHz). Thanks to free (as in beer) software like SDRSharp, the "work" of setting up this complex sounding setup is almost trivial. (Especially if you use the install script in the downloads section of SDRSharp. Other websites can show you how to setup a trunking radio scanner for police/fire/EMS in your area. [So long as your local fire responders don't use a trunked P25 Phase II system])

If you're looking to get started, check out this USB DVB Dongle (any RTL2832U receiver should work). I would also recommend getting an antenna pigtail so you can use a bigger/better antenna for whatever frequencies you want to receive.

tags: radio sdr rtl

( Comments : 1 | Full article )

Ham Radio PDF Archive
radio : by Tommy - March 26th 2013, 04:11PM
The other day I went looking for an old issue of the once-free publication WorldRadio Online, but had trouble finding all the issues in a single repository. I decided to make myself one once I found all the files. So here it is: www.n5dux.com/ham/pubs

WorldRadio used to be a very low key, cheap publication about amateur radio. The kits and homebrew articles were worth a look. WorldRadio had a small following but when the much larger CQ magazine offered to buy-out WorldRadio, the owners of WorldRadio gave in. CQ has far more advertising dollars to support their publications (CQ, CQ-VHF and PopComm) - for them, it's a business wrapped around a hobby. WorldRadio was more of a hobby wrapped around a hobby.

So CQ Magazine bought the small WorldRadio, moved their "lifetime subscription" members to a one or two year CQ magazine subscription (crummy deal) and made WorldRadio into a free, online-only publication titled WorldRadio Online. (A move that jilted many of the older, not-quite-so-tech-savvy readership.) Many of the longtime readers said it was the end of WorldRadio, some said it was the start of online publications for ham radio. Both were right. WorldRadio Online was a great monthly treat because it was free. The transition to online was made easier in that the reader wasn't having to pay for it. The content got watered down somewhat as CQ wasn't making much money on the project, but you get what you pay for: no complaints. Still, longtime readers still said the end was near for WorldRadio. In October 2011, they were proven more correct. WorldRadio Online became a paid-for, online-only publication. The once-free PDFs were taken down and any new content would have to be paid for. I'm unaware of any widespread fanbase of the now online-only paid publication which can only mean it's a matter of time before the publisher pulls the plug on the project altogether.

Also succumbing to similar commercial/financial pressures is the European publication HamMag.

Continue reading...

tags: WRO WorldRadio HamMag Ham Radio

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7400 Oscillator
hardware : by Tommy - January 21st 2013, 10:51PM
I recently came across a schematic that showed how to build an oscillator using the NAND gates inside a 7400 chip. After poking around online, looking for the 7400 (and not some variant) I learned the LeTourneau University College of Engineering has a parts supply closet with a whole stash of them for 5¢ each. (I've known about the parts closet for quite a number of years, but only recently discovered a tall filing cabinet full of most commonly used ICs. (No NE602 or 612s, I'm afraid, but that's another post for another time.)

So, with my 7400 in hand, I was able to breadboard an oscillator using the "colorburst" crystal at 3.579 MHz. The oscillator emits a square wave at the fundamental frequency, so harmonics abound. In fact, just through playing around with another receiver, the 3rd harmonic at ~28.632 MHz is considerably stronger than the others that fall in the ham bands. (All higher harmonics are just above the ham bands, though I may be able to pull them back down with a variable capacitor in series with the crystal.) I need to do some range testing on this to see just how far I can get on the various bands.
My next trick is to build a bandpass filter network to dampen the harmonics down to legal levels. Then, I'll have a bona fide transmitter, though very, very low power. Perhaps a final amplifier is on the drawing board next.

tags: electronics diy radio

( Comments : 1 | Full article )

Parallax Propeller
programming : by Tommy - July 21st 2012, 11:20AM
I recently picked up a Propeller Board of Education from my recent trip to Parallax, Inc to teach the Teachers' Institute for the ARRL. The Propeller is Parallax's latest microcontroller platform that offers far more than the old beloved BASIC Stamp could. Digging back through my old posts, I found my initial review of the Parllax BASIC Stamp from 2006. (Little did I know that about 5 years later I'd begin teaching classes on the Stamp, visit Parallax HQ, and befriend the author of the "What's a Microcontroller" book (among other titles).)

The Propeller is a programmable multicore microcontroller that can be programmed in Assembly, Spin (an Object-Based programming language that I'm still learning), or, most recently, Standard C. The multicore design lends itself well for many, many projects, chief among them is robotics. Now your creations can take in and process loads more data at once. And with robotics, the more sensory input your bot has, the better equipped it will be to handle various tasks.

I just recently began to fully grasp the power of the little Propeller chip. Once the relative simplicity of utilizing the 8 cores available (known as "cogs"), the possibilities begin to multiply and compound one atop the other. My initial reluctance to the Propeller was the Spin language. The operators seem a bit foreign compared to the C-style languages I've been comfortable with for so long. The various code sections also seemed confusing initially. After reading through the tutorials posted on the learn.parallax.com website, I was up and running in a relatively short amount of time. I also took advantage of the Propeller Manual (pdf) and Programming the Propeller with Spin (pdf). While both offer great starting points, be sure to reference the learn.parallax.com site first - the Programming the Propeller text has its weaknesses.

Continue reading...

tags: microcontroller parallax propeller boe

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The Subsidized Food Stamp
rant : by Tommy - March 9th 2012, 11:23PM
I've tried my best to steer away from getting into politics on my blog, but I felt I needed to post about this one.

In a recent conversation from his radio show, Rush Limbaugh defended Walmart for "selling crud" to those on food stamps. Rush is not the champion of free market that he would lead you to believe. He'd rather protect corporate interests than the interests of the American tax payer. Rush claims that plenty of stores sell highly processed foods and that it's not the government's place to fix the problem - oh, but it is, Rush!

If the government is spending money to feed people, shouldn't that food be healthy food that won't lead to health complications? ...Health complications which will probably cost tax-payer money too? Regardless of how you feel about the health care debate in the US, the fact is if you need immediate medical assistance, you will receive it - period. Who ends up paying for that is up in the air, but it usually comes from the hospital's bottom line and the government (at one level or another).

Ok, health problems may end up costing us somehow, but we're paying for people's food that live on food stamps, so why not give them good food? I'm not talking about filet mignon, fine wine and imported Kobe beef - I just mean basic staples like bread, produce and meats. Why give a hungry family a tube of mass-produced, ammonia-treated, brine-pumped, pink slime with fillers that passes for ground beef? Why feed a growing child "fruit drink" when we can provide them with real juice, from actual fruit? Why give them a sandwich made of slabs of bleached flower with the majority of the nutrition removed, then added back in at the minimum reportable amount for marketing? The answer lies in cost and how much each food item costs the shopping parent with the food stamps - not necessarily what the healthiest option is.

In an article from the Huffington Post, one MD discusses the hidden cost of "cheap" foods.

Continue reading...

tags: food subsidies politics

( Comments : 2 | Full article )

HOWTO: Intro to Twitter
neodux : by Tommy - February 16th 2012, 11:40AM
For anyone online you've no doubt heard that social media is defined by sites like Reddit, Facebook and Twitter. A lot of people talk about Twitter, but a vast majority of people don't know how to use Twitter. I must admit that I've had an account for years but wrote it off because it seemed so limited. The power of Twitter is not found in the brevity of the "tweets" (posts that users make on Twitter), but in the ability to monitor tweets of others.

Flow of news
In the traditional model of news aggregation, you would turn on the TV or radio, open a newspaper or seek a sole source of information. That organization would have already done the leg work of finding news, picking out what they thought the majority of their viewers/listeners/readers would find appealing and put that news out there. With the introduction of "social media", suddenly people can discern for themselves what is important. The early days of Digg brought this idea to reality and reddit took over where Digg left off. The users were now in control of the information, not the producer, publisher or editor. I'm not saying that Twitter affords this ability, but it allows you to search for items that have been flagged with certain key terms. In Twitter parlance, this flag is known as a hashtag. Until I understood hashtags, I didn't "get" Twitter - now I do.

#Hashtags - The key to Twitter
Hashtags allow you to share information that you tweet with others within a community of individuals that are, themselves, looking for information relevant to a subject. The same way that you search for things with a search engine through key words, you can also hunt for tweets with a hashtag.
I deal a lot with Education Technology, so when I'm looking for news, links and information related to Education Technology, I'll look at the Twitter hashtag #edtech.

Continue reading...

tags: twitter howto

( Comments : 0 | Full article )

HOWTO: Getting Started with CW
radio : by Tommy - October 18th 2011, 05:50PM
It's been a year since my post about Morse Code: Brief History, and I figure I might as well shed some light on how to get started operating with Morse Code. Since the Morse code requirement for ham radio was lifted in 2007, the number of amateurs getting their HF privileges has grown substantially, but with the "repeal" of code, entry level Technicians are granted privileges in certain portions of the bands. Most commonly, Technicians can operate SSB in the 10m band, but can also operate CW, or Morse Code, in 80m, 40m, 15m, and 10m. So, if you're a ham, you already have privileges to operate CW - you just need to learn where to start.

Learning the Code
For starters, you will need to learn Morse Code, one way or another. (duh.) While it may not be the universally agreed upon best way, I learned Morse Code through the Code Quick program. It really is an easy way to learn and quickly remember the code. There are countless gimmicks and "5 Minute Ab"-type programs that try to rush you through the learning process as fast as humanly possible, but few are ever successful. You just can't hurry the learning process. The downside of the CodeQuick method is not immediately known until you're trying to copy signals that are faster and faster. Once you hit about 10wpm, the CodeQuick lessons that you've used as a crutch finally become a hindrance and make copying code faster more difficult. The big plus is how quickly you'll learn the code in relatively enjoyable lessons compared to other methods.
Another alternative to learning the code is one of dozens of Koch method trainers. The Koch method, and most others, ram the code into your head seemingly through brute force.

Continue reading...

tags: ham radio cw morse code howto

( Comments : 0 | Full article )

User Friendly URLs
neodux : by Tommy - October 9th 2011, 11:01PM
Thanks to mod_rewrite and a little "why didn't I think of this before?", Neodux now has user-friendly URLs. Now instead of "cryptic" URLs with "?" and "&" signs in them, you can now just type in /read/ and the name of the blog entry you're interested in.

To see this feature in action, you can click on this story's title, or the "Full article" link. This should not affect old links and I'd also ask that you please inform me if you see some functionality is all messed up. I think I caught all possible errors, but you can easily overlook some parts of a project like this.

So, bottom line, links to Neodux should be much more friendly and bookmarks should be easier to understand. Enjoy!

update: Yes, old links should still work. Too many blogs and sites around the web link back to articles here and I didn't want to screw them up. So everything should work seemlessly.

tags: neodux mod_rewrite

( Comments : 1 | Full article )

HOWTO: ISS Viewing
outdoors : by Tommy - October 5th 2011, 09:08PM
The fact that there's a space station orbiting above the globe right now has become somewhat passe in pop culture. Not many people are truly wowed at the news of it. Within seconds, a few clicks of a mouse will take you to hundreds of pictures and videos of the International Space Station; but did you know you can see the space station yourself? No binoculars or telescopes needed! I figured I would write up a HOWTO for the uninitiated. It isn't hard, it just takes a little know how.

For starters, you need to know a few terms used when talking about satellites (the ISS is a satellite of the planet Earth).

The first term when dealing with satellites is azimuth. Azimuth is a technical term that means the same thing as heading, bearing or direction. Most people are comfortable with the cardinal directions North, South, East and West. The cardinal directions are fine for general directions, but to know exactly where something is we need to be more specific. When dealing with an azimuth, a number of degrees is stated. 0° is North, 90° is East, 180° is South, 270° is West, and on around to North again. Kinda get the picture? It's a full circle divided into 360 degrees. (Also note, there's technically no such thing as 360° when dealing with Azimuth, because 360° would be the same as North, but that's already 0°.)

It's not entirely what you think. Sure altitude means height, but we're not talking in feet or meters here. Remember, we're dealing with observational angles here, so knowing how high something is is of little consequence to us. Altitude in astronomy means "angle above the horizon". Altitude is expressed in degrees, just like azimuth. 0° is at the horizon, 90° is straight up. 45°, you guessed it, is right in the middle.

Continue reading...

tags: iss space astronomy satellite howto

( Comments : 1 | Full article )

Texas Historical Markers
programming : by Tommy - September 1st 2011, 10:51AM
While arguably probably not my best work, it only took me all of a couple hours, I present a listing of all the Texas Historical Markers. I don't know why I never linked to it before. Maybe I'm not too proud of it, but I wanted to give you access to it. What features do I need to add?

I discovered one evening that Texas has a database of all historical markers in the state freely available online in a comma separated value file (among other formats). What's a geek to do but grab the file and throw it in a MySQL database!
I whipped up a quick drop-down list of all the marker names and used AJAX to show the marker's text. A couple of simple URLs allow you to see, generally, where the marker is located. I have the location information in the database, but it's not Lat/Long which would make for easy map-making. Perhaps that will be my next step. Found a supporting .txt file that has most of the Lat/Long. A simple JOIN from the database fixed that problem. (though, to be honest, some of the coordinates are way off. Unless Texas has markers in Mexico.)

At any rate, take it or leave it, there it is: http://n5dux.com/histmark/

tags: texas history php database

( Comments : 1 | Full article )

WAS Complete!
radio : by Tommy - April 22nd 2011, 10:01PM
After working diligently last Fall, then doing absolutely nothing with HF for most of the winter, I finally got back on the air this evening and finished contacting the last of all 50 states. Tonight I was able to contact Wayne, KB1TMA, for #50, Rhode Island.

I can now say I have talked to someone in all 50 states and will soon have a postcard from each of those contacts to prove I've done it.
Contacting all 50 states has been something I've tried to do for years, but never having a permanent setup made the task near impossible. I was close when I was living in Nacogdoches, but my count started back at zero when I moved to Longview.

Joining and checking into the OMISS net really helped me knock out a lot of states early on, and I probably could have done the entire job in under a couple months if I had really, really tried, but I took a leisurely pace and just happened to check into the net tonight with that last hard-to-get state. So thanks for the help OMISS members.
Next up? Probably the Worked All Continents award. (I only need Antarctica and Asia.) Worked all Canada may not be out of the question, but I doubt I ever get so detailed as to try for the Worked All Counties award.

tags: was ham radio arrl

( Comments : 1 | Full article )

Programming Challenge 2
programming : by Tommy - February 23rd 2011, 10:16PM
Ok programmers and code monkeys, it's time for Programming Challenge 2. Nothing overly complicated this time. I was just messing around and thought you'd like this quick little brain teaser.
It's a "just for fun" challenge. Choose your favorite language for this one. Here it goes:

Part A: Display/print a vertical sin wave using * characters.
Part B: Display same sin wave horizontally using * characters.

Part A should get you going in the right direction (esp. if you've never played with the sin functions in your language), but Part B is a bit more tricky. No graphics libraries, cheater.

Post source in comments (must be logged in to comment).

Winner to receive 1 small shot of self satisfaction of completing trivial problem through useless challenge on obscure blog.

tags: programming sin_wave

( Comments : 4 | Full article )

HOWTO: Working FM Ham Satellites
radio : by Tommy - January 22nd 2011, 03:37PM
A local ham recently asked me the best way to talk on ham radio satellites using what he already has on hand. It doesn't take much, although some more specialized equipment does make it much easier, but the point is - you don't need much beyond what you may already own if you have a basic VHF/UHF station. The following is my email to him:

Which birds to target and how to track them
"The best satellites to start with are AO-27, AO-Echo and SaudiSat-1C. (Satellites go by different names depending on where you're getting your info.)

I usually direct people to Heavens-Above to get the latest pass information. The exact time and angle of each pass varies from day to day, so you either need tracking software or a website to tell you when the next pass is over your location. With Heavens Above, you need to enter your longitude and latitude, so it can figure out the information for you.

I've put in the longitude and latitude in for my QTH here in Longview on this link:
(change the location by editing the link or click on the link under Configuration at the top of the page)

When you go to the website, you'll be shown a lot of different links. For our purposes, we're interested in "Radio Amateur Satellites". Click on that link.

Now you'll be presented a table of all the various satellites that Heavens Above is tracking. I usually find the satellites I'm interested in working, then look over at the "maximum elevation" - this is how high in the sky the "bird" will get. Generally the higher the pass, the better chance of hitting the satellite you'll have. If all you're using is a vertical, 45-degree passes will give you a good shot. But anything greater than 30-degrees should be doable.

Continue reading...

tags: satellite ham radio intro howto

( Comments : 2 | Full article )

Morse Code: A Brief History
radio : by Tommy - October 18th 2010, 10:12PM
Most people know the important life-saving phrase Di-di-dit da-da-dah di-di-dit (SOS), but that's about it when it comes to Morse Code. Many people know that Morse Code was named after its inventor, Samuel Morse but not much more. Fewer people know that the use of Morse Code still persists (unless, of course, you know someone that uses it on a semi-regular basis!).

Morse Code is the oldest form of telecommunication still in use. It got its start when the legendary Samuel F. B. Morse, an artist by trade, began to experiment with methods to communicate via the relatively new field of electricity. Morse's system of communication was not the first form of telegraphy, nor was his invention the only electric telegraph. But he did invent a language of dits and dahs that, by way of a few revisions, remains in use to this day. (The history of the telegraph, interesting in its own right, is beyond the scope of this outline.)

Ham radio operators are perhaps the most notorious users of this antiquated form of communication, but not the only users. Navy signalmen use Morse Code when manning the Signal Lamp and aviators make use of the Code as a way of identifying directional beacons.

Morse Code has undergone few revisions since its inception. Morse's original code was a bit cumbersome, but the idea was there and several letters have remained unchanged. Morse originally planned the letters to leave imprints on a printed tape, but over time the code was learned by operators and the incoming signal was able to be decoded by ear rather than on paper. In order to speed up transmission, Morse gave the most frequently used letters the shortest signals. (E gets a single ‘dit’ and T gets a single ‘dah’) Identifying the most frequently used letters, Morse counted letters in a copy of the newspaper.

Continue reading...

tags: morse code ham radio cw

( Comments : 2 | Full article )

Continue Reading...
neodux : by Tommy - August 15th 2010, 11:00PM
After the success of the DUX Yagi-Uda post and it finding its way to Hack-A-Day, I decided I should probably go in to more detail with each blog entry when I'm attempting to explain something technical.

In the past, I've tried be as succinct and just-the-fact-ma'am as I can so the article doesn't make the main page a mile long. I always assumed if you wanted to know more you could just ask me. But, more often than not, I ended up with an article that I think was too shallow or too "in-passing". So, for the sake of those that don't know me personally and would like more information, and in keeping with the spirit of information exchange on the web, I think it's best if I link to and explain all relevant information. To keep the main page short I've decided to limit the amount of words in a story that gets shown at a glance.
I've broken up the links to have the "Continue reading..." link on each article if it is longer than a preset length.

I'd really like to know what my core users think of this change. Is it for the better? Should I change the wording of the link? Should I display all information, longer or shorter at-a-glance summaries? You tell me.

tags: neodux blog

( Comments : 2 | Full article )

DUX Homebrew Arrow Yagi
radio : by Tommy - August 7th 2010, 11:36PM
This summer I attended the TI-2 Space workshop put on by the ARRL and DARA in Dayton, OH. We spent 4 days learning how to make contacts with orbiting satellites like AO-27, AO-51 and the International Space Station, just to name a few. The antenna we used was the dual-band Arrow II Antenna. I've owned one for years and really like it. I wish more people had them, but I think most people think spending $140 for an antenna that can only handle 10W is a bit much.

My aim was to make a cheap alternative to the Arrow that is easy to break down for transport and storage. I really like the idea of using aluminum arrow shafts for elements; they are lightweight, straight, weather resistant, and fairly inexpensive. Another nice feature is the #8-32 threaded insert for broad heads that almost every arrow comes with.

I spent a couple of hours reviewing all the "cheap" and "ugly" yagi designs, as well as others like the "tape measure" and even a new-to-me "backpacker" design. They each have their own advantages and loyal followers.

I finally based my antenna design on one found in the ARRL Handbook from 1999. While not an exact replica, my design is very similar. I had decided to go with the through-boom design like the Arrow, as opposed to side-mounted because it is, in my opinion, cheaper. After buying 6 arrows and a quick trip to Lowe's I had a length of #8-32 all-thread and a piece of 3/4" conduit to use as the boom. I marked a straight line down the center of the boom to give me a point of reference, measured out the spacing holes, made sure I was drilling square and level and got to work.

Continue reading...

tags: yagi radio antenna ham_radio

( Comments : 0 | Full article )

Kindle isn't kind anymore
books : by Tommy - June 3rd 2010, 11:29PM
I don't "get" the Kindle anymore. It's been almost 6 month since I got it, almost a dozen books later and I think I'm at the end of the road with this neat little device.
At first, I liked the idea of having free 3G internet available. Then low price point of books made it great for buying books without having to wait for the local bookstore to order them, or worse, paying the retail markup.

A couple months ago, Engadget broke this story which I just saw in the NYTimes: Target will begin selling the Kindle 2 in stores nationwide beginning on Sunday, June 6.

Funny, I was just at my local Target earlier this evening and found a book I've been wanting to read. I had read through the first chapter on my Kindle as a "sample", but never went beyond that. I checked the latest Kindle edition price... $12.99. Target's price for the book? $12.80!
Why would I want to buy the Kindle edition that I can't sell or share?!

To add insult to injury, I checked the same paperback on Amazon: $9.99. Amazon is selling the paperback for less than the electronic version! Now, they're going to sell the Kindle at Target in a matter of days and the electronic version of the book costs even more than the same book in the store!

I think the Kindle's business model is falling apart (and has been). I believe the Kindle is headed for the same fate as the other innovative e-ink device: The OLPC (XO) laptop. Both situations are sad, because each had so much potential. Neither will grow beyond a neat concept without completely reinventing itself (which the OLPC seems to be doing with its tablet).

Amazon has been too slow to act on customer ideas, lacked any sort of customization, and failed to cash in on an exploding community of Kindle owners.

Continue reading...

tags: kindle books amazon

( Comments : 2 | Full article )

Mr. Gober's Games
programming : by Tommy - April 20th 2010, 10:40PM
Most of the students where I teach have time in their computer labs to surf the web or play flash games. The IT department, in order to conserve bandwidth and filter "inappropriate material", need to block most games. Since most games are just mind-numbing wastes of time, most teachers support this. Students looking for games will scour the web searching for game sites that aren't blocked. As soon as one game site is discovered, the URL spreads like wildfire before the site is blocked in the next few days. The cycle repeats itself ad nauseum.

Seeing the problem from both sides, I decided to make an "approved games list" of games that at least feature some academic merit. I understand that games can be beneficial and educational while still being enjoyable. I asked my Computer Science class to find games they enjoy and add them to my games list. They needed to list the educational lessons found within the game and the supporting TEKS on my games list.
The end result has grown into "Mr. Gober's Games". Several students use the site daily and it has received the approval of administration.
Ideally, the next step will be to house the site on the school network to reduce the bandwidth load and increase response speed for the user.

Recently I have added a page to add games, a method to report broken or inappropriate games and a new ratings system. The ratings system was my first successful foray into AJAX. I've attempted AJAX before but came up short. Fortunately jQuery made the effort much easier by abstracting most of the work for me. So, take a look at Mr Gober's Games and have fun - don't forget to vote for your favorites!

tags: games flash php ajax school

( Comments : 4 | Full article )

Kindle v iPad
books : by Tommy - February 6th 2010, 10:46PM
I figure it's high time I publicly weighed in on this whole ebook wars thing. I was just reading and article over on Wired about the whole pricing dilemma currently plaguing Amazon.
I'll start off by saying that I am a Kindle owner/user, so take that as you will.

I was initially unimpressed with the launch of the iPad. the iPod blew us all away when it was announced, the iPhone blew us all away when it was announced. The iPad will take some getting used to. The screen still isn't e-ink like the most successful ebook readers, but it does have touch screen - something Amazon just realized customers want. It doesn't have the battery life of a Kindle, but it does have brand recognition.

The redeeming value about the Kindle, and I've said this all along, is that it adopts the UNIX mentality: "Do one thing and do it well". The Kindle is perfect for reading books. The great part is you can download the books via Whispernet wherever you happen to be. The iPad kinda offers this, but you have to pay more for the 3G device plus you have to pay for the data plan. (The Kindle data plan is free!) [sure, the basic iPad has wireless, but wifi may not always be available. it's not something I have to think about with the kindle]

Ok, so the iPad will let you surf the web, i'll give you that. Yes, the Kindle is essentially the links browser and Whispernet is slow compared to wifi, but remember, the Kindle is an ebook reader, first and foremost. It does that and it does it well, web is an after thought, the same way that iBooks was an afterthought to the enlarged iPod Touch.

There, I said it.

Continue reading...

tags: kindle ipad ebooks amazon

( Comments : 3 | Full article )

Neodux Mobile
news : by Tommy - January 13th 2010, 11:49PM
As any of you reading this on a smartphone may have noticed. Neodux now comes in a leaner version: Neodux Mobile.

By examining $_SERVER['HTTP_USER_AGENT'] report for elements that reflect the most common mobile browsers, I can detect (usually) if you're viewing the page from a mobile device. (Blackberry, iPhone, Android, WinCE, PSP, Kindle are all supported.) As of this writing the layout is very spartan and only the main posts are displayed. Users cannot login to leave comments or shouts at the moment, but I hope to add that in the future. For now, it's just the core content of neodux but it loads much faster.

I'd label it alpha for the moment, but it should make reading any posts from a smartphone, Kindle or PSP much easier.

tags: mobile smartphones

( Comments : 4 | Full article )

Texas is Growing (hands off)
news : by Tommy - December 21st 2009, 11:33PM
So the other night I was thinking about the map of our United States of America. I began to ponder just how states' boundaries are defined. Some states are defined by rivers, lakes and other bodies of water. Some states are defined by man-made boundaries (which can lead to some interesting disputes).

Currently, Texas' western boundaries are defined in the Compromise of 1850 as "that which is south of the 33rd parallel, and that which is south of the 36°30' parallel north and east of the 103rd meridian west." The eastern edge of the panhandle lies along the 100th meridian west. To the south, Texas has the natural boundaries: the Rio Grande and the Gulf of Mexico (src: Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo). Along the north, a natural border to Oklahoma exists along the Red River. To the East we have the Sabine River from the Gulf up to the 32nd parallel, then straight north to the Red River (Adams-Onís Treaty). Interesting, but so what? Plate Tectonics.

In the early 20th century, geologists developed a theory that described continental drift. They dubbed it Plate Tectonics. It has been discovered that continents do move, so naturally so does everything on them. Texas, and the vast majority of the United States "lower 48" (plus Alaska) ride on the North American plate. The North American Plate moves at about 1.5cm/yr more or less toward the Southeast. This means that Texas is slowly taking land away from New Mexico while losing land to Oklahoma and Louisiana. Texas will not lose land to Mexico, thanks to the natural boundary, the Rio Grande (which rides on the plate). Astronomical longitude/latitude lines do not move (they are based on the proximity to the poles and prime meridian (which is physically drifting too, but now there exist astronomical definitions to account for this) Because of this, the land that moves under the aforementioned longitude/latitude boundaries become, in essence, Texas.

Because of these findings, I hereby proclaim that at the time of this writing, I become sole owner of unclaimed lands that move into the boundaries of Texas.

Continue reading...

tags: plate tectonics texas

( Comments : 1 | Full article )

neodux : by Tommy - December 8th 2009, 11:54PM
Now for something for our regular visitors and contributors - is there such a thing? I've added a small feature that will allow authors of articles, commentors and shouts to be displayed as links to wikipedia. No longer will you have to copy/paste the word in to Wikipedia and type in your "a href" HTML to have a link created, instead you only have to put the [ wiki ] tags around the word, vbCode style. (Contributors should know what I'm talking about.)

Now it is easy to make a direct link to a wikipedia article. It's a simple use of a regular expression that matches both of the tags. And these are just more words to display more URLs to wikipedia articles.

tags: wikipedia tags neodux

( Comments : 1 | Full article )

neodux : by Tommy - December 8th 2009, 11:28PM
Ok, I finally got off my duff and fixed the signup page for those of you seeking new accounts. Long ago I decided to implement the reCAPTCHA mechanism to both block spammers and bots from creating accounts, but also to do some good.

For those of you that may not know what a CAPTCHA is, it's a block of text that is hard for computers to decode. Humans are great at pattern recognition, so it's a quick, easy way to ensure the person looking at the page is a real, live human - versus an automated spam bot. For more information about CAPTCHAs, check out the wikipedia article above.

How is reCAPTCHA different? Glad you asked. reCAPTCHA's aim is to assist in digitizing text of printed materials to help save and archive them for future generations. At the time of writing this, reCAPTCHA is helping to digitize old issues of the venerable New York Times, which is over 150 years old. reCAPTCHA's website says that over 200 million CAPTCHAs are solved per day, so if every CAPTCHA did something productive, you can see the benefit. So, that's why I went with reCAPTCHA, just my little way to help do my part.

tags: captcha signup accounts

( Comments : 0 | Full article )

Christmas Season 2009
neodux : by Tommy - November 27th 2009, 11:17PM
Well, that was Thanksgiving and Black Friday. I was able to take advantage of a couple of good deals at Ace Hardware where I picked up a 12gal Shop-Vac ($19.99) and toolbox ($4.99). I didn't brave any stores very early, I chose to sleep in.

But, with the beginning of Christmas Season comes the Christmas Lists. Below is a list of Wishlistr links for Neodux members. Members, feel free to edit this post and link to your wishlistr.

  • Tommy's Wishlistr
  • Jennifer's Wishlistr
  • Greg's Wishlistr
  • Nikki's Wishlistr
  • Jeff's Wishlistr
  • Mom's Wishlistr

    Other Folks:

  • Mackieman's Wishlistr

    Get your links in soon, I'm going to make this a Christmas-time widget. update: Widget created. See upper left corner.
  • tags: christmas holidays wishlistr

    ( Comments : 0 | Full article )

    Crap and Trade
    rant : by Tommy - November 25th 2009, 11:49AM
    With all the talk about healthcare and the oh-so-scary "public option", it's hard not to touch on the increasing obesity problem in America. A recent infographic outlines the American obesity problem. (Americans eat the same as the average Chinese citizen, plus 19 slices of bacon!) Is there some sinister plot out to get you? Surely not. It's mostly due to portion control on behalf of the consumer. (Remember how small a "small" used to be?) Also think about how seemingly offensive it is when you order a meal at a restaurant and you finish it all! Heaven forbid you finish your plate and not hurt afterward!) But, for the most part, food is cheap and we love to eat. Salt, fat and sugar: our big three food groups. You'd be hard pressed to name a favorite dish that isn't just mounds of these three. But, again, those 3 are the cheap ones. Most vegetables aren't very cheap compared to a bag of chips. Calorie for calorie, junk food is cheaper. Why? Corn.

    After watching the documentary Food, Inc., I began to realize just how extensive corn has become in all of our foods. Corn subsidies have helped junk food (of which corn is the #1 contributor) become the cheapest source of calories in the American diet. You can buy a ready-made hamburger for less than you can a head of lettuce. You can buy a order of french fries cheaper than you can buy a potato. These artificially low prices are due to corn subsidies.
    Subsidies ensure Americans have access to cheap food. The problem has now become that our subsidized food is now too cheap. It's time we come off of our subsidies.

    If we look at the infographic above, we learn that Americans consume nearly 4000 calories a day.

    Continue reading...

    tags: subsidy government taxes poop

    ( Comments : 2 | Full article )

    TGIMBOEJ Received
    hardware : by Tommy - November 18th 2009, 09:54PM
    Well, today I received my first box from The Great Internet Migratory Box Of Electronics Junk. As predicted, there was a lot of random stuff inside. Several bags of discrete components (capacitors, LEDs, etc), some DC motors of varying sizes and ratings, some copper-clad PCBs for homemade etching (with transfer film - very tempting), a couple of pagers, some random gears and knobs, a nice pack of 7 segment LEDs, some project enclosures, some random PCBs, wire wrap supplies, a DIY 9-pin serial cable and connector, and a nice looking character LCD that was unfortunately cracked right in the center.

    Quite a bit of stuff to choose from. I chose to take out a 9V battery clip, some 7-segment LEDs, and the 2 project enclosures. I plan to use the parts for a solar-powered arduino project I read about and have been wanting to try out.

    I'll probably pick some unsuspecting geek and mail the box out to him in a couple days. That is, after I dig up some worthy additions to the box. Interested in joining the ranks? Sign up!

    tags: electronics, kits, junk

    ( Comments : 0 | Full article )

    hardware : by Tommy - November 10th 2009, 11:11PM
    What a fun idea! The Great Internet Migratory Box Of Electronic Junk, TGIMBOEJ for "short", looks a like a neat prizefest for geeks all over. I know I'm all for it, I may even start a box of my own simply because I have so many extra electronic parts laying around! As the name implies it doesn't have to be just computer parts or just consumer electronics, it can be any electronic parts you happen to have. I have some leftover discrete components as well as PC parts I'm going to include should I receive a box soon. I've signed up on the wiki to put me in the pool of recipients. I'll, of course, let you know when/if I receive a box and what all I find useful in it. Sign up and send your old electronic parts to some random geek!

    tags: electronics, kits, junk

    ( Comments : 1 | Full article )

    ZipIt Z2 Linux
    linux : by Tommy - October 9th 2009, 11:29PM
    Well, after almost a year of putting off, I finally installed linux on my ZipIt Z2. Jennifer's brother-in-law gave it to me last year right before Christmas. He received one free as part of a promotion and handed it off to me to tinker with. The big problem for me was finding a miniSD card. microSD cards can be found alot more easily (and cheaper) than the miniSD. I was able to snag a miniSD from some retailer on pricewatch. (i know, remember that place?!)

    So my 2Gb miniSD finally came in the other day and I'm all set. Lo and behold HunterDavis posted a new tutorial using a Windows machine. I figured I'd give his tutorial a try and found the whole process to be fairly straight foreward. Hats off to HunterDavis and others that paved the way for this.

    After following Hunters tutorial to the tee, I was ready to connect to my network, I followed dhenke's tutorial to get a feel for the small keyboard's "hidden" keystrokes (and to dust off and refresh my wpa_supplicant config skills).

    I hope to get a NES emulator running on this, that's been my end goal all along and I doubt I do anything more than that with this. But seriously, Tecmo Super Bowl or Legend of Zelda in my pocket/backpack?! Yes, please.

    tags: zipit linux

    ( Comments : 2 | Full article )

    House Hunting
    neodux : by Tommy - September 24th 2009, 11:24PM
    Sheesh. People have always said house hunting is stressful. It's not the house hunting that's stressful, it's waiting to hear back on your offers. Last week we put in an offer on a house, got accepted and were thrilled. We got a house inspection and it turned up a couple of foundation issues, so we backed off. Upset but not defeated, we continued looking for another find.

    Not 2 days later we found a small, modest house built in 2004. (it even still smells new!) We put in an offer that same day and waited to hear back from the seller. The property turns out to be a foreclosure, so the seller in this case is a bank. The bank has been taking their sweet time. Monday afternoon our real estate agent called to tell us the bank is taking "best offers", which means 'tell us the most you're willing to pay'. For us, we were willing to pay a couple thousand more than we offered, so we bumped up our offer by $2k. We thought we'd hear a "yay" or "nay" decision the next day. Then the next. Time drags by. Doubts creep in.

    We drive back by the house to make sure we like it enough to be happy with our offer. It turns out, we like it more. Does someone else like it even more? Enough to put in a higher offer? Should we offer more? Still, there's no word back from the seller's agent. We finally get word that "All offers have been presented. Probably will not hear until Monday or Tuesday." What?! Tuesday?! I can't hold my breath that long!!!

    This waiting game sucks. You can't get too attached to the house in case your offer isn't accepted, but you don't want to be to blasé about the whole deal either - this could, after all, be your house for a number of years.

    Continue reading...

    tags: house buying

    ( Comments : 2 | Full article )

    Keep Jeff Informed Rolls on
    neodux : by Tommy - September 5th 2009, 10:25AM
    Summer before last, grimlen attened US Army Basic Training, or IET, at Ft. Sill, OK. Our own mission was dubbed "Operation: Keep Jeff Informed". Later this week, he'll be heading out for a couple months of refresher training and last-minute combat training before deploying to Iraq for about a year.

    Like Araolath, before him, he'll probably have internet access, but he won't have the time to go trouncing all over the internet to find the best and most-needed websites and articles. Instead let's make it easy for him and post links here for him, in the comments.

    Jennifer and I are about to head to Baytown for Labor Day weekend for his send-off party on Sunday. brb

    tags: jeff army iraq

    ( Comments : 3 | Full article )

    History Channel is History
    rant : by Tommy - July 7th 2009, 09:53PM
    History Channel is history. It's no longer concerning itself with history which we can learn from. The History Channel should rename itself "Crap that didn't make it to Discovery Channel Channel" or "The Speculation About Stupid Crap, Imaginary Crap We Wish Was Real, Mythical Beasts, And Redneck Reality Shows Channel".

    At first, I was offended by Modern Marvels - this wasn't history, what's it doing on this channel?!, then it sorta grew on me. It was neat seeing things made. I swallowed the whole "modern history is history too" notion. Then it dawned on me, they don't cover history anymore! I remember when Roger Mudd did all their intro's and voiceovers. I still love to watch recordings from The History Channel at 6am when they do reruns from that time. You might catch a show about some little known aspect of the Civil War or some tribe of Vikings or a inconsequential battle that took place in southern Russia, but it was history! Now, it's just full of speculation about what the future will be like or how some backwoods dope claims to have been abducted by aliens and then you listen to "experts" drone on about how the dope probably really was abducted. It has to be true, they have a Ph.D on screen saying it could happen - nevermind the guy's Ph.D is from ITT for daisy-wheel printer and typewriter repair.

    I guess I just wanted to make you aware that I've reached my breaking point with History Channel. I used to love it, I hoped it was just a phase they were going through, but I have to admit (like NASCAR) it looks like it's here to stay. I don't have to say much more, if you don't know what I'm talking about, turn on the History Channel right now and I can almost guarantee you won't see content about anything from before 1970s.

    Continue reading...

    tags: history_channel history rant

    ( Comments : 2 | Full article )

    Battlefield Heroes
    games : by Tommy - July 4th 2009, 01:21PM
    After almost a year of waiting, Battlefield Heroes is finally released. At first glance, it's alright - very cartoon-like. It has nice graphics. Great price for the entry level stuff (free) and it's very easy to install and play. Just install the browser plugin for firefox and it will download the game and load it up for you. The game even finds the best server for you to join based on your team selection and experience.

    As I've always said with gaming, there's a spectrum that games fit in, with "Fun/Arcade" on one end and "Realistic" on the other. This game is very arcade, moving more in the direction of "zany" and away from any semblance of reality. It's meant to be slapstick and goofy. It's like some of those weird mods people came up with for Battlefield 1942. While it is produced by EA and probably some of the same developers, it's definitely a different animal than previous games in the Battlefield scenery.

    Worth mentioning here is how EA plans to make money on something they're giving away for free. EA hopes to entice players to cough up money for addons, power ups and new abilities, and get advertisers to cough up money for in-game advertising. This will be interesting to watch unfold.

    For now, check it out - the price it right!

    tags: games battlefield free

    ( Comments : 1 | Full article )

    Bumper Stickers
    neodux : by Tommy - June 29th 2009, 01:22AM
    The wait is over. I know you've laid awake at night looking out your bedroom window at that first star of the night hoping and waiting for me to sell bumper stickers. Well, kids, your wait is over.

    Neodux now has a bumper sticker so you can prove how purely awesome you are. For $3.00 $2.00, you can show that punk behind you at the red light or drive thru who's boss. You are. Because you know Tommy Gober.

    Supply is kinda limited, so buy one. Or two. That guy in the parking garage that parked kinda funny could use a bumper sticker too. (who says bumper stickers have to go on bumpers?)

    Click here to order

    (...or use the link "stickers" at the top of the page)

    tags: stickers neodux

    ( Comments : 2 | Full article )

    Arduino Microcontroller
    hardware : by Tommy - May 25th 2009, 01:15AM
    The Arduino microcontroller platform is probably one of the coolest things to happen to microcontroller hobbying in a long, long time. I'd seen them featured on Hack-A-Day performing various silly jobs for their programmer, I just had never taken the time to look into why people were using them or what made them unique. Last week (at the urging of Bre Pettis) I bought the Arduino Duemilanove. Wow.

    First of all, the Arduino is an open, "free" (as in beer) platform running atop the plentiful (and cheap) Atmel AVR microcontroller line. The open nature of the platform allows each revision of the platform and IDE to improve. The current 2009 model is very easy to use. The documentation is pretty good and (imo, best of all) it uses the C programming language. This rounds off the learning curve quite a bit since I have more than a couple years working with C-style programming languages. Now I don't have to fool with BASIC or assembly. I really disliked the patty-cake approach that the BASIC Stamp provided (i hate BASIC), it's easy to get bogged down in assembly, and most C-compilers for microcontrollers are well over $200. The BASIC Stamp pales in comparison to the Arduino in just about every category. The Arduino is cheaper, faster, offers libraries and has a much wider audience than the Parallax BASIC Stamp. The PIC and standard AVRs have a relatively steep learning curve and is easy to get buried in the syntax.

    The Arduino abstracts quite a bit for you, freeing you up to be creative and rapidly develop whatever interests you.

    What's interested me lately is parsing the WWVB atomic clock signal from Ft. Collins, Colorado. Thanks to a C-Max CMMR-6P receiver chip that I got from DigiKey, I have a data stream going right into my Arduino.

    Continue reading...

    tags: arduino microcontroller Atmel electronics

    ( Comments : 0 | Full article )

    Elecraft KXAT1 Antenna Tuner
    radio : by Tommy - April 19th 2009, 06:50PM
    I recently added the KXAT1 antenna tuner kit to my Elecraft KX1. The antenna tuner allows me to automatically tune up any non-resonant antenna quickly. Construction took one evening. As usual, winding the toroids was perhaps the most tedious part, but "zen-like" while I was doing them (as I heard it put by someone). I did have trouble with the transformer. It can be tricky and I'll warn other kit builders to check out this thread if they have trouble. I also found some pictures from a japanese ham helpful, but I've since lost them. :(

    After building and installing the tuner, I purchased 40ft of some "silky" 26AWG wire from TheWireMan as suggested by Elecraft. I cut the wire to give me two lengths. One length is 24ft and the other 16ft. The 24ft length is my radiating element and the 16ft acts as my ground. The tuner quickly finds a nice 1.1-1.0 match and gives me full KX1 power out (~4W). It makes for a very lightweight, field-portable antenna. I can also use my crappie poles to elevate one end if trees are unavailable.

    I use a BNC-to-binding post that I purchased at EPO in Houston. While at EPO, I also picked up a small 12V 1.3Ah gel cell battery. The UB-1213 is about 3.8" x 1.7" x 2" and provides adequate power for portable QRP work. If I was going to operate for very long, I may go with a little larger capacity gel cell, but for now this makes a very lightweight and super portable setup that allows me to get one the air quickly.

    tags: ham_radio qrp kx1 kit

    ( Comments : 0 | Full article )

    Elecraft KX1
    radio : by Tommy - April 5th 2009, 06:27PM
    About two weeks ago I completed construction of my Elecraft KX1 ham radio kit (serial #2182). It wasn't the easiest build I've done, but definitely the most fun. The purchase was funded almost totally by referral bonuses from Dreamhost. When anyone signs up for an account with my referral link I get a kick-back. I had let the bonuses build up over time and eventually had enough to cover the radio, but I digress.

    The KX1 is a "trail-friendly", portable CW ham transceiver. There's plenty of other sites that will give you more detailed information about this gem of a radio. I finally got to use mine yesterday for more than a couple of minutes and I must say I totally love it. The receiver is great, the noise floor is low, the filters are tight, and the features are really packed into this tiny radio.

    My antenna was a random wire made from speaker wire with one end elevated to 20' using a BnM Black Widow 20' Crappie Pole purchased at Bass Pro Shop in Shreveport, LA. The antenna sloped down to my BLTPlus antenna tuner which tuned the random wire without any problem. I had the tuner hooked into the KX1 with a short piece of BNC cable.

    In short order I was copying stations on 7.030Mhz (40m QRP) and trying to copy the faster stations lower down on the band. I had to tighten up the filters because of the sheer number of signals I was able to pull in. I wasn't able to raise any station due to my diminished transmit power. (I was running off of internal AA batteries because my gel cell hadn't been charged in quite some time.) I was also impatient due to the strong wind, fading daylight and biting insects.

    Continue reading...

    tags: qrp ham_radio kx1 kit

    ( Comments : 0 | Full article )

    Texas' Best Barbecue
    meat : by Tommy - January 14th 2009, 09:19PM
    What a great idea! or I wish I'd thought of that!
    Neodux's own bpaugh has setup a Texas BBQ review site: www.texasbestbarbecue.com. (What an excellent marriage of BBQ and computers!) Visitors to the site can search others' reviews or post their own. I'm sure Brent will be adding more features to help you plot out your next BBQ-hopping road trip, but this one's definitely going in my Bookmarks list.

    Register for a login and start posting reviews for your favorite BBQ joints. I've already commented on a couple of my favorites.

    Grendel sez: I forgot I even had a "meat" category! How appropriate.

    tags: BBQ friends links

    ( Comments : 2 | Full article )

    Rockmite 20m
    radio : by Tommy - December 22nd 2008, 12:57AM
    After almost a year of procrastination I got around to finishing a Rockmite 20 radio kit. The Rockmite is a single-frequency crystal-controlled ("rock-bound") low-power CW HF radio. Say that 10 times fast!

    I bought the kit sometime last year and just never finished building it. I had all of the components soldered in, but I never mounted the board in any enclosure. W5USJ, Chuck, Don, K5DW, gave me a metal enclosure during a North East Texas QRP Club meeting. It wasn't until last Friday that did anything with it. I knew the Rockmite needed a home, and here was a nice case for it. I drilled some holes in the cabinet, more or less eyeballing it. They're not perfectly aligned, but pretty close. So now the little radio is mounted, all of the connectors are soldered in and the radio is functional.

    It only puts out about ½W at 14.060MHz, on the 20m amateur radio band, but because I mostly operate during the afternoons, 20m is my favorite band for now. I may need to boost myself up to a "full gallon" QRP and get a 5W amplifier like the one Chuck designed, which I might get from QRPme.

    Also on my "to do" list, is to add a PicoKeyer chip to the radio which greatly adds to the experience of using it.

    update: I got the PicoKeyer chip installed this afternoon. I love the features it provides. The Memory Keyer is vital for QRP work and the hands-free "Tune" feature is great for field-portable antennas. Most of the other features I don't use, but I still think the chip should be incorporated into the original design.

    tags: qrp ham_radio kit

    ( Comments : 0 | Full article )

    news : by Tommy - December 12th 2008, 12:13AM
    Very interesting and very odd. I'm sitting here writing my last paper of the semester and I get an IM.
    The conversation goes as follows:
      CuddlingCoho: Hey.
      GrendelT: hi, who's this?
      CuddlingCoho: I should ask the same. you started the conversation
      GrendelT: did i? when?
      CuddlingCoho: [12:56:07 AM] InstructiveCoho: Hey.
      GrendelT: (11:55:59 PM) CuddlingCoho: Hey.
      GrendelT: so, apparently you're on the East Coast...
      CuddlingCoho: yeah... so do I show up as "CuddlingCoho"?
      GrendelT yeah, and I guess I'm "Instructive"
      CuddlingCoho: you show up as "InstructiveCoho"
    From there we exchanged actual screennames. I had assumed we were somehow going through some sort of IM proxy, hence the altered screennames at the recipient's end. A little bit of Googling for "Coho" returned this tidbit of information about TheGreatHatsby.

    Apparently this little game has been running around on the net for quite some time, coming and going as interests change. After speaking with "axelstudios", aka CuddlingCoho, we discovered we had both just "dugg" a story on Digg. I'm guessing this phishing bot crawls Digg's live activity page to find users that are currently on, goes to their user profile page and screenscrapes their IM screenname. The trap is set and one IM between two random strangers fires off the lulz.
    Quite brilliant in my opinion. I'd like to run it for a little bit just to read some of the IM conversation logs.

    ( Comments : 0 | Full article )

    Christmas decor
    neodux : by Tommy - December 8th 2008, 09:53PM
    I almost compeltely forgot to add the annual neodux Christmas decorations! As you can see, they're now safely in place. A gentle snow falls and a we now have a festive neodux logo.

    In the real world, the lights are up on our apartment - we have the coolest light display on the block! (There's only one other apartment with lights.) Thanksgiving weekend, Jennifer and I went and cut down a tree at a local tree farm and decorated it all nice and pretty. We're all done with our Christmas shopping, and now Sirius is playing non-stop Christmas music on the Cinemagic channel. Christmas time is officially here.

    And here's a great video of a dog having fun in the snow.

    update: Once again, here's everyone's wishlists: Greg's wishlist, Tommy's wishlist, Jennifer's wishlist, Jeff's wishlist, Mom's wishlist

    tags: neodux christmas

    ( Comments : 0 | Full article )

    Fantastic Contraption
    games : by Tommy - November 28th 2008, 03:43PM
    Fantastic Contraption is a great flash-based game. It allows you great flexibility in the design of your contraption. The goal of the game is explained in the tutorial - essentially all you're trying to do is get the pink ball into the pink area. Sounds simple enough, right? Each level gives you a different challenge. Either some pitfall or obstacle is in your way.

    Many of you have probably already played, but I'd like to see your contraptions in the comments section of this post.

    ( Comments : 45 | Full article )

    Stop the Presses
    news : by Tommy - November 19th 2008, 10:31AM
    I just learned that PC Magazine will be going out of print this January. I understand why: nobody is really buying magazines much anymore. At least, nobody in the tech magazine market.

    I got a free 2-year PC Magazine subscription off of a thread at SomethingAwful - or maybe I paid just a couple bucks for it. (It's good bathroom reading.) Before I got it in my mailbox, I would thumb through it occasionally while in line at the grocery store or pharmacy. I'm still guilty of this on other titles such as CPU, Maximum PC and others. I know this kind of behavior is what kills off magazines, but I can't see shelling out $5 every month for every magazine worth reading.

    Sadly, another of my favorite magazines is going out of print too. World Radio magazine, a ham radio publication, was bought up by CQ Magazine. CQ will cease print production of World Radio and they claim that it will live on in an online publication. Judging by their eye-bleed websites, I can't see that lasting long at all.

    PC Magazine claims they'll continue an online presence and perhaps that will bumble along for a while, but unless they can survive on online advertising alone, they're doomed. Online paid content doesn't have much of a market or future.

    ( Comments : 1 | Full article )

    RMS on the death of OLPC
    olpc : by Tommy - November 3rd 2008, 02:51PM
    Richard Stallman gives an interesting look at why the One Laptop Per Child project has "died". I don't think there's much happening with this project that had so much promise just 1 year ago. If you'll notice, I haven't given it much attention since this time last year because of the changes in administration and the "sell out" to major corporations for financial gain.

    I guess it was too good to be true.

    ( Comments : 0 | Full article )

    Dreamhost Migration
    neodux : by Tommy - October 8th 2008, 09:25PM
    Special thanks to g4m8i7 for making me aware of a cool deal Dreamhost has going on. Dreamhost is migrating their servers to newer, more efficient, "greener" servers - I dunno, they said it, not me. In the migration they need volunteers to migrate over to the new servers. Of course they are aware there may be small glitches in the transfer, but I can't foresee them being anything major. Because I took the bait and decided to switch, they're giving me free unlimited* bandwidth and storage for life!

    So, I'm sure most of you won't care if there are a few hiccups along the way. I'll try to get them fixed ASAP, but I figure the benefit is worth the risk of problems.

    Also, they do have signup deals for those of you wanting to also get on board.

    tags: neodux webhost

    ( Comments : 0 | Full article )

    Freelance Work
    programming : by Tommy - September 24th 2008, 11:33AM
    I had no idea. Well, I guess I had never looked. I found Freelance-projects and elance this morning, after being told by friends. They're connection points for posting freelance software jobs and finding freelance programmers to do it. It's definately an international thing (quite a few are from asia) so the pricing can become very competitive.

    I just missed a simple "PHP/MySQL export to Excel" job by a few minutes. The bidding was already closed. So if you have any online tech skills and figure you have some free time, pick a fun project and pick up some extra cash.

    ( Comments : 0 | Full article )

    USB CueCat
    hardware : by Tommy - September 18th 2008, 10:51PM
    Years and years ago, Radio Shack launched their CueCat scanner technology. I won't go into the history of this terrible business plan, but needless to say the idea took off like a lead balloon. You can get the brief history of the failed device on wikipedia. Sometime later, probably around 2002 or 2003 I purchased a PS/2 model of the fabled barcode scanner, a scanner that I still have. I never really used it though.

    Recently I purchased a USB model of the CueCat. I had no idea USB models were ever available, but I found plenty of online sources selling them. I bought mine from mavin.com. I just got it in the mail this afternoon and was able to "declaw" the cuecat in about a minute. The process of declawing is simple enough and, in short, it allows the cuecat to output only the barcode information in plain text (versus an obfuscated and "proprietary" format). After declawing I can now use the cat to scan any barcode. I hope to use it for cataloging any books I own, as well as selling used textbooks online after each semester.

    Grendel sez: Neat, but otherwise useless, I've learned that Google will take UPC numbers and link to various UPC databases to tell you about the item you just scanned. Interesting.

    update: 10/30 - Apparently the patent for :Cuecat was still outstanding until recently.

    ( Comments : 0 | Full article )

    New Motherboard Time
    hardware : by Tommy - August 21st 2008, 11:29PM
    BREAKING NEWS: My "slammin' setup" from 2 years ago has finally burned out the chipset fan on the motherboard. I gotta say, I've been extremely pleased with it since I bought it. Now, unexpectedly, it's time for an upgrade. Really, all I need is a new fan for the old motherboard, but a new motherboard and CPU wouldn't hurt.

    Since I've been out of the hardware scene for a while, I'll open up discussion on what's hot now. Remember, I'm not a fan of "bleeding edge", I'm looking for best bang for the buck.

    Update: Ok, so I didn't go the performance route, but I think I got a modest computer setup. Maintaining about the same performance before the motherboard went out. I found a deal on a dual-core AMD Athlon X2 Brisbane for $30 shipped, so I decided to bump up the CPU a tad. I went cheap on the motherboard because, frankly, I don't need a whole lot. I settled on the Asus M2N-MX. Because my old RAM wouldn't work on new boards, I got 2Gb of OCZ DDR1066. The machine is functioning again, all systems are go and I'm back online at my regularly scheduled times. Thanks for all of the suggestions. I'll prob be ready to upgrade this "value" setup in a year or so.
    (total spent: ~$130)

    ( Comments : 9 | Full article )

    Wii : Homebrew
    games : by Tommy - August 20th 2008, 09:34PM
    After reading about the Homebrew Channel for a modified Wii, I was intrigued. In the past I've run linux on a Playstation, soldered modchips into countless Xbox consoles and had quite a blast adding and updating various scripts for the Xbox. I wondered what the Wii could be capable of.

    At present there are only a handful of "homebrew" apps you can use on a Wii, but this didn't stop me. The future for Wii homebrew looks bright and it looked so easy I just had to give it a try. I visited the Homebrew Channel homepage which is literally a one-stop shop for modifying a Wii console. All you need is a spare SD card (I used a 2Gb card) and a copy of Zelda: Twilight Princess (I had a free rental credit). In almost no time at all I had the Homebrew Channel (HBC) installed and was quickly accessing homebrew apps.

    A video of the Twilight Hack is here and the Homebrew Channel is here.

    Currently the most promising app is ScummVM. Many of the supported games I haven't played and those that I have played, I haven't touched in at least 10 years. They were truly groundbreaking titles for the PC gaming industry. Full Throttle, Loom, Day of the Tentacle, Monkey Island - the big ones. Now, I can continue to play the point-click interface with the Wii controller. Perhaps an official re-release is in order for some old LucasArts games.

    ( Comments : 0 | Full article )

    They're Baaaack
    news : by Tommy - July 14th 2008, 11:16AM
    Wow. Quite the trip. We didn't experience almost any bad weather the entire trip. It never really rained on us while we were camping. No real vehicular problems. No sickness. All was well.

    Almost every night we were camping in the mountains so the air was nice and cool at night. We stayed a week in Flagstaff with Corey and his fiance, Misty, taking countless day trips to the surrounding National Parks and attractions. After we parted ways Jennifer and I continued tent camping all the way back home with the exception of a few nights in hotels when the weather wasn't going to cooperate (too hot, potential storms) or we just plain needed a break and some running water. (Most national parks don't offer showers of any kind.) Our biggest accomplishment, aside from actually surviving the trip without problems, was climbing Guadalupe Peak, it was probably one of the tougher things either of us had done, but it was a great feeling of accomplishment when we finished.
    We camped at over 8000ft after climbing 3mi and 3000ft with our 25-30lb packs to the campsite. We climbed the final mile to the summit the next morning before packing up and climbing down.

    We also visited Carlsbad Caverns, White Sands, the McDonald Observatory, Big Bend, family in Austin and Baytown, and managed to meet up with my brother before he leaves for Ranger School next week.

    We just got back last night, so I'll have some pictures to post this afternoon sometime.

    For now, here's our route. We kept a journal of things we did each day, kept a list of wildlife seen along the way, and logged gas mileage. My car did excellent - averaging around 35 mpg. I was pleased, but it's time for another oil change!

    Continue reading...

    tags: camping road_trip

    ( Comments : 2 | Full article )

    Desert Voyage 2008
    neodux : by Tommy - June 18th 2008, 08:03AM
    Well, the time has arrived. Jennifer and I are loaded up and will start heading toward Flagstaff, Arizona today. We'll be stopping at Palo Duro Canyon along the way, then we'll stop by Bluewater Lake State Park near Continental Divide, NM. The next day we'll push on to the cabin we've reserved with Corey (Mackieman). We'll kick it old skool for a week and visit the Grand Canyon, Meteor Crater, one of the nation's largest observatories, Petrified Forrest and other notoable locations.

    After Flagstaff and seeing all the sites within sane driving distance, Jennifer and I will drive south to Summerhaven, AZ atop Mt. Lemmon where we'll meet up with the Tucson Amateur Radio Club for the annual ARRL Field Day.

    After Mt. Lemmon, we'll head west into New Mexico to stay at Aguirre Springs near Las Cruces, NM. The next day we'll head to Alamogordo to see the dunes at White Sands and visit Cloudcroft before driving on to Carlsbad to see the giant caverns and bazillions of bats. whew! still not done...

    We'll attempt to climb Guadalupe Peak (highest point in Texas) after we've crossed back into Texas, then drive down to Fort Davis to see UT's big observatory there and swim at nearby Balmorhea Springs swimming pool. At that point we'll be at a crossroads as to whether or not we want to try to go south to Big Bend for one last grand view or head back to Longview by way of Enchanted Rock.

    I'd hotlink all of these locations, but that'd take forever and you know how to use Google.
    I'll check in periodically whenever I get wifi, now that the world has our literary you'll know where to see search parties...

    Grendel sez: See you soon Mackieman, good day!

    tags: camping road_trip

    ( Comments : 3 | Full article )

    Double Edge Safety Razor pt 3
    news : by Tommy - May 15th 2008, 09:31PM
    Continuation from "Double Edge Safety Razor" part 1 & part 2.

    Well, I'm totally comfortable shaving with the new razor now. I've tried 3 different blades (plenty more to try) and I can't tell a big difference between any of the manufacturers. So far I've tried a Merkur blade that came with the razor, Gillette, and Dorco. I understand that these blades are all some of the best, so maybe that's why I can't see a big difference in them - they're all good. Or maybe I just haven't encountered a "bad" blade.

    I have yet to try the $1.52/10 blades from Walmart, but I was shocked to find a 10 pack of Gillette blades at Walgreens for almost $6! Still that's around .50/blade (which lasts me 2 shaves at the very least).

    I am able to tell that I get a closer shave on certain spots (cheek, sideburns, mustache) and an average shave around the neck - no better or worse than the old Mach3 shave. It's still smooth as it's always been, so no complaints. Like I said it's fun to shave with, it does take just a little longer than it used to, but not as long as when I first started. I guess at first I was terrified of the blade and must have been being very patient and taking my time with it. Now that I'm comfortable with it, it doesn't take much longer than it used to.

    I've also found some good links for vendors of shaving products as well as a very helpful forum all about the art of shaving. (There really is a site for everything on the internets.)

    tags: razor shaving

    ( Comments : 0 | Full article )

    Operation Keep Jeff Informed
    news : by Tommy - May 12th 2008, 04:07PM
    My brother Jeff (Grimlen) is at Basic Training at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma for the summer. He is a cadet with the SFA ROTC and will be serving with the Nacogdoches National Guard until he graduates. After he completes Basic, he will go on to Advanced Individualized Training (AIT) to learn the skills necessary to be a Forward Observer.

    As many of you know, while you're at basic no cell phones, computers or TVs are allowed - only mail. This will remove Jeff from being able to view neodux or catch up on any news. So I'm hereby establishing a summer project called "Keep Jeff Informed" where the neodux community will post news summaries, image macros and other bits of information he needs to stay "up" on while away at Ft. Sill, OK.

    I will, from time to time, copy/paste new posts from this thread to a Word document that I will print off and send to him. At Basic, sometimes recruits are required to read their mail from home to the other recruits aloud while in formation, so the more bizarre/insane it is, the better. Try to reduce the size of large macros so that I can squeeze text around it to conserve space. (Army-related macros get priority)

    One again, this is the thread to post in, not the comments of this post.

    ( Comments : 1 | Full article )

    Double Edge Safety Razor pt 2
    news : by Tommy - May 4th 2008, 02:20PM
    Continuation from "Double Edge Safety Razor" part 1 and continued on part 3.

    I survived my initial shaving with the new Merkur Heavy Classic razor. The Merkur HD really is a fun shave (sounds goofy I know) but there's something fun about vintage shaving. I got the hang of the "shaving angle" in short time and was able to shave "upside down" before I finished.

    It did take me about twice as long to shave with this style razor, but part of that was me being careful and getting used to the new technique. These blades are also not meant to be fast, but to make a clean cut with several successive passes. The learning curve isn't steep at all. I just had to remember not to press down and to hold the blade at the proper angle. The "safety razor" prevents you from cutting yourself if the angle is too steep, as you might do with a straight razor. All of this, of course, is helped if you have a proper lather with good shaving soap.

    I'm sure I'll get quicker with the shave as I get more practice. The shave does seem to be closer in spots, I missed a few of the "tricky" spots - they're just not as smooth. For now I'm happy I didn't have any knicks or cuts.

    More to come after my next shave...

    tags: razor shaving

    ( Comments : 1 | Full article )

    Double Edged Safety Razor
    news : by Tommy - April 29th 2008, 12:54AM
    That's it. I've had all I can stand. Gillette Mach3 blades are to the point where they're losing me as a customer. The package at the store tonight said "Now in 5 pack!". Why are they giving me a 5th blade? Because they've raised the price to $11.25. (That over $2 per blade!)

    Granted, I was totally out of blades at the moment so I bought them. I'm hoping they'll be my last for a long time because tonight I bit the bullet and shelled out $50 for a new "old-fashioned" safety razor (blades for this one are around $0.15 per blade).

    Years ago Araolath told me he was wanting an old-fashioned razor and that I should check them out. So I've been partly interested in them off and on for quite a while now. I've just never had much reason to switch. Now I do.

    They say it takes a while to get used to the new way of shaving and to just take it slow at first. Well, with summer upon us, I will have time to hide my soon-to-be-butchered face while I relearn shaving. My uneven "missed a spot" shaving pattern will also be worthy of staying home for. So what better time to start than summer?

    I've been watching videos by this guy on YouTube, mantic, that has a good collection of shaving videos. He recommended a few different models of razors, various blades and techniques that are echoed on other howto sites. So if you're interested, yourself, check out some of his stuff for a good starting point.

    Continued at "Double Edge Safety Razor" part 2 & part 3.

    tags: razor shaving

    ( Comments : 9 | Full article )

    The Right Camping Gear
    outdoors : by Tommy - March 30th 2008, 09:37PM
    I've been on a camping kick recently and realized last week that having the right gear makes a huge difference in comfort. About 2 weeks ago for a pre-Spring Break camping trip, we went with some friends up to Beaver's Bend, Oklahoma. While we were there the zipper on my sleeping bag broke. I didn't have a sleep-mat so, needless to say, I had a very lousy night. After we got back I ordered a nice Slumberjack mummy bag that actually fits my tall frame.

    Last weekend we went to Caddo Lake State Park here in Texas. I picked up a cheap $5 foam mat at Walmart, which wasn't the softest but it was better than nothing. The new Slumberjack bag was downright awesome - I've never slept so comfy in a tent before. It was while laying in my new bag that I realized it's all about having the right gear.

    That was it, for my birthday I wanted the right gear. My birthday came early this year in the form of an additional paycheck from some extra hours I picked up. We went to Whole Earth Provision Company and REI in Dallas this past weekend in search of a few essentials. I first picked up a nice, new Kelty Coyote backpack for containing all my new loot. The sales rep at REI loaded me down with about 30lbs. After getting the pack adjusted I walked around the store, it was wonderful. Again, it was all about the right gear. I also picked up a Thermarest sleeping pad to cushion me from the ground. I can't express how awesome these mats are - You just have to feel them, otherwise you won't understand. Never again will my back sleep on terra firma.

    Another problem I ran into while at Caddo Lake was poor cookware.

    Continue reading...

    tags: camping gear

    ( Comments : 4 | Full article )

    outdoors : by Tommy - March 12th 2008, 02:48PM
    It's 2008 Hummingbird season. Depending on where you live you can expect the influx of hummingbirds in your vicinity very soon. Being in northeast Texas, I anticipate that I'll have them here sometime within the next 2 days.

    My feeders are ready to go. I dug them out, cleaned them up and checked their hanging hooks. I mixed up a batch of hummingbird nectar (see below) and filled one feeder up. The others will come out after I see the first hummers here. Walmart has some great wide-mouth feeders for less than $4 that are super easy to clean and plenty of feeder holes. If you have a window that's easy to get to, why not put up a hummingbird feeder. They're one of the best forms of entertainment while sitting outside doing nothing. The little birds will dive-bomb each other and dog-fight all around you trying to protect their precious sugar water.

    Hummingbird nectar recipe
    1c table sugar (don't use honey or any other sugar)
    4c tap water (nothing special here)

    You can make more, just keep the 1:4 ratio. Stir the sugar until it dissolves in the water. Don't use red food coloring - it isn't needed and can be bad for the birds. You don't have to boil it either. If you do, just remember not to put boiling hot water in your feeder! Store any leftover nectar in a 2 liter bottle in the fridge until needed. Check your feeder every few days for any signs of contamination (bacteria and mold love sugar water). If it is dirty, empty the feeder rinse it out (don't use soap!) and refill.

    To find out when hummingbirds will be in your neck of the woods, check out this cool migration map (if you're out west, you get birds too), and here's a some video of hummingbirds from YouTube.

    Continue reading...

    ( Comments : 7 | Full article )

    Spirit of Knoxville IV Balloon
    radio : by Tommy - March 11th 2008, 11:55AM
    The University of Tennessee Amateur Radio Club (UTARC) has launched their latest balloon "The Spirit of Knoxville IV". It took flight late last night on its voyage across the Atlantic Ocean, into Europe, via the swift moving winds of the jet stream.

    The team put a computer and GPS on board to transmit the balloon's location and altitude via ham radio. The data stream is sent out via RTTY and CW at ~10.146 MHz. The data is displayed in rather raw format here and in a more presentable flash-based "dashboard" which features a Google Maps fix on the balloon's last reported location.

    Quite a few people are monitoring the balloon so the site is a bit slow to load, but to track the little autonomous balloon is pretty neat. Right now, as I write this, it's zipping along at 111mph @ almost 40,000ft out over the Atlantic.

    update: The balloon fell short of its European goal. The payload splashed down about 2:00pm CST, 425 miles southwest of County Cork, Ireland. The balloon began losing altitude the night before and never full recoverd. The decent was partly caused by the loss of sunlight heating the gas in the balloon and/or icing on the surface of the balloon. "Grams will make/break you in this business," one UTARC member said. The balloon's exact location was unkown as radio contact was lost at about 1:51pm CST. Better luck next time guys!

    tags: balloon ham_radio

    ( Comments : 1 | Full article )

    Image Uploads
    neodux : by Tommy - March 10th 2008, 01:49AM
    I've finally grown tired of having to upload images to other hosting services such as ImageShack and hotlink them in my own blog posts. I finally decided to do something about it and create an image upload feature when creating posts.

    At this time you can only upload one image only when creating an entry. (You can't go back to edit an image and upload) I'll go ahead and stress the point that this is only temporary.
    I'd like to have the ability to better control images that have been uploaded, upload (and display) multiple images, and remove images associated with blog entries (such as the butterfly image displayed here).

    So there ya go, one more feature that will be little-used and few will care about, but I can finally say I've mastered PHP file uploads.

    tags: neodux features

    ( Comments : 0 | Full article )

    Ultra-Light Alcohol Stove
    outdoors : by Tommy - March 8th 2008, 01:55PM
    While looking at various camping stoves, like the MSR WhisperLite and Pocket Rocket, I came across the old alcohol stove design. I was curious how they worked and found several howto videos on making your own alcohol stove.

    Of all the videos I found this one was probably my favorite. I was able to track down some Bud Light in aluminum bottles. It's not Shiner, but it's not the beer I want - it's the containers.

    I followed Russell's howto video and was able to hack apart a bottle and assemble it into a modest imitation. It wasn't the most sound design, so I made another. The second stove turned out better than the first and I was actually able to boil a standard sized pot of water!

    Pics are forthcoming.

    update: From the moment I lit the stove, it took 10 minutes to boil 2-1/2 cups of water (what my dehydrated meal calls for). Not too shabby.

    tags: camping stove efficient

    ( Comments : 4 | Full article )

    Permissions Boost
    neodux : by Tommy - February 28th 2008, 09:20PM
    In hopes of encouraging more posting and feedback, I've bumped everyone's permissions to add/edit posts on neodux.

    Almost all of you should be able to create your own entry on neodux if you wish. Just make sure it's not flat out retarded and of some substance to at least a couple of people other than yourself. If you're having problems posting, let me know by leaving a comment on this post.

    A few notes on creating a post:
  • Entries are essentially raw HTML, format accordingly.
  • Use inline links to relevant information
  • Check the post's spelling and grammar, please.
  • Chose the most approprate category.
  • ( Comments : 0 | Full article )

    Phun with Physics
    games : by Tommy - February 22nd 2008, 05:04PM

    It's hard to categorize exactly what Phun is. A game? There's no rules really. You could argue that it's educational, but it's just so darn fun. It's alot like a 2D virual Lego set: stimulating free-form play.

    Created by Emil Ernerfeldt for his Master's thesis, Phun is a physics engine with dynamic shapes that can be arranged, moved and associated however you wish. For more info, check out the Phun webpage.

    Grendel sez: Here's my first creation. The chain was a doozy to get working right.

    ( Comments : 3 | Full article )

    Step Off My Grill, Dog
    meat : by Tommy - February 17th 2008, 09:10PM
    After looking around at the different "big box" stores around town, Jennifer and I decided on a nice grill to replace my sad, hand-me-down. I have been wanting a new grill for about 2 years now, but just never broke down and got one. Up until last fall I had a grill that was so-so from the previous tenants in our apartment. I started having problems with it so I picked up Notorious' old grill. I never fixed it up, so I've been without a decent grill for several months. (It's been rough.)

    Today, we went looking for a replacement. We settled on a nice one from Char-Broil at Home Depot (sry ltd, Lowe's just didn't have any I liked). It has a stainless steel body, hide-away tank storage area and a side-burner (A feature I've been looking forward to). One benefit of the new grill is the 3 burners so I'll have a bit more flexibility in the heat. It also has the quieter electronic ignition, as opposed to the old piezo-electric "ker-chunk" starter (used in so many potato guns). The side burner is also a welcomed addition. No more stinking up the house when frying anything and I can cook a large pot of shrimp or crawfish outside now too. w00t!

    ( Comments : 5 | Full article )

    Sirus for a Lifetime
    music : by Tommy - February 11th 2008, 12:52PM
    Well, it's about that time of year again. Mardi Gras? Valentine's? Nope, it's time to renew my Sirius contract.

    I've loved having it over the past year. It's made roadtrips that much more enjoyable. Any news I would otherwise miss I can get on CNN, Fox, NPR, Bloomberg and the list continues. As for music, which was the reason I got it, almost always has something fresh that I want to listen to. No more scrolling through pre-made selections of mp3s for me. In fact, I don't even think I've used my CD player more than a few times over the past year.

    I love my Sirius so much I decided to go for a lifetime account. The website claims $499.99 but it's currently $399.99. The payments are spread out over a few months. They take into account any time left on your current plan (I should've done it sooner!) and knock that off your first bill. The lifetime account carries over to the merging of XM and Sirius, whenever that happens, and I'll only see more content on my channel selection, no additional payments required. I'm excited and you should be too.

    ( Comments : 0 | Full article )

    OLPC: PSK31 is here!
    olpc : by Tommy - February 4th 2008, 04:33PM
    It wasn't by my doing, but I'm glad it's finally working. The XO laptop from OLPC now has PSK31 available for ham radio operators. Talk about a niche!

    Jerry Dunmire, KA6HLD, finally got Fldigi working on his XO and bundled the program as a stand alone activity. For those of you with an XO of your own that want to try out PSK-31, here are the steps included in his HOWTO:
    First you must enable the DSP on the laptop:
  • login as root: su -l (that's a lower-case L, not a 1)
  • echo "/sbin/modprobe snd-pcm-oss" >>/etc/rc.local
  • reboot for the changes to take effect

    Once you've rebooted the XO, download and install the activity:
  • Start the browser and enter the URL: http://www.dunmire.org/olpc/
  • Click on the FldigiActivity-1.xo link
  • Wait for the download to finish
  • Click on the Open button

    You should now have the Fldigi activity on the right side of your Activity toolbar. Enjoy operating PSK, see you on 14.070 MHz!

    For detailed instructions, click here to read Jerry's HOWTO. Or, if you'd prefer to do it manually (with no Sugar launch icon) there's a HOWTO by yours truly, here.

    update: First contact made via XO with WI4USA.
  • ( Comments : 1 | Full article )

    Starbury Shoes
    news : by Tommy - January 21st 2008, 06:34PM
    I was looking around on reddit one day and found a story about Stephon Marbury's line of shoes called Starbury. Basically, this line of shoes is targeted for low-income urban youth - they're all priced at $15 each.
    He claims they're just as good as higher priced shoes (i.e. Jordans and the like), and there's some debate on the issue.

    As you probably know, I'm no baller. I just wanted some cheap kicks and I thought a $15 shoe line was a great gimmick that I must support. I got some low top sneakers that really resemble some New Balance shoes. The best part was, while we were at a Steve & Barry's in Houston, they were having a clearance sale so my shoes were actually $9.

    It also happened that Grimlen and Araolath were home the same weekend that I was, and got some shoes of their own. (Araolath got some gaudy baller shoes, grimlen got some sk8er shoes.)

    Anywho, if you're in need of some decent, really cheap shoes, check out Starbury shoes.

    ( Comments : 0 | Full article )

    Team Fortress 2 Spraypaint
    games : by Tommy - January 3rd 2008, 01:57PM
    I've been playing Team Fortress 2 alot. It's a great game. I enjoy playing just about every class on the game. I play Engineer most of the time, although at times I've been known to completely devour the opposing team as a Sniper.

    As I was playing earlier I realized that most Engineers place their teleports near the upstairs spawn point in the 2Fort map (I play 2Fort almost exclusively). It really drives me crazy when I get in some teleporter and it takes me to my teams flag room and not to the enemy base (where all good teleports should go). I decided I needed to make it easier on my teammates to know where my teleport takes them, so I made a spraypaint.

    I just made it in MS-Paint, set the canvas to the right dimensions, downloaded the TeamFortress2 Font Pack and voila! I has-got custom spraypaint. So here it is, my simple teleporter label.

    Grendel sez: I also enjoy these treats. The Sentry Gun decoy (red, blue) and the crouching sniper decoy (red, blue).

    ( Comments : 3 | Full article )

    Geeks Needed
    rant : by Tommy - January 1st 2008, 03:13PM
    First of all, check out this guy's adoration for this 60 Minutes segment over how badly geeks are in need.

    I watch pieces like this and really wonder how long we'll be stuck in a society full of ludites. Seriously, how hard is it? There's not alot of variance among electronic items today. It might take a moment to inspect the product, understand it's uses and connections. After that it's just plugging it in. Things are so color coded and on-the-device labeled, it's not that hard.

    I especially liked the bit about the NYC school teacher than spent a long time trying to hook up his new HDTV. Really? HDTV hookup? Things are labeled. Theres one input for the TV signal, one for the DVD or other video device. What could you get stuck on?

    The guy with the Ph.D. that said "I have an engineering degree from MIT and I couldn't figure it out", really got to me. What could that possibly have to do with anything. Judging from his looks his undergrad was probably done when Roosevelt was president. Furthermore, what does it matter that he was an engineer? (Especially if you learned on vacuum tube technology!)

    It still bothers me that people bank on their laurels of a college degree to show infinitely complicated something must be to figure out. "If I can't, than surely a person without a degree can't." AT this point, I'll remind my readers that I still don't have a bachelor's, and I can't think of any problems I've encountered with new products. I can't say that anything I've learned in any of my classes has helped me hook up and use consumer devices. (If anything I have a better understanding of how little bearing college has on "real life".
    Grimlen and I hooked up my mom's HDTV on Christmas day without looking at the manual and we're not even Geek Squad employees!

    Continue reading...

    ( Comments : 4 | Full article )

    Christmas Wrap-up 2007
    neodux : by Tommy - December 26th 2007, 03:06PM
    Well the presents have all been opened (mostly) and the trash is all bagged up. Gifts lay on the coffee table and piled around various rooms of the house - it's that cool time of the year I like to think of as Christmas Afterglow. It's not quite New Years and you have so many new toys you haven't even been able to play with them all yet.

    Like when you grew up and ran outside to check out what Santa brought your friends, I'll ask the question, "So what did you get?"

    What I got:
  • 8Gb black iPod Nano
        - universal dock
        - iPod armband
        - JVC iPod Car Stereo Dock
  • Nike Air Pegasus 2007
        - Nike+ iPod adapter
  • Stihl Farm Boss Chainsaw
  • Crest rechargable electric SpinBrush
  • Smith's Jiff V knife-sharpener
  • Burt's Bees cologne + Old Spice cologne
  • some cash money and a Best Buy gift card

    update: Grimlen got me the "perfect gift", as the box describes it. An imported "gem tree".

    Tell us about your Christmas loot in the comments.
  • ( Comments : 7 | Full article )

    news : by Tommy - December 17th 2007, 07:26PM
    It's probably a bit too late to order one as a Christmas gift, but it's still a cool idea nonetheless. The website is OneShare.com and they sell single shares of a stock along with the certificate of ownership (something that you usually must pay extra for after you purchase the stock.)

    Granted, you can't choose from just any stock (i.e. GOOG, AMD - which is a bargain right now), but there's a healthy selection of some of the more popular brand-names available. It's a neat idea, especially for someone that may be a big fan of a company. If I had thought of it sooner there are a couple of people I would have considering a certificate for.

    It's a neat idea and thought I'd pass it along. If you know of any similar websites (preferably ones that are maybe more flexible in their stock offerings) please share.

    update: Oh yeah, there's also GiveAShare.com which does have Google stock for sale, but it's rediculously priced.

    ( Comments : 1 | Full article )

    pets : by Tommy - December 2nd 2007, 08:36PM
    After reading about them for several months and an overall curiosity in the subject, I have finally purchased some honey bees. (thus adding to my collection of rather disjointed interests.)

    Rather than bore you with all the details, in short, I began reading and studying beekeeping for the past few months and found them truly fascinating. There's still alot that is unknown about the honey bee, but their behavior has been documented for centuries. Most recently is the plague of the mysterious CCD (colony collapse disorder). To help fight this, Burt's Bees is giving away free wildflower seed so you can aid the dwindling honey bee population. To read more on the art/science of beekeeping, here's the link to the Beekeeping article on Wikipedia.

    For some pictures of my setup and me in a goofy hat, I've created a thread in the forums. I'll probably post future pictures in the forums, and post any updates to the project here on the main page.

    update: Pictures are here.

    ( Comments : 1 | Full article )

    programming : by Tommy - November 14th 2007, 01:55AM
    I was rolling the idea around in my head how I'd do it (database structure, features, etc.), but I was considering making a Christmas wishlist that you could log into and edit/update, etc.Sure, Amazon does wishlists, but you can only link to items sold on Amazon, what if I want something they don't carry? Yeah, how about that? So, as all real programmers do, I started coding before I had a finished concept. I didn't get too far into it before I got distracted and hassled with schoolwork.

    So, I stalled out. One day, whilst on Digg, I came across this lovely site: wishlistr.com. I guess they're trying to stay with the whole Web2.0 naming convention wherein you drop the "e" from an "-er" name, ala Flickr. Anywho, the site does just what I was planning to do. You create an account and start in on your list, you can reorder the list and add/remove as you wish. (here's my list)

    One notion that I'm not sure if they captured is to scan the users' URL, if it links to Amazon or some other site that gives referral bonuses (like 10% of the sale), then pass the user through your referral link transparently, therein resulting in a nice pull for your time/effort. That's the only thing lacking in their design, that and no ability to include a thumbnail of the item on your list. Otherwise it's a solid site, wish I'd thought of it sooner ...or is it spelled "soonr"?

    ( Comments : 2 | Full article )

    The Big Ten
    news : by Tommy - October 18th 2007, 12:18PM
    I've seen this spring up on several different internet sites like Digg and Reddit. They've been listed and shouted down by droves of discontents, they're the "Big Ten", the "Media Mafia", the 10 leading news outlets that control 95% of "big media". You're familiar with most of them, I'm sure. They control the vast majority of print media, movie, music and television. You know, "the media".

    This list got me thinking. Ten isn't all that bad of a number of competitors in a US marketplace. I can't list 10 leading PC manufacturers, 10 leading US auto manufacturers, 10 US telecom companies or even 10 leading gunmakers. Ten's not that bad of a number.

    Sure there should be more diversity in the drive-by journalism outlets, but what about all of the other markets in the US. Why isn't anyone speaking out against the few companies that control the vast majority of the secret recipes behind the junk food we shovel into our faces. Why aren't the few main telecom companies controlling long distance and the internet at fault? Are just 10 really all that bad - how many competitors should there be?

    ( Comments : 0 | Full article )

    Team Fortress 2: Finally
    games : by Tommy - October 18th 2007, 01:59AM
    *sigh* That's it. I finally got it. Almost 10 years of waiting has come to an end. I think they did a smash up job on TF2. And I've only played 2fort so far! It took me a bit to recapture my feel for the map - what with all the pretty textures and all. I was more used to seeing blocky, cut-and-dry gothic tiles everywhere from Quake 1. The graphics are awesome. I truly love the cell animation feel of it. Much more of a "fun" feel to it. I do miss the various grenades that different players have, but I guess removing them is for the best.

    For those of you that still have not bought "The Orange Box", it's a great buy. I found that Circuit City has it for $39.99 while everyone else is releasing it at $49.99. If you take a Circuit City ad to Walmart they'll price match. So will Best Buy if you're nearby, plus you'll get an addition 10% off --- that's another whole $1.00! You can print off this page for price verification (possibly photoshop for addition discount, but I wouldn't ever suggest that.) I played it safe and got mine at Walmart for $39.99.

    Oh yeah, did I mention Portal is a blast too? I hear there's a couple of other game bundled with it, but who cares? TF2 Baby!

    Grendel sez: If you are flat broke or just don't want it, you can check out the 2D Flash version of Portal.

    ( Comments : 2 | Full article )

    Kiva Microloans
    news : by Tommy - October 10th 2007, 04:46PM
    Kiva.org is a website that allows lenders to connect with those seeking loans to get their fledgling businesses up and running in developing countries. The mission of Kiva is to empower the motivated entrepreneurs in foreign countries as well as helping fellow man. It's mostly humanitarian with a business focus.

    Lenders, like you and me, can donate as little as $25 to Kiva to be loaned out to those seeking funds to help grow their businesses. Kiva has field agents overseas to ensure the parties involved are honestly in need of the money, are good for the money and have some for of collateral. The business end is handled by Kiva agents and they seem to be doing their homework when it comes to loaning money - 100% of the money loaned out through Kiva has been repaid with no one defaulting on their loan.

    The people seeking the loans benefit from Kiva's generosity by having a 0% interest loan. A huge blessing when you consider local loan sharks might charge as much as 300%! So, for me to part with $25 for a few months is no hard task - especially when I'm almost guaranteed to get the money back into my PayPal account, at which point I can turn around and re-loan the money to another person or wire the money back into my bank account.

    If you're interested, check out Kiva.org for more info. There's also this informational video done by PBS' Frontline showing how Kiva works both at home and abroad. Others are talking about Kiva as well, which are all linked from Kiva's press page.

    ( Comments : 0 | Full article )

    Comcast Email Woes
    news : by Tommy - October 2nd 2007, 07:37PM
    Well, it's official (in my eyes at least) Comcast sucks. Time Warner Houston recently sold their internet operations (aka RoadRunner) to Comcast. In doing so they migrated user email accounts to a @comcast.net address, rather than the long @houston.rr.com. Cool, it's shorter, easier for newbs to remember, etc.

    I migrated my family (me, jenn, parents) over to Comcast a few weeks ago, problem is, there's no easy web interface to manager user accounts. There very well could be some awesome, ground breaking webapp to do just this, but Comcast doesn't make it easy to find - not like RoadRunner used to. So now, everyone's converted over, but I can't set/change my parents' email passwd so they're more or less locked out of their email until they (or I) call Comcast. Ok, fine. I can call sometime, no problem. For me it's no problem migrating over. I just changed the MX redirect on my neodux.com email address and the mail is routed appropriately - for a while. You see, Comcast has this thing called a blacklist. Lots of people are unhappy with Comcast's blacklist. If your mail server isn't AOL, MSN or some other commercial service, chances are you'll get blacklisted. Guess what happened to mail from neodux.com?

    I called Comcast and was on the phone with 2 different technicians for about 45 minutes (not including hold time) trying to A) convey to them the problem and B) how it's their problem and not my "internet security settings". I even had one technician tell me repeatedly and in a condescending tone that there is absolutely no blacklist and that my emails are bouncing due to my mail server. (No way buddy, not when the header tells me your mail server is rejecting it!)

    Long story short: Neodux email is now hosted on Dreamhost who, despite my problems with them in the past, is 110,000% better at not screwing up stuff for no reason.

    Continue reading...

    ( Comments : 5 | Full article )

    Awaiting the Orange Box
    games : by Tommy - September 12th 2007, 01:30PM
    It's been a long time coming and it's almost here. I've been waiting years for Team Fortress 2 to make it's debut. Team Fortress 1 (the Quake mod) was a blast to play. Team Fortress Classic was a mediocre attempt to capture TF1 into a new engine and since then there's been a buzz about TF2 being released one day or another. It's been touted alongside Duke Nukem Forever as "vaporware" - but the release is nigh.

    Alot of people don't like the game styling of cell animation, but I think it will make for a great game. So far, most of what we've been given glimpses of are animation shorts - but they're holding me over and whetting my appetite. So here's a few for you to watch too.
  • Team Fortress 2 : Meet the Heavy Weapon Guy
  • Team Fortress 2 : Meet the Soldier
  • Team Fortress 2 : Meet the Engineer
  • Team Fortress 2 : Meet the Demoman

    So there you have it 3 of the handful of classes available to play in TF2. Maybe if you don't know anything about TF2, here's one more video for you.

    Grendel sez: Don't forget Portal is in the Orange Box too!
    update: Added "Meet the Demoman" link. "Aye!"
  • ( Comments : 13 | Full article )

    Digg a Rut
    rant : by Tommy - August 26th 2007, 10:04AM
    It's been mounting over the past year or so, I'm finally starting to lose faith in Digg. Once upon a time, Digg was a great source of tech news that produced links and info faster than Slashdot. There was a time when I thought Digg was going to actually take over the Slashdot community. (Ha!)

    I thought Digg's model would bury Slashdot because of the speed in which you could get tech news. (Comment systems aside - that's a whole other issue) One of my reasons for thinking this was the "democratic" style of moderation on digg - "only the news the people want will make the front page", I thought. Well it turns out that the vast majority of 'the people' are morons. (Now I understand why we have electoral votes in America!) I've seen things appear on CNN, Slashdot, Wall Street Journal and Fark before it gets to the front page on Digg - Yes, digg has been outpaced by even traditional news outlets.

    Another huge problem for Digg is the mounting number of idiots that are posting content and getting "dugg" to the front page. They just want to get their story to the front page so they find some link about the iPhone, Ubuntu, AJAX or Ruby post it and it makes the front page - not that any news about such topics isn't wanted, but enough is enough! Another source of links for front-page-chasers is Reddit. Simply go to reddit, grab a link from their front page and repost it on digg, it'll go right to the front page - kewl!!1!

    Unless Digg something to counter this problem, I'm probably going to jump ship. Thanks for the memories.

    ( Comments : 3 | Full article )

    XO Laptop
    olpc : by Tommy - August 16th 2007, 10:15PM
    Well the wait for me is over, less than a month after getting the emulator running on my home computer - I got my hands on an actual XO laptop!

    Last week I officially joined the OLPC developer network and told them I would be trying to get some ham radio software ported to the XO. Because the applications can be resource intensive, especially when dealing with a 433MHz Geode processor, the OLPC dev team saw fit to send me an actual machine to test on. Thanks guys!

    As for a review of the machine, it really is an amazing machine. All of my friends here in Longview that have seen it were all equally impressed with its construction, feel and size. (It's very solid, even if it does look like the malformed offspring of an iMac and Fisher Price toy.) If you want to read more about the hardware specs you can check out the OLPC wiki, to read about the software being developed, you can start with the wiki page on Sugar. The screen is really amazing for it's size and cost. The "dark" mode (for use in the sun) is incredibly crisp and clear. I tried out the PDF reader with the screen turned around like a tablet PC in the sun and it was as nice (if not nicer) than reading on a nice LCD indoors.
    I'll post a full review of it later as I learn more about the machine both inside and out. I also hope to let a few grade-school kids try it out for a day and get their thoughts.

    For now, you can check out a couple other pics I have of it here and here.

    And those of you that still haven't a clue what I'm talking about, you can read my other posts on the One Laptop Per Child project.

    Continue reading...

    ( Comments : 2 | Full article )

    Virtual Sugar
    olpc : by Tommy - July 29th 2007, 012:05AM
    This one was just too cool to wait. For those of you that know, I'm quite pumped about the One Laptop Per Child initiative.

    I've written about it in the past, as I write this I have a couple of links in the shoutbox. The most notable one is that prospect that the XO laptop will be commercially available for Christmas 2007. By who? How much? Nobody knows. I do know that I want one.

    The XO Laptop uses a custom-rolled distribution of the GNU/Linux system with an overlay known as Sugar. Although Sugar is specialized for the XO hardware, you can install it over a linux setup, or try out a pre-configured virtual machine image (if you use VMware Player or the like). There's even a walk-thru to get you acquainted with Sugar's interface. It took me all of about a minute to point and click my way around before even looking for a guide.

    UneasySilence has the links to the files needed to run an image of Sugar.

    ( Comments : 5 | Full article )

    Beautiful Code
    books : by Tommy - July 6th 2007, 05:40PM
    I just received a hot-off-the-presses copy of the new O'Reilly book, Beautiful Code. The book is a collection of some of the foundational blocks of code that has defined modern programming with each entry being discussed by one of 38 master coders in today's market. The expert takes into account the block of code, walks us through the code and explains the elegance of the code as well as the when/why of how rules were bent to make the code magic.

    Believe it or not, it's not simply another boring textbook with a few comments written by experts. This is more of a commentary on programming by some of today's leaders. A great read that I'm going to enjoy.

    ( Comments : 0 | Full article )

    Email Forward Cycles
    rant : by Tommy - June 27th 2007, 03:23PM
    It seems to me that there is a predictable life cycle of the ubiquitous email forward. Let's say you receive this "hilarious" email forward about how the mouse cursor moves around the screen, or how a power line worker inspects the distribution lines.

    Email forward duplicates seem to be like ripples on a pond. At first they're closely spaced together. Then, as time passes, they become more spaced out. I'm sure there's some formula with the longevity of the cycle being directly related to the initial frequency of forwards you get for that message. Now if only I could find a formula to predict the span of time between each time the message is sent to me.

    Also, this is not an invitation to send me any forwards. Only to see if you notice a pattern in your inbox.

    ( Comments : 1 | Full article )

    TCEA Conference 2008
    neodux : by Tommy - June 22nd 2007, 03:23PM
    The time has come It's still quite a ways off, but and I wanted to share the news that I'll be presenting a lecture on PHP at the TCEA annual conference in February. The Texas Computer Educator's Association is a training and advising organization for Texas computer teachers.

    My lecture/workshop will focus on PHP and its use in the classroom (specifically high school). I cut my teeth on PHP years ago and I really feel like it is a great way to introduce programming concepts. Instead of the student having to learn a language as well as learn to use an IDE. Instead of fumbling with source, executables, libraries and somewhat cryptic IDE debug messages, PHP allows you to just 'run the source' and instantly you see the fruits of your programming in your web browser.

    I think web scripting is also becoming much more relevant than it has been in years past. Instead of making those dumb, boring "cin/cout" programs, students can create dynamic pages for themselves or the school. After learning the basic syntax of C-style programming students are better equipped to move on to Java or C++ after they grasp the basics with PHP.

    I'll post more details about the lecture as they emerge, possibly post my Powerpoint slides for your review.

    update: My presentation is February 7, 2008 at 4:00p in the Austin Convention Center.

    ( Comments : 8 | Full article )

    Penn & Teller: Recycling
    rant : by Tommy - June 14th 2007, 11:04PM

    I love Penn and Teller's TV series on Showtime. Unfortunately I don't get Showtime, so I must settle for catching it on YouTube or Google Video. The language is harsh, but the points they make are valid and presented very well. I may not agree with alot of their points, I bet they can probably make just as good of a case in the opposite direction if they chose to do so, but I'd say they're pretty much spot-on with most of their points. I doubt the language is anything you haven't heard before, but I should warn you there's copious amounts of cursing in their dialog.

    As you may tell from the title, this episode is about Recycling. It has some very interesting points on the topic. It shows how the US government spends $8 Billion annually in subsidies for the recycling industry. Stipends are rarely ever repealed and almost no industry ever weens itself from government stipends, so I don't see any end in sight. Watch the video, see for yourself. Comments welcome.

    ( Comments : 3 | Full article )

    Reply to Comments
    neodux : by Tommy - June 10th 2007, 12:09PM
    Alright, we're all set. You can now post comments in reply to another user's comment. Right now I'm only allowing one level or reply. I might go deeper in the future, just depends on how much use this feature receives. Feel free to comment or reply to someone's comment!

    ( Comments : 14 | Full article )

    Battlefield 1942 Revisited
    games : by Tommy - June 1st 2007, 12:11PM
    I just got done reinstalling and playing Battlefield 1942. I honestly don't know how this game ever fell out of popularity. I didn't play it as much after I got Call of Duty, but BF1942 is still a blast.

    I guess I never liked Battlefield 2 as much. Yeah, I'd play it and it was really fun, but it just wasn't the same. It lacked the simplicity that made 1942 so easy to pick up and play.
    Battlefield Vietnam sucked. I think I played it for a good 2 weeks before I reverted back to 1942.
    Secret Weapons was a waste. I didn't even bother with it.
    Road to Rome was alright, but it really wasn't ever that popular so people never played on those servers as much.
    Good ole original Battlefield 1942 is a real gem.

    I think it will be remembered for what it did to expanding gameplay. You could trek on foot forever it seemed. Or you could jump in a tank or jeep or some other vehicle and make you way to where you wanted/needed to be. Or you could jump into a plane - my personal favorite. I think the original 1942 had balance that most games lack. Player classes were balanced. The vehicles were all solid. Anti-aircraft was effective. With true teamwork you could easily take down the enemy (unless they had better cooperation).
    I love Battlefield and miss not being able to pick up just any game and cream the other guys. C'est la vie.

    ( Comments : 8 | Full article )

    Kaito Solar/Hand-crank Radio
    news : by Tommy - May 23rd 2007, 12:49PM
    I just received my newest toy. I got a solar and dynamo powered radio that I bought online. It is the Kaito KA007. It receives AM/FM/TV/SW/VHF, which allows me to receive Air traffic, 2m FM ham radio, National Weather Service and general VHF usage traffic (wrecker, sheriff, highway patrol, etc). Here's a look at the back of the radio.

    Right out of the box I gave it about 5 or 6 turns on the hand crank and was able to tune in local FM stations and an AM station while in the basement of the student center. KC9AIC and I then took it outside in the sun to check out the solar capabilities which is when I tested out the world band reception. I was able to hear World Harvest Radio loud and clear under solar power. However, I did notice a bit of drifting as I tuned in world band signals. I've also noticed very little selectivity in FM broadcast reception.

    A few things I wish the radio had would be a digital display of the frequency, I wish the AC adapter was built-in so I wouldn't have to worry about keeping up another wall wart (although with solar capabilities, it's not that big of a deal), I also wish there was an external antenna input port for hooking in a better antenna. None of these are really vital, but they'd be nice. These features are found on newer models, but they don't offer wide VHF reception, only weather. So it's all a big tradeoff, which is why I opted for this model.

    ( Comments : 6 | Full article )

    One Laptop Per Child
    olpc : by Tommy - May 21st 2007, 12:08PM
    It's been talked about in the media for a while now. If you're a regular visitor to Slashdot or Digg, you may have stumbled across the One Laptop Per Child project. It was featured last month in CPU Magazine and in MaximumPC before that. The project is really picking up steam now that it has a hands-on prototype available.

    The goal of OLPC is to provide cheap laptops for free to children in poor countries. They are some of the most robust laptops available, water-resistant, splash- and dust-proof for the harsh environment found in many developing countries.

    The project's official website is laptop.org and was most recently featured on 60 Minutes (mirror) in a 13 minute clip. For breaking news on all things OLPC, you can also visit OLPCNews.com which tracks OLPC developments.
    It's an exciting move for the PC industry. By making cheap, relatively slow, linux-based laptops available to millions of children, the software market will begin producing applications to run on Sugar (the GUI for the laptop). This may just usher in, or at least broaden, the usage of online applications.

    ( Comments : 1 | Full article )

    JavaScript Video Library
    programming : by Tommy - May 9th 2007, 12:21AM
    I posted this in the shoutbox the other day, but I can't get over how helpful and informative these are. Yahoo posted some tutorial/introduction videos called the Yahoo! UI Library. It's basically a collection of videos that were (mostly) shot at Yahoo internal workshops on the JavaScript language and using JavaScript tools with the Yahoo User Interface Library (YUI).

    The videos I've finished watching so far is the introduction on the ins-and-outs of the JavaScript language by Yahoo JS Architect Doug Crockford. With sites like Yahoo and Google using JavaScript to create great webapps and sites like Digg with it's great user interface, which is powered by AJAX, I knew it was high time I finally put a saddle on JavaScript. For much too long I thought JavaScript was a PHP wannabe and I poo-poo'd it for quite a while. After seeing the "big dogs" like Yahoo and Google put it to good use, I realized I was mistaken. I've tried to read and understand JavaScript syntax and structure before from different books, but I've found these videos to be super helpful in explaining the usage of JavaScript and the structure of the DOM.

    So, if you're at all interested in learning more about JavaScript or what Yahoo's doing with it in the form of the YUI, check out these videos.

    update: I found this interesting and pertinent enough to be added here. O'Reilly.net has a good article on migrating PHP applications to AJAX. It covers a bit of AJAX terminology and it's associated technologies (JSON, XMLHttpRequest, et al).

    ( Comments : 1 | Full article )

    Worked All States - Satellite
    radio : by Tommy - May 2nd 2007, 03:37PM
    Since I got my Arrow Antenna, I've been trying to contact all 50 states by satellite (aka Worked All States). I know a few states are going to be tough (if they're even possible). I know Alaska and Hawaii will probably have to be a scheduled contact. Since the pass that will allow us to contact each other will be very low on the horizon. I have been getting about 2 passes a day from the satellite AO-27, one usually to the east then the second passing more to the west. I've been steadily adding states as I hear them. I'm also making contacts via Echo (AO-51) which is very busy on it's nightly passes.

    If it weren't for the listing on Heavens Above, I'd prob be lost as to when to listen for a satellite. For those stations that have sent me a QSL card, I will send out a batch as soon as my new ones arrive. The map above is a listing of those states which I've contacted (yellow) and those that I've received a QSL card from (green).

    tags: ham_radio satellites awards

    ( Comments : 2 | Full article )

    HD-DVD Key Fiasco
    news : by Tommy - May 1st 2007, 09:02PM
    As I write this, weird things are afoot over at Digg.
    It all started with a post about the key the HD-DVD encoding. One of the guys over at the Doom9 forums found the key, and so, like the DeCSS number, it spread quickly. People were plastering it everywhere. It made it to digg and was dugg up to the front page.

    The MPAA requested that the number be taken down and digg complied. Some users were not happy about this and re-posted the story, which got dugg to the front page once more. Again, the MPAA asked them to remove the post and Digg complied. Here's a story on Slashdot about the fiasco.

    Well, now that Digg has pulled the 2nd post, a swarm of users from around the web banded together and filled Digg's queue with posts about the HD-DVD hex key and dugg all of the stories to the front page. Currently the front page of digg is nothing but posts about HD-DVD.

    The question was raised by coandco: Is this whole thing a deliberate move on Digg's part to help disseminate the key? If you remember the whole buzz around DeCSS, the powers-that-be tried to squash the story and prevent it from spreading, which only made it much more fun to spread (funny thing about human behavior), so DeCSS got plastered everywhere. Now, the same thing is happening with HD-DVD but it is accelerated by the number of blogs and social-networking sites linking them. Slashdot and Reddit both have HD-DVD keys posted and they aren't scared (yet) of any legal backlash, so has Digg been the first to fold? Is it deliberate or not? It'll be neat to see it play out.

    And for what it's worth, here's my little rebellion:
    09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0

    update: It appears to have played out.

    Continue reading...

    ( Comments : 5 | Full article )

    rant : by Tommy - April 27th 2007, 03:00AM
    Okay, you know what? "Amazing" is being overused. It's become part of the hipster vernacular and I can't stand it. Amazing should only be used by sports broadcasters when reviewing highlight reels. (i.e. "an amazing catch" or "amazing hit") Amazing is not a word to be used to describe food, movies, music or any artistic expression.

    When used to describe food, movies or music, I think "amazing" is right up there on the Scale of Gay with "fabulous". You would never call something fabulous unless you really wanted to sound gay, right? So why call something amazing?

    Cool, awesome, sweet - these are all acceptable terms for describing something you've found to be pleasing. Not amazing. Very few things in life are truly amazing. To be amazed, according to dictionary.com, is "to overwhelm with surprise or sudden wonder". I seriously doubt you were overwhelmed with wonder by tasting some soft serve ice cream (if you were, you really need to get out once in a while; a whole world awaits you). Were you really astonished at the sound of that new indy rock album? If so, you must never listen to anything but the grass growing or the sound of ear wax collecting in your thick head.

    All I'm trying to say is that unless gay, don't use the word amazing. Got it?

    ( Comments : 2 | Full article )

    Neodux gets RSS
    neodux : by Tommy - April 24th 2007, 11:33PM
    About bloody time! Right? It really didn't take long once I sat down to do it. Maybe 15minutes? I was able to use FeedCreator, as suggested by a friend of mine. It made the whole process pretty trivial. You asked for it, now you got it. So, there you have it. Quick, easy, done.

    Don't know what RSS is? It's a quick way to check various websites without having to go visit each one individually. It makes surfing the web and staying on top of news and blog entries a cinch. Simply "subscribe" to an RSS feed (like neodux) by using a Reader, like Google Start Page, Google Reader or My Yahoo.

    Oh yeah, the link is http://www.neodux.com/rss. What do ya think?

    ( Comments : 1 | Full article )

    Birthday Presents
    neodux : by Tommy - April 14th 2007, 11:19PM
    In my ongoing stream of new posts, I wanted to make today's post on my super-cool array of birthday gifts that I have received over the past week.

    The first gift I received was the ever-present birthday money from the grandparents (always a plus!), my mom came up for Easter and my birthday (which coincided this year) and to see some of the snow we had fall on us on Saturday. I got a stash of new clothes, a nice dinner and a zOMG huge map of 1836 Texas that outlines the Texan fight for independence. Pretty cool.

    I thought the map was it, but Jennifer had another treat for me. She bought me a nice 8-gallon 115psi air compressor from Harbor Freight that I was eyeballing since it went on sale for that week. I can now drive the impact wrench, grinding tools and other air tools I've received from my father-in-law or bought since Christmas. (I think I may have also found another toy to use with my air compressor.)

    As if all that weren't enough, I spent some of my birthday money ordering a few items I had also been eyeballing. Of course you read about my Arrow Antenna, I also received my 300mW ZComax wireless card which is pretty much, flat out awesome. I've made pretty decent connections for quite a distance with my cantenna mounted on my new tripod.

    update: Whoa, how could I forget?! Notorious got me this great shirt and a sticker of "when i hit the drum you shake the booty". Right On...

    ( Comments : 4 | Full article )

    Arrow Antenna
    radio : by Tommy - April 13th 2007, 11:31PM
    This past Thursday afternoon I received my new Arrow Antenna. It's a dual-band (2m/70cm) handheld yagi antenna made from aluminum arrow shafts for making contacts with amateur radio satellites. What? You didn't know there were ham radio satellites? Yep, and there's more than one.

    Using Heavens-Above, I can find when each satellite will be making a pass over my location as well as the angle and direction of the approach and apex. About an hour after I got the antenna, AO-27 was making one of its daily passes over me. I made sure everything was in order, set my radio to the right frequencies and walked to the field across from my house. Right off the bat I heard guys in New England talking with guys in Florida. Most everyone on the air was using a handheld with relatively low power (under 5W, which normally isn't enough to even get you across town). After just a few minutes I heard my chance to throw out my call. Right away I had two stations come back to me. First time to ever hear the satellite and I was making a contact on one. Unfortunately I didn't have a free hand to write down his callsign and I forgot it! Oops!

    How does it work? Essentially the little satellite takes my signal and rebroadcasts it like a ground-based repeater does, only it's up - way up. Because it's up so high, it can rebroadcast my signal to most of North America. To hear me all the other station has to do is listen on the "downlink" frequency.
    Really it doesn't take any special antenna to allow this, it's just this antenna is very efficient and easy to aim at just the right spot.

    Continue reading...

    tags: ham_radio antenna satellites

    ( Comments : 0 | Full article )

    Fonera Router
    hardware : by Tommy - April 12th 2007, 11:20PM
    A while back, in the Forums, I made a post about getting a free Fonera router from Fon. There's been considerable buzz about these little routers and how quite a few people have been able to hack them.

    Normally, the Fonera will be hooked up to provide a private wireless network for the owner and an open, albeit throttled, free wireless connection for those on the Fon wireless network. (The idea is to blanket the world with wireless - good idea, in theory. More about Fon on wikipedia.)

    Early on Fon was dishing out modified Linksys WRT54G routers, but it was overkill for their intended purpose. Then came the Fonera, which is a tiny little one-port, one antenna router. Its like a travel size router and the antenna is about half the height of my WRT54G. The router's software tells it to "phone home" once it's found an internet connection to update any software. It also registers itself as part of the active Fon network. After grabbing the newest flash it becomes a bit more tricky to mod. ...I made sure not to plug mine in.

    I found quite a few HOW-TOs, but some seemed to be dated or aimed at older firmwares. I received a rev 4 model. The mods include adding another antenna to doubling the internal ram from 16Mb to 32Mb (too much work). Both were a bit more than I cared to bother with. Instead I chose to install DD-WRT on the little box to match my other WRT54G.

    The first step was to enable SSH access. This was done by way of this HOWTO.
    Next, I needed to grab the DD-WRT files compressed for the Fonera's slim 16Mb, as well as a forged bootloader signature.

    Continue reading...

    ( Comments : 0 | Full article )

    Cantenna w/ Funnel
    hardware : by Tommy - April 4th 2007, 11:20PM
    Finally. Yes, I finally got around to making a cantenna. Years ago I read about the now famous Pringles Cantenna which I've always thought was a cool concept and has been something I've wanted to do. Now it's a bit of use to me since I enjoy using my laptop on the move using NetStumbler to locate open access points.

    I began with a bit of reading and looking up what all is needed to construct a Pringles cantenna, and before long I learned that the Pringles isn't really the best way to go. Nope, instead I found that the Pringles design was out performed by a Cantenna made from a can of beef stew! Not only does it perform better, it's way easier to make. In fact, after buying the ready-made 1.21" radiating element from jefatech.com, this construction was probably the easiest project I've attempted. I found out that a large can of Dinty Moore is the same size as the "Nally's Beef Stew", so guess what I had for dinner one night? I cleaned out the can, and went to the machine lab the next day to use a drill press to pop a 5/8" hole for the N-connector. Took it home and tried it out. Wow! I went from seeing 1 AP (mine) to 20, just in my front yard. Not bad for just a can with a connector on it. I then took a stroll to see what the neighborhood has to offer and found an open Netgear access point. After zeroing in on the source, I found that it was about 120yds from my original location and across a street! (...and that was being able to use it, I was able to detect at a further distance.)

    Fine and dandy, but the can just wasn't good enough on its own.

    Continue reading...

    ( Comments : 9 | Full article )

    Ham Tools
    radio : by Tommy - April 2nd 2007, 11:49PM
    I've been messing with some scripts lately that fill a couple of online niches for ham radio. Most of the visitors to Neodux might not find them very useful, but I'm linking it here for posterity and to explain to any visitor looking for ham radio information what they can find.

    At the moment I have 3 tools up. First is a script that fetches the number of ham radio licenes issued in a given month and saves the data in an XML file. I then parse the XML files to create a table or graph. (Just nice to know for anyone curious.)

    Next is a dynamic image that will create a map for any ham trying for a "Worked All States" award. It colors in states as you check them off your list. (This was one I made a couple of years ago, but I thought it should be included.)

    Lastly, I have a notification script. When you take your FCC test, you have to wait for the FCC to post your information in their database. Rather than hunting it down yourself and checking daily for any news, you can put your name on the list to be notified and the script will shoot you an email when your name is posted.

    I hope any ham-visitors find them interesting and useful. That is all.

    update: I just added a second color to the WAS map. States listed with the verified tag, will turn green. This is to denote the states from which a QSL card has been received.

    tags: ham_radio website

    ( Comments : 1 | Full article )

    Do you have the time?
    news : by Tommy - February 18th 2007, 12:58PM
    I found this article over at PhysOrg.com talking about this year's change in Daylight Savings Time. Normally, DST occurs on the first weekend in April, but this year we'll begin on the 2nd weekend in March. We'll also end differently too. Rather than "fall back" on the last weekend in October, we'll end on the first Sunday in November.

    Why are we changing? Well, it goes back to the Energy Policy Act of 2005 where we decided to conserve energy by time-shifting our days. Which isn't much different at all from the original reason we adopted DST in the first place. From what I remember from some long-past history lesson, we adopted DST to conserve energy sometime back around the Great Depression (although that link might not be proven, it's just what I remember). The whole notion of getting up earlier to get the day over with one hour earlier would have reduced energy consumption at night for all those who stayed up late. According to wikipedia, in 1976 the US Dept. of Transportation concluded that DST saves the US 1% of the national energy consumption. (It doesn't sound like much, but I'm sure it's a substantial dollar amount.) On the otherhand, I'm pretty sure we've become more of a 24/7 global society than we were back when we started DST, so it's quite possible that the savings aren't nearly as high. history>
    The article highlights some issues with the time change. Remember this is a US policy change, not global, so when we "spring forward" there will only be a 4-hour difference between GMT and EST instead of the 5-hour difference normally. Confusing enough? Think about any consumer devices that aren't linked to the national clock or some time setting service.

    Continue reading...

    ( Comments : 5 | Full article )

    I'm Sirius
    music : by Tommy - February 14th 2007, 05:31PM
    I got the coolest Valentine's gift today (from my Valentine). Jennifer bought me the SIR-JVC1 Sirius satellite radio tuner for my car stereo. Back when I got my stereo, I found out there were several adapters I can get. You can choose from the standard CD changer, an iPod dock(KSPD100), Auxilary input (Car PC?), an XM tuner or a Sirius tuner (SIR-JVC1).

    Notorious has had Sirius for a while now, and I've always enjoyed listening to it when I'm in his truck. Coupled with the fact that the local broadcast stations either play ghetto rap, Top40 and/or Nickelback; I was growing tired of the radio. I wasn't really exposed to new music very often, so my music collection was going stale. To top things off, sometimes the stations out of Shreveport aren't very strong and I can barely hear them. I had told Jenn I wanted Sirius, and at the store the other night I pointed out the adapter I would need for my car. I installed the system over the course of this afternoon, interspersed with my classes, and activated it around lunchtime with a one-year subscription.

    I mounted it under the passenger seat and routed the cables under the carpet so it's out-of-sight/out-of-mind. Needless to say the music selection is awesome, and, like you always hear, the sound quality is amazing for being a radio signal.
    That's all for now, going for a drive!

    ( Comments : 2 | Full article )

    PBS Frontline XBMC script
    programming : by Tommy - February 8th 2007, 01:09AM
    I finally figured out why I couldn't get XBMC to stream Frontline shows anymore, it turns out PBS has changed the URL of their media server from a static IP to a real hostname. The script was originally written to use the static IP, so I fixed it. I also noticed they changed the URLs slightly so I allowed the script to handle that as well.

    If you have XBMC running on your Xbox, make sure you're running a relatively recent install. (The one on Slayer's won't cut it.) You can grab the script and extract it in your XBMC/scripts directory. Once you run the script it will grab the listing of all of the Frontline episodes available on the web along with a description of that episode. (This isn't to say if you don't have an Xbox you can't watch Frontline, the videos are made to stream to your PC, it's just more comfy to sit on the couch and watch them!)

    Update: I've submitted my updated/fixed version to xbmcscripts, and it has been posted. You can download it here, or just grab it from my files sections here: pbs-v.0.2c.zip.

    ( Comments : 3 | Full article )

    Lee College : DONE
    news : by Tommy - February 6th 2007, 3:56PM
    Today I received my diploma from Lee College. I realized at the end of last semester that I had completed my Associate of Computer Science degree by completing the one class that I don't think they've ever offered at Lee: Data Structures. If they did, it was never as hard as it was here at LeTourneau. I'm tempted to go on a rant here about sub-par "higher education", but I'll hold that for another time.

    It was kinda funny in completing it. It was almost by accident that I remembered this class would finish it. You see, when I was just about done at Lee, they told me that class wasn't being offered that year - not semester, year. They said if I took some other classes that it might be offered the following year, if there was enough interest. What? Wait a year, and then there might be a class?! (remember this was pretty much the only class I needed to finish...)

    I quickly packed my bags and headed to SFA to go ahead and "get on with life". I figured if I could take the class at SFA, I would, and continue working towards my Bachelor's in the meantime.
    Things didn't quite work out that easily and I lost some ground in transferring, so I was back to square one when I got to SFA. About the time I was to do Data Structures, I was offered a position at AMD. The next time I had a chance, was the summer of the wedding. No problem, I'll take the class at LeTourneau.
    Again, I was set back by the differences in curriculum, so it wasn't until just last year that I could take Data Structures. (Maybe if I was still at Lee, I'd still be waiting?)

    At any rate, no matter what happens, I can always fall back on this to seperate me from being a total failure.

    Continue reading...

    ( Comments : 2 | Full article )

    One Tube Regen Receiver
    radio : by Tommy - January 24th 2007, 9:43PM
    Well, it's taken me a while to make a post about this one. It was a goal of mine after I completed the simple foxhole radio and one I set out to complete over the Christmas break. I decided since the crystal set was the simplest radio to build, what's the next step? The one-tube regenerative circuit was the answer.

    Lately I've been reading quite a bit about radio history and have read about the huge leaps in receiver technology with the advent of the "audion" or vacuum tube. A lot of initial growth in radio reception is thanks to this circuit designed by Edwin Armstrong while still a junior in college in the early 1900s.

    I scoured the net looking for parts (chiefly the 3S4 tubes) and kept coming back to Borden Radio Company. Rather than drop alot of money on shipping from various sources, I purchased a kit from Borden. It also happens that he doesn't live too terribly far from my parent's so I was able to meet up with the owner/operator, Lance Borden, over the Christmas holiday.

    I pieced the kit together in two evenings. The first evening was spent winding the coils and mounting the hardware. The next night was spent meticulously wiring the components as outlined in the directions. (Maybe color coding the wires would have made the instructions a little clearer, but I can't complain.) The radio worked right from the get-go. It's tuned for broadcast AM reception and works like a charm. As you can see in the picture it requires quite a few batteries to power the tube, but it is 100 times louder than the crystal set and much more sensitive. I've heard stations all over the nation on this little set. This evening alone I was able to quickly tune into WWL 870 from New Orleans as well as KOA 850 out of Denver, Colorado.

    The controls are finicky and not really what the casual listener would want, but the sensitivity and simplicity makes it worth the effort.

    Continue reading...

    tags: radio kit

    ( Comments : 3 | Full article )

    Settlers of Catan
    games : by Tommy - January 21st 2007, 07:16PM
    Special thanks to Notorious on his belated Christmas gift to me and Jennifer. He hooked us up with another board game to add to our collection: The Settlers of Catan.
    It's a very fun and dynamic game. There's no set layout of the board. It consists of several hex-tiles that sit side-by-side to construct a new, somewhat random arrangement that allows for a ton of different board layouts. Each game is different, so strategy must be changed and player must be able to adapt quickly to win. The goal of the game is simple, amass 10 Victory Points which are achieved by building settlements, cities and collecting Development Cards. There are different costs associated with each. To find out more about the game, check out wikipedia or University of Catan.

    We were able to play a game with myself, grimlen, notorious and araolath; grimlen won - the punk. It's a great game, a little bit of a learning curve, but it's not bad once you get the hang of it. IM me if you'd like to try out the PC version.

    ( Comments : 2 | Full article )

    Worlds Simplest Radio Redux
    radio : by Tommy - December 5th 2006, 08:41PM
    After the success of my last post about my simple razor-blade radio (link here), I began work on making a slinky dipole. I tried to use 2 Slinky Jr. toys which I bought at Walmart for $.88 each. It didn't work as well as I had hoped. After quite a while of the coils sitting on my desk and playing with them, it dawned on me that I could easily use the small Slinkys as the tuning coil for a simple radio. I started to do the math to find the inductance of the coils. I measured 1.5" in diameter, which gave me 4.7" in circumference. I started to count the coils to calculate the open-air coil formula that I had used before. I stopped and thought, why bother? Just try it out!

    I stretched the slinky to the length of the board I used on the old razor-blade radio and tacked it down. I made the proper connections, using a diode first. (Ground went to the 3rd prong on a power outlet, the antenna wire and clip was hooked to my 20m ham radio antenna, on my roof) I started with the diode because it is far more efficient than the razor blade, which equates to louder audio in the earpiece.

    Right off the bat I was able to hear shortwave broadcast stations! Wilder still was my ability to receive the signal without having the antenna clip attached! I tried various points along the coil, finding I was able to hear certain stations better at different points on the coil. As before, I was able to hear local AM broadcast stations just fine, and various strong shortwave stations with a "shorter tap".
    After listening with the diode for a few minutes, once again amazed at the simplicity of the setup, I switched to the razor blade setup I had used in the past and was just able to pull out the same local broadcast signal from before.

    Continue reading...

    tags: radio kit

    ( Comments : 5 | Full article )

    False Start
    rant : by Tommy - November 23rd 2006, 12:12PM
    I should've posted this sooner, it's a bit late now to spot the offenders, but there were way too many people putting up their Christmas lights early. An faux pas I've come to call a "false start". It's one of the unwritten man rules that you don't put up your decorations until after Thanksgiving Day (at least after the dinner on Thanksgiving Day). Just like everyone knows you're supposed to leave them up until after New Year's Day. You don't start too soon, you don't quit too early. It's like running a race, you start when everyone else does or you lose. You finish when everyone else does or you lose. (*and everyone knows that if you leave them up year-round, you've lost so badly you can never compete again)

    Even if you're unable to have a family dinner on Thanksgiving Day and you eat a few days early, you still can't put your lights up until Thanksgiving Day. Otherwise it's a false start. It'd be like going over to eat at someone's house and they already have a Christmas tree up - you just don't do that until afterwards.

    Retailers? They're immune to this rule because they, of course, have to be able to sell you decorations if you're going to put up your decorations on the day of Thanksgiving. But remember, just because you bought them early does not excuse you from having to wait until Thanksgiving to put them up.

    Now that you can go ahead with your decorating, when you're done why not practice some holiday trick to show your friends and family?

    ( Comments : 0 | Full article )

    New Keyboard
    hardware : by Tommy - November 10th 2006, 12:48PM
    For the past 8 years or so, I've had a Digital (DEC) brand keyboard that I procured "off the tree" from PC Outlet when Skaven, Roboprobe and I all worked there. I think it was Roboprobe that got ahold of it for me. I've sincerely loved that little beige keyboard. It has been the one keyboard I've used with Windows 98 on my K6-2+, to my K6-2 400, leet linux-learning machine, on up to my current Athlon64. It's been around, and has nasty oil-spots to show for it. I've seen some grimey keyboards, and I've tried to keep this guy clean, but some nastiness just doesn't come out. It was the one old part of my computer that just didn't look good - at all.

    To match my sleek new monitor, I had to get a sleek, new keyboard. I wanted a black keyboard and I've always like the minimalist look of the Dell slim-line keyboards.

    I looked on ebay for a Dell SK-8115 and found several. I found some were selling for $3 + s/h. In the end, it all worked out to about $10 for a cool, simple, new keyboard. I know, not everyone likes them, but I really like the way the keys feel as you type, it also has very quiet keys and looks nice too. So far so good.

    Here's what the keyboard looks like.

    ( Comments : 1 | Full article )

    Grendel Goes Widescreen
    hardware : by Tommy - October 31st 2006, 02:34PM
    Well, after many years of faithful service, my trusty (crusty?) old 21" CRT gave up the ghost. I bought it several years ago from xulphlux.com" target="_blank">Valt, who found a business selling their used monitors on the cheap. (A 21" for $50?! How could I pass that up?)

    It served me well. My games were large, easy to see and I loved it. Writing programs with that much "real estate" was a breeze. At high resolutions, you can really open a bunch of windows and read them all.

    So, yesterday afternoon while watching "How It's Made" on Discovery Science Channel, my monitor made a quick popping noise like a racheting socket wrench does. The tube went dark and all was lost. I was relieved it was just the monitor, because from the sound of it, I thought my case fan had come loose and hit the motherboard somehow, shorting something out. So when I saw the system was fine, and the tube had gone out, I wasn't too peeved. (Besides the fact that I have a 17" CRT in the attic as a backup)

    So my monitor is out - what to do... I first got on my laptop and looked at Newegg. They had a sale on a Hanns-G, which Notorious had told me was nice. I was about to purchase that very monitor when I decided I should also see what deals were to be had at the local retailers. We first went to Best Buy, nothing to exciting there, but I did feel that 19" was just in my budget and I liked the size of it. We then went to Office Depot, again, nothing too exciting. Just as we were about to leave, I saw a Hanns-G that was on sale. It was the same 19" widescreen that I saw on Newegg for $190, and here it was in the store for $30 less (sans tax).

    Continue reading...

    ( Comments : 2 | Full article )

    LeTourneau Radio Club
    radio : by Tommy - September 16th 2006, 02:50PM
    Since I've been here at LeTourneau, I've had the chance to meet a few other ham radio operators. Problem is, none of us can have any substantial antenna setups in order to make many contacts, if any at all.

    After speaking with a couple of guys, we decided to reorganize the LeTourneau Univ. Amateur Radio Club (LUARC) and host a special event station. LUARC was more or less disbanded once the old shack was torn down to make way for Glaske Hall.

    Since none of us have been able to play on the air very much, our special event will be nothing more than a chance to get on the air and hang out. It just so happens that the day we chose will coincide with the opening of the Texas QSO Party. We will be meeting on top of the birm, in the center of campus. We will be putting up the antennas around 12:00pm on Saturday and operating into the early evening. Everyone is welcome to stop by and check out our setup or operate - no license is required.

    If you're on Facebook, you can see our LUARC Special Event page for Facebook.

    tags: ham_radio txqp

    ( Comments : 11 | Full article )

    Shotgun Hax!!1!
    guns : by Tommy - August 13th 2006, 09:55PM
    I recently found an amazing deal in an Academy sales paper. I found that they were selling the Mossberg Maverick 88 for ~$140. "Something's up", I thought. I read a few reviews and found that the Maverick 88 is indeed a "value" line by Mossberg, but wholly compatible with the more popular/expensive Mossberg model 500.

    I consulted with my father-in-law, whom I had asked to keep an eye out for a good deal on a shotgun about a month ago. I showed him the sale ad and he was amazed at the low price. I told him what I had read and he said that Mossberg wouldn't put their name on something that will fall apart. He suggested that I jump on the deal as soon as possible. I did. After leaving their house, the first stop was at Academy where I looked the gun over to really examine the quality of the low-priced shotgun. Everything seemed to be in order and it looked like it would be all that I really need for now. So I purchased.

    After some brief paperwork, I walked out of the store with my brand new 12-gauge Mossberg Maverick shotgun. Later I stopped at Walmart and stocked up on Winchester shells - I bought 100 shells.

    Tomorrow, Notorious and I will have a "barrel warming" with some skeet to put this gun through its paces.

    Update: Just got back from Walmart where I found they have 2 other chokes for this shotgun at $5 each. I picked up Full and IC chokes on the cheap. Good stuff.

    ( Comments : 8 | Full article )

    Worlds Simplest Radio
    radio : by Tommy - August 3rd 2006, 12:58AM
    I just finished making quite possibly the world's most simple radio. I had read a few HOWTOs for constructing a crystal radio. Some links offered the basic formulas for figuring the specs needed for the coil if you wanted to tune various frequencies. I purchased 3 spools of "Enamel-Coated Magnet Wire" from Radio Shack for ~$5, and picked up a crystal ear piece while at EPO in Houston.

    After reading that just about any round object will do for a coil-form, and not having an empty toilet paper tube, I settled on an empty fish food container. It was small, compact, and just the right size - plus with the screw on lid, I can keep the antenna, ground and ear piece inside. I rinsed out the fish food residue, tapped 4 small holes with a drill bit and started wrapping the 22awg copper wire around the bottle. Every 5 turns I would wrap around a toothpick. After wrapping the bottle - which took a while - I ended up using about 30ft. of wire. (FWIW: my coil came out to be about 118uH) The toothpick wraps were then scraped free of the enamel coating to make antenna taps for rough tuning. (how this works) After ensuring there were no shorts along the coil body, I hooked up the 1N34 diode, ear-piece, ground wire and antenna and was greeted with some shortwave radio broadcasts. The first station I heard ID was WWCR out of Nashville, Tennesee, although there are plenty of others I can hear.

    The trouble with such a simple receiver (no variable capacitor) is that there is little selectivity and the listener is bombarded by 2 or more stations at once - a mixing of all of the signals within a range of frequencies.

    Continue reading...

    tags: radio kit

    ( Comments : 102 | Full article )

    In Memory of...
    rant : by Tommy - August 2nd 2006, 06:31PM
    So this evening I'm driving down one of the roads here in the lovely metropolis of Longview and I see another. It's not a new phenomenon, it's just been an annoying one that has crept in as more people died. The object of my rant this time is the subject of the annoyingly and increasingly popular "In Memory of..." stickers.

    I'm writing this partly to vent my annoyance, but to also let it be recorded in the tomes of internet history. These stickers are retarded. Yes, someone you know has died. Sorry for your loss. Don't get a vinyl sticker made. I think these stickers started back when our dear friend and "racing lengend" (sic), Dale Earnhardt, died. In less time than it takes a NASCAR/TRUCK to complete a lap and people were slapping on the memorial stickers. I think I've seen more Dale memorial stickers than I have 9/11 memorial stickers - how patriotic.

    Since our beloved racing hero has died, several unknown Americans have died and their deaths are heralded by vinyl stickers than can be found on many different cars from all classes of drivers. I'm sorry, but if I die, and all that I get is a sticker, I'd be tinkleed. Especially if it's some beater of a car too, that would be worse than just being forgotten in my death.

    Now, when I see these stickers I wonder what it is that the vehicle's owner wants me to relate to their loved one's death? Do they drive in memorial? Is their car's owned in memorial? Is its immaculate cleanliness attributed to their devotion? Just the fact that they went out of their way to order a vinyl decal? What exactly is 'In memory of' supposed to be associated with?

    ( Comments : 3 | Full article )

    New Stereo (w/USB)
    music : by Tommy - June 16th 2006, 07:00PM
    After selling some stuff I no longer want/need/use, I saved up enough money to purchase a new car stereo. I had been eyeballing a neat radio I saw at Walmart, it has a USB port on the stereo itself, allowing you to play MP3s directly from a thumbdrive. (Something I thought was unique to that model.)
    {Apparently, they were introduced in mid 2005, but only recently went mainstream.}

    The particular model I was looking at was the VRCD400SDU from the same people that made the FM modulator I got for Christmas. The FM modulator is pretty neat, but it is lacking in some areas. It resets your song back to the beginning whenever power is lost. It plays the songs in reverse alphabetical order, and you only get FM quality sound (not the full range of the music). I needed something more, and the VR3 stereo at Walmart seemed alot nicer than the modulator. The stereo with built in USB port would fast forward through MP3s, let you browse by folder and other options.

    I stopped by Best Buy one afternoon to see if they had anything comprable to the novel idea of having a USB port on the stereo - and they did! They had a couple of generic stereos with USB ports that looked/sounded better than the VR3, and 2 JVC models. One thing I didn't care for on the VR3 was the display, it would only dislpay about 8 characters at a time, then the next 8, then the next. It didn't smoothly scroll the text, not to mention that it was using the alphanumeric segmented display.

    After seeing the dotmatrix LCD, I realized the JVC KD-G820 was the one for me. It has a beautiful display, smooth scrolling, MP3/WMA playback, sounds 100x better, more sound control, front USB port, rotary dial, ability to connect to either XM or Sirius satellite radio or hook up an iPod interface.

    I purchased the stereo, and installed it last night.

    Continue reading...

    ( Comments : 8 | Full article )

    radio : by Tommy - May 2nd 2006, 10:51PM
    For about the past month or so I've been eyeballing PSK31 for ham radio. It's one of the newest protocols for digital transmissions for ham radio. PSK31 allows radio operators to send text messages back and forth rather than morse code (CW) or speech (phone). It's like chatting without a network connection.

    Granted, many of the regular readers on neodux aren't ham operators, but it is a very interesting aspect of radio that begins to border line on hackable projects. In the event you ever wanted to start with PSK31, here's a primer. There are plenty of freeware programs to allow you to decode PSK31. All you need is an HF receiver, a verymodest computer and an 1/8"-to-1/8" stereo cable to hook the radio up to the computer. Install one of the PSK31 programs and you'll see text streaming in from current hams conversing over a whole array of topics. It's amazing that the computer is able to pull intelligable data from amid a whole field of static. I was able to read text from a signal I could barely hear, but could only see on the "waterfall" display. Another cool aspect is the lower power requirements of PSK31. 100W is overkill to work the world! To transmit you might need a slightly more advanced setup than a single wire, but nothing you can't build cheaply or conveniently purchase from plenty of vendors online.
    While at the Belton Hamfest, I saw a DB9 model for Yaesu radios, I would've bought it if it would've worked for my Icom 706mkIIg.

    update: I've now ordered a USB interface directly from Saratoga Amateur Radio which should be in shortly, and I'll post more on it after I've had time to break it in.

    Also for the curious, here are a couple more links about PSK31.

    If you really want to know, here is the PSK31 author's primer on how it works.

    tags: ham_radio psk31

    ( Comments : 2 | Full article )

    Online Sources for Music
    music : by Tommy - April 30th 2006, 10:17PM
    Well, I'm a late bloomer I guess. About two weeks ago I finally tuned into Last.FM, one of those "if you like _____ band, check out ______" type of sites. They recommend (and stream) music from other musicians based on your preferences. Sounds familiar?

    About the time I was really digging LastFM, one of my friends told me about Pandora, another site with a much simpler interface and no need to install any "player" or anything. I've since been using Pandora exclusively. I've found several new songs on Pandora that I otherwise wouldn't hear while living in the Piney Woods. A few of you I know have satellite radio, another excellent source for new music. However, Pandora and LastFM allow you to rate a song good/bad/hate it and will fine tune your selections based on musical criteria put forth by the Music Genome Project. (Besides, it's free to use these online services!)

    rant: I might continue to use Pandora more if I weren't being slapped with a monthly 3Gb transfer limit by the LeTourneau IT Department. (All students will be given 3Gb of free transfer, $100/semester if you want 10Gb/mon... and the prices go up from there.)

    ( Comments : 7 | Full article )

    Belton Hamfest
    radio : by Tommy - April 25th 2006, 10:48AM
    I just got back from a weekend in Austin that started with the Belton Hamfest in Belton,TX.
    I took a few items that I wanted to sell. My AT-100Pro autotuner wasn't exactly what I wanted. The interface was a bit more "clunky" that I would have liked. (I received it as part of my trade for the Icom 706mkIIg.) I also sold the Yaesu FRG-100 receiver, as well as my Yaesu FT-2800 2m mobile that I had in my car, (I bought it almost 2yrs ago at the same hamfest for $95, I sold it for $120!) and a couple of other things.

    After selling I went shopping. I bought the LDG Z-100 autotuner which does the same thing as the other tuner, with one antenna and is a bit smaller; and it looks nice atop my radio. I also got the seperation kit for the 706 so I can mount the radio under my seat and have just the control head in view. On my way out I grabbed a few small 2-3W solar panels for $5. The convention center wasn't as full as I'd seen in the past, there were some neat items, but nothing remarkable. I did leave with some good gear and more money in my pocket than I came in with.

    tags: ham_radio hamfest

    ( Comments : 1 | Full article )

    Happy Birthday to Me!
    neodux : by Tommy - April 8th 2006, 12:00AM
    Yep, it's my birthday. The big 2-6. Odd how I didn't feel any different about my birthday this year, or the last, or the last. I think after you turn 21, they all blur together.

    Birthday presents? Well, I got a new computer (a "slammin' setup" according to Jenn) and some money so far. I'm going out to eat with Jennifer and some friends, where Jenn says she has a few more gifts for me.

    update: I had a pretty nice birthday. Thanks to everyone that was able to make it to the dinner party. AW won ropepull, that was pretty nice. It took 59min 55sec to win - but it's another win for the house. We went to Pietro's Italian cafe to have dinner. I got some Dale Jr. gag gifts ("yeah buddy!"), a Dave Matthews Band - Live at Central Park DVD , Google Hacks & The Zen of CSS Design books, some Tommy cologne (ha! get it? it's funny.) exchanged for Lacoste Essential cologne, my niece got me a foam growing turtle and a message bean (rock on), a portable USB hub and USB light & some clothes from Old Navy.

    ( Comments : 7 | Full article )

    OpenWRT installed
    linux : by Tommy - April 3rd 2006, 03:21PM
    This has to be the hands-down easiest mod I've undertaken. I read last year about the OpenWRT team playing with linux on the Linksys WRT54G router. Cool, but not much use to me (especially since I had a wireless router at the time and didn't even need wireless!).

    Well, as many of you know, last holiday season, Jennifer and I got a laptop. It has wireless built in, so, obviously the next step is to get a wireless router. I bought a cheap router from a goon on SA-Mart for next to nothing. (It had a few problems, so it didn't really do the job.)

    After looking around at several stores for a good router, I finally found a pre-5.0 serial number WRT54G at Office Depot. They price matched WalMart, so I bought it and took it home. I downloaded the proper .bin image for the 4.0 model that I bought. I hooked up the router, connected the laptop, uploaded the new image and voila! OpenWRT was installed.

    Package management is very straight forward and the system is layed out the same as any other linux system - so it was easy to get around.
    So far, all I have installed is the WakeOnLAN, NTP client(which checks time at midnight) and I have MAC cloning setup on the WAN.

    ( Comments : 4 | Full article )

    New Computer Time
    hardware : by Tommy - March 24th 2006, 09:32AM
    Well, it's that time again. That time when I've been wanting to upgrade, but was putting it off until I both needed and absolutely had to, and until I had the money to go for an all-out new system. (Something I haven't done in years.)

    With the Athlon64s on the market at very reasonable prices, I'm pretty sure I'm going to go that route, this will require a new motherboard and RAM - and probably a power supply as well. Heck, might as well throw in a new video card and case while I'm at it. A new HD wouldn't hurt (I'm only on 80Gb right now - and the campus network has plenty more goods that I want).

    Why do I have to upgrade? Well, my power supply is the culprit. I've been having issues playing any game for the past month or so. The system seems to "hiccup" (the fans slow then speed back up) and the system never recovers. I believe this is the system requiring more power than the PS can provide. It could be just a single back component drawing too much current, but I've swapped processors, RAM and video cards.
    I haven't swapped motherboard or power supplies, simply because I haven't had a spare...

    I recently found this price guide from digg, and it really got me thinking about a new system. Then last night the machine hiccuped again, but I wasn't in game. My birthday is in a few weeks, tax return should be in by that time, and I think it's about time* I got a new system. (*Nothing's changed in this system in almost 2 years - and that was because I worked at AMD!)

    Any specific hardware suggestions or packaged deals you know of?

    Grendel sez: Besides, now that I know what newegg looks like on the inside, I can envision my parts coming down the conveyor belt and getting the peanut gun treatment.

    Continue reading...

    ( Comments : 13 | Full article )

    AIM SDK Released
    programming : by Tommy - March 6th 2006, 07:50AM
    Prepare the the onslaught of new web-clients, new client releases/updates, plugins, website AIM widgets, and countless computer magazine articles on how to write your own AIM client. AOL has released the AOL Instant Messenger SDK for public use. This is just one of thousands of articles hailing its release. It's been a long time coming, several years that I've been watching for it. When IM clients decided to use one protocol last year sometime, I thought the released of the SDK would be right along side the protocol decision.
    I haven't looked at it yet, but I'll probably wait til someone else reads the documentation and comes up with a more friendly HOWTO. (Besides, I really don't care to write my own IM client anyways.)

    ( Comments : 2 | Full article )

    Oliver North
    news : by Tommy - March 2nd 2006, 08:47PM
    This evening Col. Oliver North came to LeTourneau University to speak on behalf of East Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse. (I hadn't heard of them either) Tickets to the event were $40 per person! (Free if you're a LeTourneau student)

    Colonel North spoke of the misrepresentation of the current state of Iraq in the mainstream media and other misrepresentations put on by the highly sensational media. He shared some of his experiences as an embedded reporter in Iraq, his thoughts on the current state of affairs here in the US, the importance of the military and the honor our troops deserve. He joked about his employment with Fox News, made sly references to CNN and the liberal press, as well as gave candid wisdom gathered from his experiences. The talk was entertaining and enlightening. Plus I got a picture with him!

    ( Comments : 9 | Full article )

    C is for Cookies
    neodux : by Tommy - February 9th 2006, 07:03PM
    That's right sports fans, Neodux now supports cookies. No longer will you need to login on each visit. Login once, and you're good for a month.

    I'll probably rework it in the future, but for now it seems to work decently. Hope you like it. Remember, any other ideas and/or problems you have with neodux, post in the Neodux Sux forum. Enjoy!

    Update: Just added the search box. It's very crude and simple, but it'll help if you're trying to find an old post. Just don't try anything fancy.

    Update #2: For anyone that has logged in and is using cookies, currently; or if you see "Bad password" in the upper left-hand corner... You need to relogin, which you may have realized if you're reading this. I just encrypted the password stored in your cookie. (Should be a little more secure.)

    ( Comments : 4 | Full article )

    Isotron 40 Antenna
    radio : by Tommy - February 4th 2006, 09:58PM
    I've finally got back on the air in the HF bands. After over 6 months of not having my radio reach any further than the local 2 meter repeaters (maybe 20mi away max), I finally have an antenna that lets me talk outside the state.

    I bought a used Bilal Isotron 40 meter antenna from W6KIP off eham.net. I received the antenna after over a week-and-a-half long trek through the incredibly slow USPS shipping machine. That was on Friday, February 3. I assembled it and began thinking exactly how I wanted to mount it. I finally decided to mount the short "mast" (if you'd call it that) on one of the 3 vent pipes on the roof. I'll post a picture of it soon.

    Part of my reason for using Isotron was the small size (only 22" wide). Looking at the antenna, you wouldn't even know it was an antenna, it looks more like a weather vane or birdfeeder. Being on campus, I didn't really want a very conspicuous antenna if I could help it. I haven't quite finished fine tuning the antenna, but I can do that as soon as I get my hands on one of the local ham's antenna analyzer.

    I haven't made any contacts on it tonight due to an overwhelming amount of static on the 40-meter band. I've listened to a couple of nets, one on 7.2335 said that this is the worst noise they've had all month - what luck!

    Update: Well, it turns out the noise isn't just on the band, although that particular night was particularly bad. It seems that the high level of noise (aka static) that I'm receiving is due to a local area thing. Most likely due to the power lines nearby.

    Continue reading...

    tags: ham_radio isotron antenna

    ( Comments : 1 | Full article )

    Parallax Microcontroller
    programming : by Tommy - January 11th 2006, 11:19PM
    I recently got a BASIC Stamp microcontroller project board from Parallax, Inc.. Microcontrollers (µC) have been my latest interest. I've wanted to get my brain wrapped around how they work for some time, and I used some money I got for Christmas to buy one.

    For those of you that don't know what a microcontroller is, it's simply a chip that acts as a self-contained computer which you program to your liking and hook into a circuit you've constructed. The BASIC Stamp µC is about the size of a postage stamp and the code is written in BASIC (hence the name). BASIC is used over assembly (like the PIC and AVR micocontrollers) because of its easy syntax. It allows a much shorter learning curve and gets you up and going with the basics of µC use.

    The particular setup I got is a complete kit from Radio Shack (which they're going to stop carrying soon) which includes a BS2 chip on a programming board, with a breadboard area, 9V battery hookup and a serial port. The kit came with the serial cable, a copy of the "What's a Microcontroller?" book, software, and a bag of basic electrical components to experiment with. The book steps you through lessons (designed for those with zero knowledge of electronics or electric theory). It also explains simple programming concepts and walks you through several projects. My only regret is that the board's µC is built into the board. To create a µC-based project, I will either have to use this entire board with its connections, or purchase a separate Stamp (~$30) and a programming board for it. However, this is not a big problem at the moment since I'm still learning.

    If you're interested in getting into this field of electronics/computers I recommend considering the Parallax line for its ease of use and great instructional material.

    Continue reading...

    ( Comments : 0 | Full article )

    Running Linux, 5th Ed.
    books : by Tommy - January 6th 2006, 03:52PM
    I just received a copy of Running Linux, 5th Ed. (ISBN: 0596007604) to review. So far, I think it's an improvement over 4th edition. I always preferred 3rd Edition to the 4th. Geez, what's the difference? Glad you asked. In 3th edition, the author(s) covered most aspects of the GNU/Linux operating system, independent of any specific distribution. Everything was covered from the command line, and a bit was covered over the use of X, the graphical user interface for linux.

    4th edition took it a step further (too far, in my opinion). With the rise of linux's popularity, many users hopped on board and stayed with the GUI. That same crowd may have felt overwhelmed with the introduction of the command line (many users aren't used to dealing with a command line at all!). 4th Edition covered more GUI-related aspects and approached most system processes and daemons from their GUI perspective for users that could care less about the command line. I didn't feel this really helped the new user truly understand what was going on in their system.
    I feel to truly use the system to its full potential, you must understand the system from the command line (after all, that's where all the action is). It seems that 5th edition has a delicate balance of the two. It covers the GUI portions of the system to get you up and going and also covers command line functions for reference once you figure out how to actually use your linux system and want to know more.
    Of course, this book isn't the end-all solution for your linux needs, but it will definately get you up to speed and explain much of the system's operation to the newbie.

    I cut my teeth on Running Linux I took it with me everywhere I went, when I had a moment, I was reading another page in the popular linux introduction book.

    Continue reading...

    ( Comments : 3 | Full article )

    Call of Duty 2
    games : by Tommy - January 2nd 2006, 10:07PM
    I got Call of Duty 2 for Christmas from my parents. I didn't get a chance to install it until I got home after New Year's. It was worth the wait.

    Finally a great game that wasn't (at least to me) overhyped. I didn't hear much about it other than a commercial or two on TV, and it's release on the Xbox 360. I thought it looked nice on the Xbox demo in stores, but that's what demos are for, to look nice.
    I was surprised to find the gameplay still very much like that of Call of Duty 1. They took some aspects of CoD 1 and United Offensive out, like sprinting and "cooking" grenades.
    The weapon sounds are a bit different, for better or worse? I can't tell yet. The voiceovers are great, much more realistic sounding. Havoc says that the EAX support is much better than any game he's had. (I wouldn't know since I don't have a SB card)
    The graphics are phenominal. Imagine that, a sequel that improves graphics and doesn't require a video card upgrade! (BF2, *cough*, *cough*)

    The game is super impressive. I'm very pleased.
    As with any sequel, there are a few minor differences that players might like to have back, like sprinting and cooking grenades, but the game overall is an excellent release without any glaring bugs or major flaws so far.

    Oh yeah, and single player is just as fun as Call of Duty 1.

    ( Comments : 4 | Full article )

    Christmas Loot
    hardware : by Tommy - January 1st 2006, 06:20PM
    It's that time of year, time for exchanges and stuffing ornaments and lights in storage boxes. It's also time to show off your new goods, those treasured gifts you received for Christmas.

    This Christmas, I got the following:
  • a new Sanyo 27" TV
  • a new HP ze2308 laptop (which we got a great deal on...)
  • VR3 MP3 Player for the car
  • a "Hovercopter"
  • Call of Duty 2 (for PC)
  • Mark Farina - Mushroom Jazz Vol.5 (CD)
  • Wireless Hacks by O'Reilly
  • an Atmel microcontroller project board
  • and an HO-scale electric train set

  • ...just to name a few. Probably one of the best list of Christmas gifts I've had in a while.

    What all did you get?

    ( Comments : 6 | Full article )

    Neodux downtime
    rant : by Tommy - November 18th 2005, 10:17AM
    I'm currently looking for a new webhost. I'm with DreamHost right now, and they have been really really sucking the past month - if you haven't noticed. All of the downtime is due to their overloaded servers. They have great prices to attract more customers, but as of late, they've been driving away those customers (like me) due to bad network support.

    Don't host with Dreamhost if you are worried about uptime. Others find their downtime acceptable.

    You know me, I hate whining without solutions, so gimme some feedback, know of any stellar hosting deals?

    update: Neodux just had it's 2nd outage in less than a month. (Just barely, but Dec. 12 is less than a month.) Thanks Dreamhost!

    ( Comments : 20 | Full article )

    Updated Links Page
    neodux : by Tommy - November 17th 2005, 09:50PM
    Yay, the oldest (and personally most used) part of neodux finally got an overhaul. That's right, the links page. I have it set to my browser's start page, because I can visit all of my favorite sites in one stop. (Add to the fact I can open them all easily with the wave of a mouse thanks to Mouse Gestures...)

    "Okay, I don't see anything different..."
    Great, I was hoping you'd say that. I didn't want to change it much, because I've come to love its simplicity. What has changed is that it is now dynamic. See, for years, any time I wanted to add/edit a link on the links page, I had to manually go and find the link, edit the HTML, make sure I didn't break the table, save and refresh. (It was a chore.)

    Now, the page reads links.txt which is a simple text file formatted so the script can read the file and understand what is a category name and what is a link title and url. Now, whenever I want to add/edit a link, I just have to find/replace the line in the text file and the links page will do the rest. Phew!

    Grendel sez: Report any problems, plz. Or, if I should add a link, put it in the comments below.

    ( Comments : 3 | Full article )

    Random Links
    news : by Tommy - November 17th 2005, 11:20AM
    I just learned about Digg from Slashdot. It has a whole list of great links with a short description - a lots of 'em!

    So, here I'll link you to the more promising finds: 'Black Friday' Ads for 2005, Best Buy computer hacks, howto for a Wifi biquad dish antenna, Running Apache, Perl/PHP, Mysql on Windows, Getting started with Ruby, 10 Best AJAX hacks, Build a radio, Telnet with your browser, Flash-based VNC, Learn PHP, History of GNU/Linux, What's SNOBOL?, and finally a Hack-a-Day like site: DIY Live.

    Hope you find something interesting!

    ( Comments : 3 | Full article )

    Xbox : Quake 3 Arena
    games : by Tommy - November 15th 2005, 07:58PM
    I recently grabbed the torrent of Quake 3 Arena for the Xbox, which was ported to the Xbox by a fellow named Carcharius. It's not an illegal copy of Quake3, since id Software released the Q3A source earlier this year.

    The reason you won't find the Xbox version publicly available is, like all modded Xbox software, it was compiled using an illegally obtained version of the Xbox SDK for Visual Studio. To download the ISO's .torrent, you can grab it from your favorite torrent tracker. The ISO comes with all of the .pk3 files, but if you want to play online you'll need your own q3key.

    To view the associated README, click here.

    ( Comments : 0 | Full article )

    Balloon Reply
    neodux : by Tommy - October 18th 2005, 10:45AM
    As I outlined in this post on the forums, Jennifer got a bunch of balloons for her birthday from her mom. We kept them in the living room for a few days, just enjoying their atmospheric buoyancy. Tuesday came around and we noticed that a couple of the balloons were starting to sag a bit, so we decided to either let them wither away or do something fun. We decided to tie a note to the entire cluster and let them go. Kinda the whole message in a bottle thing. Just to see where it goes. We released them on Tuesday, October 11. This morning, I got an email from a lady in Illinois that said her husband found the balloons on Thursday, October 13.

    I'm amazed. Not only that someone actually replied, but that our little balloon cluster made it that far! According to Mapquest, from Longview, Texas, to Bartelso, Illinois, the estimated distance is roughly 657.55 miles!

    The email is posted in the forums.

    ( Comments : 1 | Full article )

    news : by Tommy - October 8th 2005, 12:37PM
    It's that time again, that time when I remind you (or tell you for the first time) about Folding@Home. What dat is?, you say.
    Folding@Home is a distributed computing project managed by Stanford University, the client program runs on your computer (most major OS's supported) and uses your "spare" computing time to help calculate complex mathmateical formulas. When you're not using your computer at 100%, this client will throttle itslf to use the leftover computing power.

    Protein sythesis is a predicable system in which proteins are made by folding upon itself, thereby changing it's shape, and thus it's funciton. Each protein serves some purpose and the shape of the protein determines that purpose. By using a complex mathematical formula, biologists can find out how proteins are made. The problem is that this math formula takes a great deal of computing power. By combining our computing efforts, the aggregate power produced is able to accomplish this feat very quickly and is much cheaper for Standford, and thus the medical community.
    Why do I care? It's a great way to show off computing power, or show off team-assembled computing power. I am a member of the SAGoons team, in which my personal computations are also counted in the team overall score to demonstrate how many computations SomethingAwful members have contributed, and to see how your team stacks up against other teams.

    More info can be found at folding.stanford.edu. Enter a unique username, and join the SAGoons (Team 150). It's fun to watch your own progress.

    ( Comments : 5 | Full article )

    Move out of my friggin way!
    rant : by Tommy - October 5th 2005, 08:54AM
    What is wrong with people? I just had a guy run into me yesterday because he was walking one direction and looking in another - around a corner! Unless you have some wallhack on, pay attention to where you're walking. I can't stand it when people are too concerned with what's going on "over there" than to be concerned with the possibility of someone being "over here". Especially when they say "Oh, I'm sorry, didn't see you there.". Of course you didn't see me here, you oblivious pile of crap! You had your head on crooked!

    People need to pay attention or learn how to get out of the friggin way.

    The same goes for drivers. People who are too concerned with some accident, or they're too busy waving to their friend that is too cheap to own a car so he's walking down the road when he obviously knows someone with a car, because they're slowing down to wave at him. Get off your cell phone if it's going to slow you down! There should be a law against impeding traffic. It's slow people that cause alot of accidents. People are too oblivious to have any notion that there is a world going on outside of their reality TV shows.
    Pay attention to life!

    ( Comments : 3 | Full article )

    Hurricane pwn4g3
    news : by Tommy - September 20th 2005, 10:28AM
    With my hometown about to get pwn3d by Hurricane Rita, I was just thinking yesterday that R is getting close to the end of the alphabet that is used by the National Hurricane Center to name hurricanes and tropical storms. Over at LiveScience there is an article about what happens when we run out of hurricane names for a given season.

    From the article I learned that the letters Q, U, X, Y, and Z are not used for selecting names, with no explanation of why. It is interesting to note that the most active storm season to date has produced 21 storms, which is exactly how many names are selected for use in a given season - and we're getting close to the threshhold.

    Meanwhile, some are trying to make the tie between an active storm season and the hot weather. Some aren't buying it. Just yesterday AW had a football game and I can't remember the last time I felt that hot - it may have also been the fact that almost our entire team was playing both offense and defense, but I digress. Is it global warming? El Niño (which is spanish for 'the niño')? Or something more sinister?

    update: Storm names still left on the list: Stan, Tammy, Vince, & Wilma.

    ( Comments : 12 | Full article )

    Xbox Media Center 1.1.0
    hardware : by Tommy - August 8th 2005, 09:04PM
    This afternoon I updated the version of Xbox Media Center that was installed on my hacked Xbox. If you recall, I installed most everything using Slayer's AutoInstaller, which works great for getting you up and going quickly.
    Xbox Media Center allows you to access all of your MP3 and WMA files on your Xbox HD as well as your Windows Network. You can also play music from iTunes and Shoutcast servers. Not only music is available on XBMC, you can also use it for slideshows (which I've done with our honeymoon pics) and for playing movies (DVDs and video files like .mpg, .avi and .wmv). The older version had all of these features, but one of the new features is the ability to change RSS feeds to receive the latest news headlines. Slashdot and Yahoo news headlines can be accessed like this.

    The kicker for me was the ability to have Milkdrop for visualizations for the music. The default visualizations for MP3s and the like was your average run-of-the-mill blurred oscilliscopes and spectrum analyzers. Milkdrop adds a virtually limitless array of plugins to allow for any mix of visualization plugins. The new version also features an improved web-interface to control music/video playback on the Xbox. Couple all these new features with the Xbox remote control and the enhanced audio adapter to allow for Dolby/DTS output and you've got a setup that rivals most any homebrew home theater PC setup.

    update: After installing XBMC I found a few additional scripts that are very handy. My favorites that I have installed are XMovieGuide, which shows movie times at area theaters; XRadar, shows local area weather radar; and the 'PBS Frontline script', to view the streaming video archives of the television show "Frontline" on the Xbox.

    Continue reading...

    ( Comments : 3 | Full article )

    Razor's Edge
    rant : by Tommy - August 3rd 2005, 06:56AM
    I was at the store the other day looking at all the various options on the standard men's shaving razor. There's a whole host of choices. You can get cheap single-blade safety razors for as little at $0.10 per razor, or you can go for razor refills as crazy as 2 for $5 - that's $2.50 per head. Whoa, what?! Yeah, you read that right, little strips of metal, in a plastic housing with a little piece of sponge and aloe for $2.50.
    Granted, this might not be that much, but that's because you're used to paying whatever they charge for razors. I am constantly reminded of how ridiculous the price of razors is when I go to purchase more. Some beards/whiskers are finer than others, and I know some of you probably don't shave as often as I do. Well, let me tell you, my whiskers are thick and shaving with those razors, they only last 2 (maybe 3) times before they lose their edge.

    So I decided to check out my other options. I looked at the unit price on the disposable razors. I saw the whole gamut, and setted on a Gillette pivot-head, double-bladed disposable razor that came out to about $0.50 per. I figured this would save money, it's essentially the same thing, but for a fraction of the cost. It's Gillette, and they know a thing or two about razors.
    So I thought.
    The stupid razor was like shaving with a knife. The handle felt like it was made of cork compared to my trusty Mach3 handle, and as for a close shave? Hardly. Gillette must offer these cheaper razors to those that needn't shave often, or have a thick beard, or to mock you when you try to save money. To make you come crawling back to the $2.50-a-pop blades.

    Continue reading...

    ( Comments : 12 | Full article )

    Back Home, New Fishtank
    pets : by Tommy - July 28th 2005, 11:27AM
    Jennifer and I returned home from our honeymoon last week, we have most our stuff here under our own roof, but quite a bit is still boxed up - though we're making headway. School starts up for her very soon, and I still have about 3 weeks until the fall semester begins here at LeTourneau University.

    You may have noticed there hasn't been much activity on the main page here, well, that's because all the cool kids are out back in the forums. If you haven't checked them out, you can click on them here, or at the top of the page. I posted some pics from the honeymoon (we went to Niagara Falls) in the forums. There are also pictures from the wedding that Valt took.

    Most recently, Jennifer and I acquired a fish tank that we saw advertised for a good price in the local paper classifieds. I cleaned it yesterday and the day before and set it up last night. Right now I just have it circulating the water and we'll probably populate it with a few guppies and some cleaning fish. Hopefully the guppy population will boom and the tank will be teeming with life within the next few months.

    update: Just added a female guppy and 3 ghost shrimp to the tank, just to kick things off. (Cost: $1)

    ( Comments : 1 | Full article )

    AMD Austin to Relocate
    AMD : by Tommy - June 6th 2005, 09:39AM
    I was just reading an article at the Austin Chronicle about AMD's plans to relocate from the lower east side of town (Just off Ben White) to the southwest edge of town (Just off Mopac).
    The article explains AMD's reasoning. They claim it will create a shorter commute for the majority of it's employees. They have a map, by ZIP code, of the concentration of it's employees, and AMD claims their proposed new location will slahes 10,000 miles of commuting per day.
    The plan isn't without it's opponents. Critics argue that AMD is breakin a traditon of major manufactures by building on the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone. (The aqafer being a major source of water for the city) Many argue this is a potentially harmful move, but City Council is powerless to do anything about the relocation, due to zoning laws currently in place.

    An interesting affair to say the least. Having not seen the proposed location myself, I can't say for sure, but I would guess that the new area is probably a bit more scenic than the current location.
    And I'm sure Skaven is thilled at the prospect of a move.

    ( Comments : 1 | Full article )

    JuiceBox Mod
    hardware : by Tommy - June 2nd 2005, 08:36PM
    I just got back from the local Target where I picked up a JuiceBox. (warning: annoying Flash on that site!)
    What the crap is a JuiceBox? It's a kid's portable media player that Mattel released for Christmas '04. They didn't sell very well at their retail price of $50, so stores like Target and Walmart cleared them out at huge discounts. Walmart cleared them out months ago, and according to one source, was selling them for as cheap as $6!
    Target, just this week, dropped their in store prices from the already discounted $24 to $12.

    "Okay, so why did you buy an unwanted toy?"
    Recently, Slashdot ran an article about hacking your JuiceBox into a picture frame. This is my current goal, as it is for several others. The key to the mods surrounding this little gadget is that it runs a version of uclinux. We'll see how this goes.

    update: Pfft, well that was cake - no real "mod" involved. The "MP3 Starter Kit" that I bought for $11 at Target includes a CD that converts pictures to a proprietary format (.jbp), compressing each image down to 57k. You can tell the image quality has been lost, but on a screen this small, you don't really care that much. I'm sure as the hacking community grows, there will be more options available. For those interested, if you have an SD card and USB adapter for your computer, you can play MP3s right out of the box. The software kit gives you the image conversion software, as well as an adapter to allow the SD card to be plugged into the media card slot on the JuiceBox unit. (I believe a few people have tried to make their own adapters.) Aside from the JuiceBox card adapter, the kit doesn't actually do anything to the Juicebox.

    Continue reading...

    ( Comments : 7 | Full article )

    What's up?
    neodux : by Tommy - May 31st 2005, 10:44PM
    Ok, well I haven't made a personal post on here in while. One of those posts to let you know what's going on in my life. (Like you care, right?)
    Well, as you may tell from the countdown on the left, I'm getting married soon. Yeah, that's the countdown to my wedding. It's cool though, I'm really excited. We're planning on going to Niagara Falls for our honeymoon.

    Right now I'm living in Nacogdoches, waiting for word back from LeTourneau University, my first alma mater. (You know, I started this whole collge thing there right out of high school.) So, I applied there about a month ago, and I'm awaiting my acceptance letter. Once that goes through, we will be given a housing assignment. Jennifer, through her crafty ways, landed us an on-campus apartment. On campus, you say? It's much cheaper that any other apartments available, all bills paid, and very convenient for your's truly. It should save us a considerable amount money versus living off campus.

    My admissions counselor at LeTourneau said they're awaiting my transcript from SFA, which should have been there now - so it should be any day now that I hear back from LeTourneau. After that, I'll move my stuff there and try to find an on campus job that I can do while I'm in school, register for fall classes and prepare for the wedding.

    ( Comments : 7 | Full article )

    news : by Tommy - April 27th 2005, 10:22PM
    I just learned of Freecycling today. No, it has nothing to do with bicycling. It's a play on the word "recycle". You know that old TV set in your garage? or that old ratty golf bag your dad gave you when you were 12? Get rid of it finally! You know you can't ebay it.

    Rather than throw it away, which you hate to do, give it to someone who wants it. You post your items that you have up for grabs on the Freecycle group near you, and people call dibs or email you about how to get it from you.
    Tim, KD5ING, had an old, crusty bicycle at the office. A lady was to come by and pick it up, because she wanted a bike, but not enough to shell out the cash for it. He needed it out of his garage and, rather than let it go to waste, was happy to give it to her. "One man's trash is another man's treasure."
    Check it out, you might find something you've been wanting for free! (Pack rats steer clear.)

    ( Comments : 1 | Full article )

    Xbox Mod
    games : by Tommy - April 22nd 2005, 03:29PM
    I received an old and busted Xbox from a friend for my birthday. It didn't work for him, he bought a new one, and gave me his old one (at my request of a cheap birthday present). I ordered an Xecuter 2.6 Modchip and received it this week.
    I just finished installing the modchip, turned on reassembled the Xbox, powered on and no smoke!

    After reflashing the BIOS, I can now boot from a CDRW which contains Slayer's Auto-Installer. From here, I can FTP into my Xbox to move files around and upload new files.

    After FTPing into the Xbox, I saw the C drive completely empty. When I tried to copy over the EvolutionX Dashboard replacement, I got a write-permission error. I decided this was due to a bad HD. I replaced it with a 200Gb drive I had purchased last Fall (but never used). I popped in Slayers, and it couldn't have been any easier. I can now play mp3s from the network, stream Shoutcast, play DivX movies from the HD, play ROMs from other game platforms, copy games to the HD and play them without the disc. After the soldering part, the whole mod was very easy thanks to Slayer's AutoInstaller.

    Grendel sez: Havoc, I'm almost done modding your Xbox. Anyone else? IM me.

    ( Comments : 10 | Full article )

    eBay Price Gouging
    rant : by Tommy - April 15th 2005, 11:23AM
    WTF is up with eBay shipping prices?!
    KD5ING sent me a cool link called lastminute-auction.com, it lists auctions that are $1 or less and end within the hour. A very nifty site indeed.

    So I'm looking through some of the available items and see a couple of neat things, I look at bidding on them - and shipping is $15!!! For a 99cent item! It's not heavy, it's just the "handling charge". Well, if that's the case, don't touch it, just put it in a box and be done with it. I don't want you handling the merchendise anyway. The extra charge in the shipping category is how some unscrupulous eBayers are making their money. Sure, they'll sell an item for just pennies, but then make their money back on the shipping. Buyer beware!

    I think it should be against eBay policy to allow more than $3-4 for "handling", if your product costs you $5, don't sell it for $.99 and then have the other $4 tacked onto shipping - no, charge the $5 up front. To do otherwise is dishonest I think.
    Sure, you can see how much their shipping charges are, but the selling price is what people care about, only after being lured in by cheap price do they see the 'hidden' shipping charges.

    ( Comments : 3 | Full article )

    Lamb - What Sound?
    music : by Tommy - April 1st 2005, 11:31PM
    I finally listened to the Lamb album "What Sound?", an album that I heard tracks from years ago, but didn't have a taste for the music. I rediscovered it after downloading it from RCA's MP3 site.

    I'd say it's trip-hop, chill-out with some experimental sounds thrown in - very ecclectic. It's nice to listen to at night, when you're just wanting to relax, but not quite ready for bed.

    Check it out when you get a chance, or purchase it here.

    ( Comments : 1 | Full article )

    Extra, Extra N5DUX is Extra
    radio : by Tommy - March 16th 2005, 11:30PM
    I just got back from passing my Amateur Extra test. This is the top of the licensing structure, I now have full privileges on the ham bands. It's not quite as big of a step from General to Extra as it was from Technician to General, in terms of privileges. There's just a bit more frequencies I can use now, and it feels good to have climbed the ranks. Granted, there's still plenty that I don't know, and plenty that I'm hungry to know more about.

    The Extra test was just a written test (no code test involved), but the content is a bit more in depth and alot more technical than the previous tests. I had only really been studying in earnest, this week (Spring Break). I didn't just beat the snot out of the test, it was a nail-biter, much like my previous Morse test. I could probably do better if I took it again at a later date and studied more - but I passed, that's all that matters, and I'm happy for that.

    tags: ham_radio license

    ( Comments : 3 | Full article )

    Neodux Forums
    neodux : by Tommy - March 9th 2005, 11:43AM
    I finally realized that it would take a ton of work to create a fully functional forums package that would even come close to the functionality of IPB or phpBB. So I decided to just use one of the freely availble bulletin-board packages available.
    I installed phpBB last night, got a few tweaks on it, and I'll continue to modify it to my liking.

    Neodux Forums consist of a wholly seperate database than the neodux web content. You will need a new login name and password for the forums, seperate from the website. (yes, they can be the same name/pass) You'll see there aren't a whole lot of forums at the moment. Some may stay, some may go - what forums are popular completely depends on demand. I'm not going to focus the forums in any one direction. I will appoint moderators for each new forum to pop up. Forums are a community effort, all I ask is that the content stay workplace-friendly, and that you not be an asshat. k thx bye.


    ( Comments : 0 | Full article )

    N5DUX - Work All States
    radio : by Tommy - February 28th 2005, 01:58AM

    edit: I just passed my Amateur Extra class license test!
    As most of you know, I got my General class license for ham radio. This allows me to operate on the HF (<50Mhz) bands. These are the bands that are what most people associate with ham radio: talking around the world. I have been logging my contacts in my log book and have decided to start trying for the ARRL Worked All States Award.
    As you can see from the map, I have quite a ways to go, but it should prove to be a fun goal. This is only using the 20m band, which is what my dipole was contructed for. The limitation to this is that it is virtually dead at night.

    As far as distance goes, I have logged contacts from my apartment with a station in the Cook Islands (in the South Pacific), the island of Trinidad (in the south Carribean) and 2 contacts in Canada (one in BC, the other in SK). At the SFA radio club station, I have logged various states, Canada, England and even Serbia!

    While I'm on the subject of ham radio, I attended a "Hamfest" (ham radio swapmeet) this weekend in Orange, TX. I picked up some radio odds and ends, and an Extra Class study manual. I hope to take this test at the end of next month, but more realistically, it will be in the coming months. The Extra Class test (Element 4) is the highest level test for amateur radio, as well as the hardest and most technically challenging. By passing the test, I will be afforded access to certain portions of the spectrum reserved for other Extra class operators. Big whoop, I know.

    update: still making contacts...

    Continue reading...

    tags: ham_radio awards

    ( Comments : 7 | Full article )

    N5DUX now General
    radio : by Tommy - February 16th 2005, 07:42PM
    Tonight I passed both the written and code section of the FCC Amateur Radio Licensing tests to gain my General license. I had studied Morse Code off and on for the past few months. I thought I was ready back in December, but failed at that attempt. Tonight I passed, not perfect, but a good showing, nonetheless. I was sure I would walk away defeated once more, but after Army, AE5P, counted up more than 35 characters in a row, I was elated to find out I passed.

    I also gave the written portion of the test a try and found out I remembered more of it than I thought - I hadn't studied since December! (...and that was studying with a slightly outdated book!) I passed with a 24/30, not as good as I'd liked to have made, but a passing score is a passing score.

    It will take a few weeks for the FCC to process the paperwork to officially grant my General class standing, but in the meantime, I can still operate as a General license holder by appending "/AG" to my call. (I think it stands for Awaiting General)

    I was really shocked, I was only expecting to eek by on the Element 1 code test, but, in the end, I got both. Very glad to have accomplished this.

    tags: ham_radio license

    ( Comments : 11 | Full article )

    Cool Links
    neodux : by Tommy - February 12th 2005, 01:16AM
    We all have those cool links. And I'm not talking about those lame-o funny flash animations. I mean links that provide something useful: a service, information, weather, some kind of search.
    Yeah, those kinds of links. I figure it's high time we share those links. So posts your favorite links in the comments.

    Sites like:
  • Slickdeals.net
  • Houston area traffic
  • PriceWatch
  • The Linux Documentation Project
  • ( Comments : 12 | Full article )

    I know just what to wear!
    rant : by Tommy - February 10th 2005, 05:56PM
    While talking to Notorious online today, we somehow got on the subject of ranking interest groups. Some groups are useful and just fun, but as with any hobby, when you meet and gather for one idea or one interest, you are instantly transformed into a geek. This is true for all hobbies, nothing is above this simple rule. A group of friends is seperate from this, however. You are all friends, plain and simple - there is no underlying reasoning for you hanging out. There are only so many people that will fit into your clique.

    I know it's natural for any hobby to spring into knowing other people with similar interests. The only hobbies I can think of that you could see other people and not be labeled a total dork are things that are inherently social. Such things as seeing your favorite band in concert, seeing your favorite sports team, or auto and boat shows.
    The problem with every hobby is there are extremists. (Even those "safe", inehrently social events have extremists.) It's the extremists that show you how bad things can get if you don't balance your life with something grounded in reality. You know the extremists, for movie-goers and book readers it involves dressing the part of their favorite characters. Any time your hobby moves you to dress the part, you're in too deep. You need to stop your hobby and do something else for a while. Get a job, get a girlfriend/boyfriend, spend more time in public.

    When your hobby takes you past that threshold, you must realize: no matter how many other people are also dressing the part, they're just as gay as you are. To be all into D&D or RPGs is one thing, but when you move into Live Action Role Playing (LARP), you have just catapulted yourself into utter faggotry.

    Continue reading...

    ( Comments : 19 | Full article )

    Neodux Additions
    neodux : by Tommy - February 2nd 2005, 09:52AM
    I have added decency filters on neodux now. "Naughty words" are now changed into pointless and silly phrases.

    Also added, for admins with access level of 100 or more only, a shoutbox editor to better keep a handle on shoutbox entries. If someone screws up the shoutbox, it's usually a missing or a quotes on a URL. Now, you can go to the shout management to add/edit the shouts.

    Finally, a better version of the url vbCode has been added. Thanks to Valt over at Xulphlux for the improved regex. Syntax for urls is still the same, but you can now use
    [ url sitename.here] text [/ url]
    (remove the space before url and you're set!)

    ( Comments : 20 | Full article )

    Strip your computer, dangit!
    rant : by Tommy - February 1st, 2005, 04:50PM
    Ok, so I started working on campus at the SFA student IT department, aka The SHACK. We are a spin-off of the Campus IT Department, centered around keeping students computers running. Yeah, you know where I'm going already. Well, the spyware and stuff can get out of hand, and for some people it's just too much of a chore to have to keep up with. I can understand how some people who don't spend as much time on the computer as you or me, can get lost in all the latest news when it comes to smashing spyware and virii, but I digress.

    Most students on campus have either Dell, HP, or eMachine computers. All of which pale in comparison to the rocking systems you can build for less money - not the point.
    All of these manufacturers completely cover the front of their cases with sales stickers, each one saying something different, some listing the system specs, "$100 Cash Rebate!", "Built to run Windows XP!", and all sorts of other crap. Every computer that I'm looking at right now has an Intel Inside or AMD sticker and a WindowsXP logo stuck on the bottom corner.

    All of these stickers are pointless! Why do all of these people leave these stickers on the front?! Some even leave the protective film on scratch-prone surfaces! I think computers are the only consumer item that is allowed to be covered with stickers at sale time, and left on until its worthless. Think about it, you don't see 1987 Buicks going down the road advertising it's sleek "Manual sunroof. automatic, A/C, 1.5%APR!" features with a giant sticker on the windshield! So why a computer?! You wouldn't dare leave those static-cling stickers on your monitor or television. "Look honey, it's a Sony 27" TV! Remember when we got it? It had that on the screen when we got it out of the box, and it's still there!"
    Strip your computer!

    Continue reading...

    ( Comments : 18 | Full article )

    Gabriel + Dresden - Bloom
    music : by Tommy - January 30th 2005, 10:44PM
    I picked up a copy of the Gabriel + Dresdent - Bloom CD today. Its a great album.

    I've always been a fan of every remix this duo puts out. I especially like their spacey, progressive remix of Groove Armada - Superstylin'. Definately one of my favorite remixes of an already good song. Last September or so, they released a mix CD. On the CD are some of their newest remixes as well as unreleased single tracks they produced. Very good stuff, and you can definately tell it's them, it has all the markings of G+D style.
    If you want some great chillin music, get it. If you want some great driving music, get it. If you want some slamming beats, get it. It's all on there.

    ( Comments : 7 | Full article )

    Portable Firefox
    news : by Tommy - January 24th 2005, 06:52PM
    "Grendel, WTF? I told you about this months ago..."

    Yeah, well, I didnt get around to trying it out until today. Usually, between classes I go to the computer labs to check email and websites. This morning while in the lab, I realized that Firefox was not installed. I didnt want to have to install it, since the systems get wiped clean every night or so. Then I remembered Portable Firefox, a version of the popular Firefox browser optimized for running from USB thumb drives. So, I reached in my backpack, pulled out my thumbdrive, put Firefox on it and it's great!

    Portable Firefox is in no way crippled or lacking features - it even plays nice with all your favorite plugins!

    So far I have Adblock, All-In-One Gestures, Tabbrowser Preferences and SuperDragAndGo - what plugins are your favorites?

    ( Comments : 3 | Full article )

    She Said Yes!
    neodux : by Tommy - December 22nd 2004, 08:00PM
    Sorry ladies, I am now officially off the market!

    Tonight, Jennifer Hampton said yes to marry yours truly. I proposed in the old town square in Marshall, Texas under their "Wonderland of Lights" Christmas light celebration in the historic downtown.
    My beautiful bride-to-be now sports a nice James Avery-crafted princess-cut, solitaire on an 18k white gold Tiffany band.

    It was a very cold, windy night, but not long after we finished dinner at the classy Venue 105 bistro nearby, the sleet/rain slush froze up into a true snow before I popped the question. A steady pace of snow flurries were coming down as we took a stroll. Due to the weather, the town square, usually busy with visitors to the light show was quite empty and dead. It made the evening rather private and the snow and cold added to the Christmas mood. It didn't take long to get the ring on her finger once we got her gloves off!

    That's all for now, I'll post some pics once I get my camera hooked up to a PC.

    ( Comments : 20 | Full article )

    Aluminum Foil Cube
    humor : by Tommy - December 17th 2004, 12:16PM
    Some guys here at AMD decided to prank their coworker last night, and wrapped his cube with aluminum foil.

    Here is the SomethingAwful thread I made. It has pictures of the job well done. It was an amazing thing to behold. I always saw these kind of things on the net, but it was truly a sight!

    ( Comments : 2 | Full article )

    neodux : by Tommy - December 15th 2004, 12:03PM
    Along with the other updates and modifications I've been compelled to do to Neodux, I have now added vbCode.

    This is a test:
    What is vbCode? vbCode allows HTML tags without knowing HTML. Rather than using HTML tags (which will still work for those of you reluctant to change). The following tags are currently available:
  • [b] to bold
  • [i] for italics
  • [u] for underline
  • [color="some RGB value"] to make colorized test

    update: still working on the URL tag to make link creation easier.
  • ( Comments : 4 | Full article )

    NARC Club Website
    radio : by Tommy - December 13th 2004, 09:11PM
    I had connection problems with Echolink preventing me from joining the website discussion this evening. I would like to use this to voice my opinion.

    All the webserver will need is PHP and MySQL (although, any other database platform would suffice). It is also important that we not sink a ton of money into this venture to begin with. As important as the club is to all of us, and any hams we may talk to, the general public is unaware that there is even a hobby called ham radio! In this vein, our server will not generate very much traffic, especially enough for us to take full advantage of even the cheapest hosting packages. We won't have hundereds of visitors per month. The main users of the site will just be the NARC.
    If left up to me, I would design something off of the core of the code you see before you right now. I would use the same blogging technique. I am currently experimenting with neodux to see how easily I can incorporate an RSS feed for syndicated news headlines and alerts. This, among other things, will lend value to our site. As I stated, we won't have that many visitors outside of our group, but, for those that do visit us, we want them to leave feeling more informed and with "gee, I wish our club had that" feeling. I envision a utility that aids in operating practices as well as information dissemination. (Especially as it pertains to any activity surrounding Columbia disaster)

    I hope this will fill you in on my thoughts about the subject. I ask for patience as we find the best solution for the club and not just amazing deal that turns sour. I would like to ask all members of NARC to be on the lookout for webspace that is...
  • ...ad-free.

    Continue reading...
  • tags: ham_radio website

    ( Comments : 10 | Full article )

    Neodux Comments
    neodux : by Tommy - December 8th 2004, 08:30PM
    Comments have now been added.

    To visit a post, click on the title of the post you wish to read, comments will appear below each related story. Comments will not appear on the main page. Please let me know if you have any problems by posting in the comments to this post. Enjoy!

    There seems to be a bug with logins and comments. For now, if you want to post a comment under your username, you'll need to login before going to the comments page. You can still view comments and post anonymously without needing a prior login.

    ( Comments : 17 | Full article )

    Battlefield 1942 Update
    games : by Tommy - December 7th 2004, 05:01PM
    Click here to read up on the new update for Battlefield 1942 that was released December 1st.
    According to the release notes, the patch addresses some exploit. If you still play Battlefield 1942, you should install the patch. I noticed quite a few servers that were greyed out when I tried to load a server last night.

    I'm surprised they bothered to release a patch for 1942. I really didn't expect any further support for 1942 after Vietnam was released. I'm still partial to 1942, and it's nice to go back to for some dogfight action.

    update: Please note that this does not add any functionality to the game or enhance gameplay in any way, it only fixes a glitch.

    ( Comments : 0 | Full article )

    New License Plates
    radio : by Tommy - December 1st 2004, 11:59PM
    I just got my new license plates in today. Texas allows amateur radio operators to get license plates with their callsign on them for a whopping $2.
    I placed the order in the first couple of weeks of November and got them today.

    Some people say that ham plates are the epitome of being a radio geek, maybe so, but when I'm driving and I see call letters on the back of a car, I give a wave and almost always can talk to the other guy on 146.52MHz. It's an interesting way to meet other drivers when you're making a long road trip. It's just something neat to do, and it didn't cost me much of anything. So I like it.

    Mackieman sez: I got new plates too, but I opted for customized over my ham callsign. Behold the glory that is OMG BBQ.

    tags: ham_radio car license

    ( Comments : 2 | Full article )

    Geocaches placed
    outdoors : by Tommy - November 22nd 2004, 11:41AM
    This weekend, while in Longview, Jennifer and I visited another geocache in that area. It was relatively easy to find and was made out of a waterproof Army surplus ammo box.
    This got me to thinking how easy it is to make and place a geocache. So, we went over to the local army surplus store and picked up a couple of ammo boxes of our own. Then went to Walmart to see what knick-knacks we could find to put in them. I took them back to Alpha Omega and spray painted them to help conceal their location when they are placed. We placed them Sunday afternoon and I logged their coordinates today.
    So, two more geocaches are in the Longview vicinity if any of you are in that area and have a GPS.

    Links to the two geocaches:
  • Trinity Bucket
  • Industrial Bucket

  • What the heck is a geocache? Visit www.GeoCaching.com for more info.

    Grendel sez: Well, it appears we had a few geocachers find our ammo boxes. Nice to see someone actually went out in search of them! Click on the links above to see the comments for each cache.
    Let us also hope it does not get blown up like this one in Indiana.

    ( Comments : 1 | Full article )

    Half-Life 2, yeah yeah yeah
    games : by Tommy - November 17th 2004, 01:46PM
    I tried to hold off buying the game until after the hype was over and the price came down. First of all, $55 is kinda pushing it. I know most games come out around $50. So why the $5 increase?
    Do we get a nice hard-plastic protective jewel case to hold all 5 CDs in? no.
    Do we get an extra-cool full-color manual in the box? no. Do we get a manual at all? no So why am I paying an additional $5 for a game that comes with less than most others?

    Ok, so I got the game. Went to Best Buy with my older brother, who was ready to get it. Don't get me wrong, I was excited about the improved graphics and physics, just wasnt' chomping at the bit to get the game.
    Finally, after a while, I get it installed - all 5 CDs worth. Then, I have to resetup my Steam account (*rant to come at a later date). Steam starts up, tries to authenticate with their overloaded servers, and eventually lets me play the game. The graphics are very nice. The animation is the best I've seen in a game, and the game physics are equally impressive. I could go on and on about the physics and graphics, but I'll just leave it at.
    The gameplay is alot the same as HL1, but hey, it's a sequel - it should follow. I'm quite impressed. It's a fun game. I wasn't expecting anything to just floor me, which is why I was reluctant to buy into the hype.

    So, if you haven't been swept up in the hype, you shouldn't be disappointed. If you lost sleep the night before the release because you were too excited - you were probably let down. Don't get caught up in hype again.
    Overall, it is a fun game with alot of potential.

    Continue reading...

    ( Comments : 0 | Full article )

    Intel releases BTX form factor
    hardware : by Tommy - November 15th 2004, 12:11PM
    I read on Slashdot earlier about Intel releasing their new BTX form factor.
    Anandtech.com has the full story (and pics). In short, the new BTX form factor allows for more efficient cooling of a computer's components. Whether or not this form factor will catch on remains to be seen. Of course, it's not up to you and I, the end user; it's more aimed at component designers and motherboard manufacturers. And with Intel's market-might, it almost goes without saying that the new standard will be accepted by board design teams.

    The components that run most hot are situated in-line with the CPU cooling fan airflow, in order to take advantage of the air being moved. This is an interesting step which will cut down on the number of case fans needed in newer systems.

    This is just a form factor, mind you, and not a chipset release, don't be looking for any new features or faster speeds. Those follow new chipset designs. BTX will merely allow for designers to build in a new way.

    ( Comments : 0 | Full article )

    GPS + Geocaching
    news : by Tommy - October 14th 2004, 09:44PM
    I just received my new GPS that I purchased from a guy on SomethingAwful at a nice price. It came in this afternoon, and almost immediately, I visited GeoCaching.com to get the coordinates to the nearest caches to me.

    I went looking for 3 of the nearest caches. After some looking, I located my first one. Inside I found a log book to log my visit, a camera to snap a pic, and some goodies. I left a couple of knick-knacks and took one to keep.
    I searched for the other 2 for a little bit, but they'll have to wait for another day, since I ran out of daylight.

    Update: Found a couple of caches in Nacogdoches over the weekend, left a travel bug in one for the Nac crew to find.

    ( Comments : 0 | Full article )

    Who Are You?
    neodux : by Tommy - September 20th 2004, 09:51PM
    Due to the fact that I'm sure it'll be bumped from the shoutbox kinda quick, I decided to post the link to the personality test for others to take.

    Post your results in the shoutbox if you wish. The test is not run by more, nor is it biases towards any one type of personality. Just something fun, that is much nicer than receiving a FWD in your mailbox: "zOMG ROFLMAO!!~! HAY d00dz, taek this test itz so kool!!1! pas it on or esle you will get herpes! LOLz!"

    Anywho, take the test if you got some time, post your results in the shoutbox.
    some results:
  • Grendel - ENTJ : 28 56 50 33 ..
  • MrPresident - ISTJ : 22 11 44 11
  • MackieMan - ISTJ : 33 1 11 89
  • Grimlen - ENFP : 44 50 56 89
  • ( Comments : 0 | Full article )

    CoD : United Offensive
    games : by Tommy - September 20th 2004, 01:26AM
    I just got the new addon to Call of Duty, called United Offensive. I just got it running. The gameplay doesn't feel like any change from the original game, just like an add-on should be! It's just an addition of more weapons, more levels. Two cool additions are the use of vehicles (jeep/tanks) and new weapons (flamethrower/deployable machineguns).

    I have to post one frustration with this. For some reason, the game is detecting "CD/DVD emulation software" on my computer. I do have CloneCD, and that may be the reason, but this should not affect the game at all. (one piece of software should not interefere with the next; nor should another piece of software care if the first is installed)
    So, the game would not start out of the box, because it was unable to read the data from the CD. I eventually went to GameCopyWorld, and got the latest No-CD crack for the game. This fixed the issue. But I have to voice my frustration about such a gay issue right out of the box.

    While attempting to fix the problem, I did find out that there are new nForce drivers available. They were posted last week.
    I will post more about the game as I play more of it.

    ( Comments : 0 | Full article )

    Greatest Google Search
    news : by Tommy - September 13th 2004, 01:20AM
    So I'm surfing around the net this evening, digging through some URL's, and I come across a blog with some interesting information on it. Apparently, you can do a Google search for "index of /mp3" or "index of /files" and get all sorts of nice directory listings from some poor sap's personal stash.

    In case you need a hyperlink to try it, try clicking here for the results of a search for "index of /mp3".

    Also, try all sorts of other interesting filetypes... you'll never know what you might find!
    "index of /mov" "index of /movies" "index of /mpg" "index of /files" "index of /warez" "index of /isos"

    remember: Lets not forget to make use of our friend wget. (man page)

    ( Comments : 1 | Full article )

    programming : by Tommy - September 7th 2004, 03:38PM
    Perl pwnz j00. It is amazing.

    As I said before, most automated tasks at work are scripts written in Perl. It is highly important that everyone on the team be proficient in the scripting language. I've been allowed time to grow accustomed to its usage and syntax. I think that today I finally broke into understanding the power of Perl.

    It's extremely easy to implement complex routines through the use of CPAN modules. They are essentially extensible libraries for use in a script. They are very easy to add to you system, they are only loaded when you invoke them from within your script, and can do many powerful things.
    Things that would take a C/C++ programmer much longer to do. Granted, C/C++ create smaller/quicker binaries, but Perl is easy to maintain and easy to develop a "quick and dirty" fix.

    Skaven has been preaching to me to get into Perl, I think I have finally started to truly break ground. I thought I had made some progress before, but it wasn't until this afternoon that it really hit me - with the force of 2 sumo's colliding at full-speed.
    Sorry it took so long Skaven, I'm awake now.

    ( Comments : 0 | Full article )

    I r t3h 133cH!!~!
    hardware : by Tommy - September 1st 2004, 04:30PM
    So yesterday, SirMackieman (corey) came to stay with me on his way out to Kyocera Wireless in California. In the middle of the day, while I was at work RoadRunner came to shut off the cable connection that was in Skaven's name, then to hook up my cable.
    This didn't happen.

    Instead, he shut off my cable and told Corey that he didn't have a work-order to turn me back on. So we were up a certain creek without the proverbial paddle.

    Poor Corey sat in my apartment without intarweb access until I got home. After quite a while of agonizing and ranting about TimeWarner and what pricks they are, it dawned on me. Corey was on his laptop. He had wireless. "Fire up your 802.11 card, man!"
    Boom. There's a neighbor with a Linksys router wide open, zero security, just asking us to use his connection. So we did.

    After dinner, we went to BestBuy, Eric fronted some cash to procure a cheap D-Link PCI wifi card for my PC. (i'll hit ya back e)
    I popped in the NIC, after some configuration, we are back online. At least, until the neighbor dude wises up (not likely) or TimeWarner gets on the ball and installs my friggin cable modem.
    Fittingly, the day before, Eric and I went driving around and he snapped a couple of cool pics of this marquee on an old theater not far from here. It got pwn3d, much as our neighbor has. (and is!)

    Mackieman sez: I can't believe I didn't think of that before you got home. I was like, "doh!"

    ( Comments : 0 | Full article )

    BCA Mascot Change - WTF?
    rant : by Tommy - August 19th 2004, 12:51AM
    I have just received word on the new Baytown Christian Academy mascot. I didn't even know they were considering a change. The decision was not made by the students, or even any alums.

    The faculty was tired of being just another school with "Saints" as the mascot. Understandable, but I think it's healthy to enlist the help of the student body when deciding. So they decided for the students and I'm assuming the students welcomed the new mascot because I didn't hear any negative remarks about it. The new mascot, you ask?

    WTF?!? Havoc recalls some queer students trying to make a coup to change the mascot to this when we were still attending. It didn't fly; and 7 or 8 years later I still say it's gay. Bulldogs?! Just, pop off and change the name to Bulldogs? C'mon, get more creative. How about bananaslugs, or Ding Dong Daddies?

    It's one thing if the students chose it, but I can't see them choosing a mascot like the Bulldogs. It's just one of those generic, all-American mascots that had it's heyday back in the 40's and 50's.

    True, there are a metric ton of christian schools with their mascot as the Eagles, or Saints, or Warriors; but It seems like every other school we played were either the Warriors or the Eagles. Occasionally we met another Saints team, but never did we encounter a team of Bulldogs. Why not? Because it's a gay mascot. So gay, that teams would rather take on the Eagles or Warriors or Saints, than be called Bulldogs! I say BCA should re-evaluate their decision, throw it open to the student for nominations and final vote.

    I'm sorry, but I still care for my alma mater.

    Havoc sez: Bulldogs is about as generic as any school can get. BCA Saints was a name that actually stuck out better.

    Continue reading...

    ( Comments : 0 | Full article )

    Slicing and Dicing Spectrum
    radio : by Tommy - August 14th 2004, 03:47AM
    I found this link from Slashdot, it's an article on how the electromagnetic spectrum is sliced and divided up among controlling parties. It mentions the FCC's latest partitioning of certain frequencies to Nextel. Also mentioned is the 802.11 "open frequencies", and others.
    The article gives a bit of insight as to how the current frequency partitioning mindset came to be, and offers alternatives.

    A good read for the curious.

    ...and another take on Spectrum rights and permissions.

    tags: fcc wifi

    ( Comments : 0 | Full article )

    BF:Vietnam World War 2 Mod
    games : by Tommy - July 27th 2004, 10:15PM
    After playing much Battlefield 1942, Havoc informed me of a mod that Dice is putting together for Battlefield Vietnam.
    The mod is a World War II mod which reworks many of the BF1942 maps, but with the new BF:Vietnam engine. In the screenshots provided, the foliage has been vastly increased to allow players more cover in gunfights. Also nice to know, the addition of a flame thrower for WWII mod players.
    update: Dice has released the v.1.1 patch for BF:Vietnam. This patch does not include the WWII mod.

    Also of note, DirectX 9.0c is now available.

    ( Comments : 0 | Full article )

    AMD64 Linux/Windows Review
    hardware : by Tommy - July 14th 2004, 02:48AM
    AnandTech has posted one of their newest reviews of the 64-bit arena. In this review, they take an Athlon64 3500+ (2.2GHz), 1Gb of PC3500, snap in a GeForceFX video card on the newest nForce3 motherboard and give SuSE, RedHat and WindowsXP-64 a whirl.
    Surprise, surprise, Linux comes out on top. However, you should check out the individual results of each test to see the quirks and see which of the 2 linux distos comes out on top. Also interesting to note is the hardware intricacies involved in the setup.

    append: and if that's not geek enuf for ya, how about a history lesson? ArsTechnica has a nice write-up on the history of the intel Pentium series, and the short-comings and hurdles along the way for the x86-Pentium processor. Good read, you'll learn a little too.

    ( Comments : 0 | Full article )

    Mozilla Firefox
    windows : by Tommy - July 6th 2004, 10:42PM
    Ok, by now, most of you have heard in the news about the security problems with Microsoft's Internet Explorer. The latest exploits allow "hackers" to install keyloggers to steal passwords, etc. (nevermind the odds of them actually getting your information)
    So, after hearing the praises of Mozilla from xulphlux.com/comments.php?mode=display&aid=90" target="_blank">friends and news stories. And with CERT recommending the switch from IE to Mozilla, I decided it was time for me to give it a shot.

    This afternoon I did it. I ditched IE and Outlook Express altogether. I'm now using Mozilla Firefox and Mozilla Thunderbird to replace each program. Thunderbird offers Outlook Express conversion tools to copy over your Address Book and current emails. The Extensions for Firefox are the crown jewels of Mozilla. The Firefox browser is highly customizable and very, very highly recommended. It is a change from the IE you might be used to, but very worth the switch. The Thunderbird mail client is also worth a look if you're sick of all the incoming spam in Outlook and the possible email virus infections so common with Outlook Express.

    ( Comments : 0 | Full article )

    ARRL Field Day
    radio : by Tommy - June 26th 2004, 03:09AM
    Today is the first ARRL Field Day exercise that I get to will participate in. Slashdot has a post about this too.
    Field Day is a chance for ham radio operators to check their ability to contact other stations without making use of commercial power (power company's power). Instead, ham groups band together, use generators and power their radios that way.
    Also included in Field Day is a competition between all ham groups. Each group tries to contact as many other ham radio operators as possible, gaining points for the distance, frequency and power level used. Each group logs their contacts and, in the end, sends their log to the ARRL for ranking.

    I volunteered to supply the Nacogdoches Amateur Radio Club with 4 laptops from my office at SFA to use as "logging stations" with some software the group purchased for this purpose.

    "Field Day" continues all day Saturday until Sunday evening, depending on when each group begins making contacts. Check with your local group to find their location and check out their stuff. 73!

    update: Field Day was awesome. Got to operate on almost all the General-class HF bands. I reached stations all over the US. (I even made contacts as far away as Hawaii and the US Virgin Islands, in the middle of the day!)
    The laptop setup was cool, had some problems, but it worked well overall. 3 logging stations with a 4th setup to monitor a map of the US which shows each region where a contact was made. We ran that to a TV so we had a quick, at-a-glance look at where we were making our contacts. The antenna array setup was also cool. Anytime you need a potato gun to hoist an antenna into a tree, is a good day.

    Continue reading...

    tags: ham_radio field_day

    ( Comments : 0 | Full article )

    AMD Intern - w00t!
    AMD : by Tommy - June 21st 2004, 05:37PM
    Last week I was given the opportunity to interview with the Advanced Micro Devices SysAdmin team in Austin. (where Señor Skaven works)
    On Thursday night, I drove to Austin to stay at Skaven's. Friday afternoon, I turned in my official application to the HR department, got to tour the AMD design facility. Saw what is probably the most powerful x86 system. So new, I don't think it's been released to the public yet. Also got to stand before a 27Tb storage cabinet; an entire cabinet full of hard-drives.
    Later, I met with a couple of members of the SysAdmin management staff for my interview. It went really well...

    Today, I received word from the HR department that they are extending the job offer to me!
    So, if all goes well with the paperwork with SFA, I will be moving to Austin for the Fall semester to work as an intern at AMD.

    update: All has gone well, and I am awaiting the official offer letter from AMD. I called my contact at AMD today, she informed me that everything was in line, and that the package was FedEx'd to me this afternoon.

    ( Comments : 0 | Full article )

    Word of the Day
    neodux : by Tommy - May 25th 2004, 05:33PM
    Word of the Day, shown below the calendar on the left, will display the current word of the day when completed. Website admins will have the ability to add new words for the WotD box. Eventually, this will include definitions of some words, as many of you may not understand the word or its meaning and usage. Check back over the next few days while I keep working on this.

    note: right now, the WotD is just a random word from a small set of words that I have setup. This will soon be changed.

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    802.11 Time
    hardware : by Tommy - May 11th 2004, 02:40AM
    James, N5VOO, hooked me up with a D-Link 802.11 card for my linux laptop, trying to get me up to speed on the whole wireless thing. I'm really diggin' it. I know there are quite a number of wifi access points around town since it is a college town.

    Mackieman has had an 802.11 network in his apartment on campus, but I haven't had a card or access point of my own. But, thanks to James, I was surprised with a free D-Link card and an access point to borrow so I can use it at home. I'm quite excited. Expect to see more 802.11 goodness posted on Neodux now. Wireless access will be much more fun now that I'm licensed radio operator and can use this to bump up the power output and get a long range 802.11 network.

    Mackieman editz^2: I pitty da fool who edits my edits. Grendel editz: Mackieman sez: My groin tingles with anticipation. ^_^ ew, TMI.

    Havoc sez: Good Place for WEP encryption key generation.

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    Merciless Mod
    games : by Tommy - April 19th 2004, 11:34AM
    Friday night I downloaded my first mod for Call of Duty called Merciless Blood Mod. It's a great change in gameplay from the original game. No weapons have changed or map changes, but it does change how the player reacts from incoming fire, gunshot wounds, and the mod adds gore and death sequences. When shot, the player becomes disoriented and things seem to move in slow motion. The gun may be shot from someone's grip, leaving them helpless in a gunfight. Puddles of blood also stay where a player is killed. Pain sounds are now added, so you can hear when a player is shot.
    Good times!

    To download the mod, you must login to their site in the bottom right, here is an account I setup for distribution.
    Username: download
    Password: download

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    Ham, anyone?
    radio : by Tommy - April 6th 2004, 02:02PM
    I went to Fry's on Friday afternoon with my girlfriend, I picked up a copy of Gordon West's book for studying for the Technician License for Amateur (Ham) Radio from the FCC.

    Those of you wondering what Ham Radio is or looking for more information should consult Google. In short, it is "short wave radio communications" or just a more powerful form of CB radio.
    The 2m band (144-148MHz) looks to be the first range that I will delve into. I urge you to check out Ham radio, especially the Technician license. 2-meter handhelds can be found on ebay for under $50.

    update: I picked up my radio today (April 11). It's a Yaesu FT-10R, 5W output. I bought it from a guy on ebay that lives about 15min from my parent's house. He also threw in a free external antenna. The radio is also modified to reach up to ~175MHz. I test next week. So far, so well.

    update #2: ...just installed my DTMF keypad for the radio. Makes frequency navigation much easier. I'm quite pleased, and the install was super-simple. Took me maybe 3 minutes to install. Awesome little radio.

    tags: ham_radio

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    Something Awful
    news : by Tommy - March 24th 2004, 12:22AM
    Many of you know the site Something Awful. It's just a site with random, funny crap on it. It's amazing how many people are in their Forums. I just signed up today for $9.95. It sounds like a lot just for some stupid forum membership. But, I assure you, it is $10 well-spent.
    There is tons of hilarious stuff posted. Almost anything cool, funny or otherwise amusing, gets posted on Something Awful before most people have time to distribute the URLs.
    Also included in this bargain buy is the free-stuff forum. Each thread has a new deal, which, after one free magazine subscription... pays for your entire life-long membership. Not to mention the other goodies available for members only.

    So, if ya got $10 and want to be part of a friggin' huge online group... check out the Something Awful Forums.
    My SA Goon name is GrendelT.

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    Linux Gaming
    linux : by Tommy - March 16th 2004, 09:37PM
    Well, I've gotten Slackware installed on this Dell Laptop that I'm borrowing. For those of you out there considering the total conversion to Linux, but are held up by the lack of support for games. You're not alone. That's been my entire reason for not ditching Windows has been for this very reason.
    This evening, I came across a HOWTO for installing WineX. The HOWTO focuses on getting Half-Life to run.
    Anyone that attempts this - before you begin, wget one of these scripts. They make life painless and carefree.
    I have it working now. I can execute Windows binaries under Linux, but games are having issues. I'm guessing due to FreeType font-issues.

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    Battlefield : Vietnam
    games : by Tommy - March 16th 2004, 12:34PM
    Battlefield : Vietnam, the followup to Battlefield 1942, is now on all store shelves across the country.
    I have yet to pick up my own copy, but will do so ASAP. From the trailer teasers that EA and Dice have been releasing for the past few months, the game looks amazing and all reviews say that it beats 1942 hands-down.

    More to come...
    Anyone with a login and post/edit level access is free to post their thoughts here...

    GrendelT says: Just got my copy. Those with GeForce cards, update your driver. I do like it. Alot. It's grown on me over the past 2 gaming sessions. It is a bit different than BF1942. Not as open-field battle like we're used to. It has a different feel too it. But the game makes everything feel dirty/rugid.
    how about a comic?

    NTHavoc says : This game pwns. It handles just like BF:1942 with minor adjustments and overall it's a fun game.

    Mackieman sez: This game does indeed own. I played on a mini-LAN last night, and lo, caps were busted.

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    MP3 Stream Recorder
    music : by Tommy - February 24th 2004, 10:56AM
    I went to Austin this weekend back to hang with Skaven and go see Max Graham spin at Sky Lounge, on our way to 6th Street we were listening to some kickin tunes in his car. I asked what it was, he said it was Proton Radio. I thought for a second before asking how he recorded it...
    I guess I never thought of looking for an MP3 stream recorder, maybe I never wanted to record a stream bad enough. The whole idea was news to me. It's a simple concept, and they have existed for quite some time now. But for what it's worth, here is the MP3 Stream Recorder that I've been using lately.
    This comes in especially handy if you have an MP3-compatible stereo in your car. ;)

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    Switch, Switch, Switcheroo!
    neodux : by Tommy - February 2nd 2004, 11:58PM
    Just got my new KVM Switch in; it was $20 from NewEgg.com. Nothing spectacular about it, it's your standard 2-port KVM switch. It's only $20 because it's TRENDnet, kinda cheap, and quite ugly. But it's okay, i have it kinda hidden. I have it hooked between my WinXP machine and my Linux box, then stuffed down behind my filing cabinet. The model I got supports hot-key switching, so I don't have to look at it, or hit a button on it. To switch it, I hit Scroll-Lock twice then UP or DOWN and the switch goes to the next channel.

    Right after I hooked up the KVM, I installed Slackware 9.1 at the persuation of Skaven. He swore up and down that the 9.1 default install of XFree86/Gnome looks amazing. After installing it for myself, He's right! I had to get him to lend a hand getting my resolution up to 1280x1024, but after that, it looks great. It runs very smooth, I'm quite impressed. I'm about to install OpenOffice on it.

    Download your favorite distro from LinuxISO.org.

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    Call of Duty
    games : by Tommy - January 16th 2004, 08:12PM
    I got Call of Duty for Christmas this year from my dad. It's a very fun game. It has more of a realism feel than arcade, but it's still very fun to play. It's not like Rainbow Six or any realism sim.

    It covers various campaigns from World War II. You play as the Allied Forces: United States, Britain, and Russia. With each mission being a little different from the one before. I beat the game in a matter of days, but that was playing the game for hours on end.

    The single-player gameplay is excellent. (i haven't played straight through a single-player storyline since Half-Life!) It has some very tough parts, certain points in the game you think it's impossible to beat. It's quite addicting in the middle of the game, and at the end it's a feverish pitch to keep pushing forward.
    The multiplayer online play is just as feverish. The gameplay is constant, and if you're looking for more man-to-man gun battles than Battlefield 1942, Call of Duty might be your game. I was very impressed with the graphics, and the way I got so caught up in it. Definately worth a look.

    Download the demo from the official Call of Duty website or any file-hosting site.

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    Ventrilo Voice Chat
    news : by Tommy - January 4th 2004, 09:30PM
    While playing Battlefield 1942 with the guys, we always use some form of voice chat. We started off with the one that started it all, Roger Wilco. Since it was bought up my GameSpy, it's gone to crap. There's almost no development going on with it, and it's become stagnant. The sound quality is 'good enough', but poor when compared to others.
    Next, Havoc had us try out Sidewinder GameVoice a product from Microsoft. Like RW (RogerWilco), it's free. The sound quality of it is much better than RW, but the only problem was that, being a MS product, there is only a Windows server for it. Most other voice chat servers run on Linux, BSD, as well as Windows. So we left it running on Havoc's box (when it was up).
    Over Christmas break, my older brother told me about a program that his Dark Age of Camelot guild uses called Ventrilo. He said they use it because it is small, like RW, but has great sound-quality like SW. And it will run on Linux. So I gave it a shot, and it is quite impressive. The sound quality is superb and it uses very little memory compared to the others.

    What about TeamSpeak? TeamSpeak sux. I've tried several of their servers but it always either won't start or just crashes out. So I ditched it long ago. Besides, I had heard that SW sounded better, and Ventrilo sounds even better than that. So why bother...

    So check out Ventrilo next time you want to use voice-chat. It's free and easy to setup. The server name is neodux.com and cheese.neodux.com.

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    El carro es mío.
    neodux : by Tommy - December 29th, 2003, 3:00PM
    I finally got my car. After a little over a month since the accident, I got my 'new' car. It's a black 1999 Nissan Sentra.

    I like it. Very clean, it rides very smoothly. I love the way Nissan cars feel, the suspension and steering is very tight. It's a 5-spd manual, I've never had a stick-shift to drive before, so I'm learning. I enjoy it though, very fun to drive. Another perk about the car - some of you may scoff at this - it's a 1.6L engine. It's not much, but it gets 29mpg (city) and 39mpg(hwy)(US Dept of Energy). Very nice.

    And here is Your's Truly posin with tha G-ride. (a true pimp. bling-bling)

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    Expect, the Unexpected
    programming : by Tommy - December 9th 2003, 01:34PM
    Expect is a great utility for automating sys-admin tasks. It's been on my to-do list for learning for some time now. I've seen it used by one of the admins where I used to work and was amazed at what it can handle.
    To quote the Expect website, "Expect is a tool for automating interactive applications such as telnet (ssh), ftp, passwd, fsck, rlogin, tip, etc. Expect really makes this stuff trivial. Expect is also useful for testing these same applications."

    O'Reilly books has a great book on the subject, Exploring Expect, and has been a title I have been searching for, but this year it's high on my wishlist I got it for Christmas.

    Expect is based on the Tcl ("tickle") scripting language, combined with the Tk extensions, Tcl itself is pretty nifty. Here's one example of what you can do with Tcl/Tk. (and that's one example i use quite a bit when i'm at a console!)

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    Reverse Moronic Polarity
    rant : by Tommy - November 19th 2003, 12:31PM
    So last night I got in an accident at 12:25a. My car is totalled, and I'm beginning to realize that I can not drive a decent car for any length of time before the stupid, moronic drivers on the roads find me and put an end to my nice car(s).

    This girl claims she 'never saw' me or this other truck right behind me. She was driving all emotional and crying and crap. Moron.
    The wreck I had before this was a middle-aged accountant that still lived at home, and was turning left, unprotected, through a busy intersection. (I-10 @ Garth, Baytown) Moron.
    Before that, the most stupid of the drivers that I've encounter in said way, pulled out of the Baytown Albertson's parking lot, across 2 lanes of oncoming traffic so he could "try to beat" the oncoming traffic. Even though the guy he was trying to beat, yours truly, was only about 25ft away from him and only going about 45mph! (Unless his car is capable of accelerating and moving him across the two lanes (24ft) in less than .37 seconds from a dead stop. Which I don't think a 1982 hatchback can do. *which happens to be about 64mph in less than half a second.) Moron.

    All this to say, since the laws of physics say that opposites attract, and these people are all morons, I must be of a reverse-moronic polarity. Meaning, I am clearly not a moron. So, for anyone out there that ever says, "Hey, you know, that Tommy guy is a moron", I say "Correction sir, you are the moron, the laws of physics require that you be the moron".

    Right you are, Ken.

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    Girl Drivers == t3h sux0r
    news : by Tommy - November 19th 2003, 03:23AM
    So, I'm on my way home from the SFA Observatory Tuesday night/Wednesday morning (whatever 12:20a is), heading south on Highway 59. I'm just inside Nacogdoches city limits, when this stupid breezy pulls out from a side road, blows thru a stop sign, across the highway and into my right lane. I hit the brakes to avoid plowing into the backend of her. The brakes squeal and I start to slide, I counter-steer to try to stay on the road, but going about 60mph its almost useless.
    I nail a curb, get airborne for about 10 feet in my lovely little '96 Mazda Protegé. I dig into the ground about 6 inches when I come down, clip a telephone pole, which rips off my front passenger-side wheel, strut and axle.

    The airbags came out as soon as I hit the curb, I don't recall ever seeing that pole I hit, and I was not injured (from what I can tell). I get out of my smoke-filled car to see her driving away!
    Fortunatly this nice guy, Craig, chased after her to get her license plate. A couple of her friends from down the road came down to say that she had left their house and gave her name and address to the Nacogdoches Police. The police contacted the girl, got her insurance and informed her of what she had done. I am going to file with her insurance and let them know what a stupid, blind moron she is.

    Rest in Peace little Protegé, we barely knew ye.

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    BIOS tweaks for AMD systems
    hardware : by Tommy - November 1st 2003, 03:19PM
    For those of you blessed with AMD-based computers, a new BIOS-tweaking HOW-TO has been posted. I originally found the link off of Slashdot.
    I'll time the boot process before and after the changes to show if there is any change.

    To read the how-to, and find out how to optimally set your system's BIOS, click here.

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    Say Hi to Dave
    humor : by Tommy - October 20th 2003, 10:44PM
    I got an email from a friend linking me to his newest project, the photoshopping of Dave Zhang. Apparently, Dave's dad forgot to wake him up one Christmas morning. Feeling bad, it appears Dong (huh-huh), Dave's father, edited his picture from that Christmas morning and just put little Dave in the picture. "No, really, Dave was there... don't you see him? He was there! Leave me alone!"

    What a great dad! So, to give Dave every chance in life that his father always wanted him to have, Brent set up http://www.drunkrhino.com/dave/. Now little Dave can enjoy all the experience life has to offer, without ever really being there!

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    Video Card
    hardware : by Tommy - October 17th 2003, 01:29AM
    Last January or February I purchased a PNY Verto GeForce4 Ti4600. Very nice card. I was very happy with it. ---up until about a month ago. It started crapping out on me for some reason. It started showing a repeating pattern of green, pink, and yellow dots.

    So I called PNY's tech-support (that was a story in itself!). After a couple of days I got an RMA number for me to return the video card back to them. The catch was I had to enclose a copy of the original receipt. Something I didn't have. I informed Havoc of my plight, he told me he had a receipt from NewEgg.com that I could probably pass off as the original receipt. Good idea!
    So I edited the information to fit my situation, edited the price to make it fit, and made up a neat, official-sounding order number. Put that in a box, shipped it off and crossed my fingers.
    About 3 days later I got an email telling me the package was received and they were sending me a new card to replace the bad one.

    So the package finally gets here. I open the box to find it's not a Ge4-4600 like I had sent to them. Instead its a GeForce FX 5900! A faster and better card. Bonus! Not to mention it has S-Video, DVI and a copy of Splinter Cell to boot!

    The card rules. I've maxed out BF1942's graphics settings and still no lag. Only when I turned on 8x FSAA did any lag show up (and it was quite noticeable!) --- this whole time I had 8x Ansiotropic Filtering on too!

    All this to say, I'm happy with PNY's return policy, lifetime warranty deal, and feel lucky that they don't check order numbers on forged online receipts.
    And GeFX cards rock.

    Continue reading...

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    Ishkur's Guide...
    music : by Tommy - October 8th 2003, 05:01PM
    Ishkur's Guide to Electronic Music has been remade. It is a great sampler of all the many, many genres of electronic music that are out there. You'll like some, hate others, and laugh at the rest.
    The new update now includes several clips of each type of music (instead of just one clip like previous versions had). It should give you a decent taste of each of the types of electronica out there.

    Tommy, you mean its not all called "techno"??? *gasp* No, although most people call it "techno", Techno is but just one class of electronic music. So check out what all is out there.

    By the way, props to Ishkur for adding the seperate Downtempo section - I'm ALL about that stuff. And the time-maps, lets you know when things came out and what/when they evolved from.

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    Is It Freedom of Speech?
    rant : by Tommy - September 30th 2003, 01:33AM
    Recently, President Bush signed into law the bill that enabled the enforcement of the National Do-Not-Call List. As with all issues there are two sides to the coin.

    On one hand, there are the phone service customers (that's you and me), on the other there are the tele-marketers (who know this will cut into their 'customer base').
    The average citizen says "I hate those stupid telemarketers."
    The telemarketers cry 'unfair' and try to play the 1st Amendment, Freedom of Speech card.

    I ask "What the hell are you thinking?!" Freedom of Speech?! Are you kidding? Nobody is telling them they can't pitch their sale. Nobody is censoring their sales pitch. The government is just saying, they can't just randomly call anyone and try to sell them vinyl siding whenever they feel like it.

    Freedom of Speech means you can go stand on a park bench and preach on about how stupid Cubs fans are, or how awesome Tommy really is. Commercial advertisement is not protected under this same right.
    It doesn't mean someone can say their product is something it isn't, or sell something they don't have, and just randomly call people to sell crap to them. These are guidelines - not an infringement of civil rights!

    On top of this, nobody is saying telemarketers cannot call the average citizen. This is an "opt-in" service. If you setup a phone, telemarketers have the right to assume you do wish to be contacted for "great deals", until you specify otherwise. The new phone customer is allowed to be contacted, only until he requests that he not be contacted. How is this unfair?
    That is like saying you don't want a flyer from some dude on the street corner, and him insisting you take it or you violate his freedom of speech.

    This is just another example of how people will try to stretch the law to fit their own will.

    Continue reading...

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    TCP/IP Over Bongo Drums
    news : by Tommy - September 28th 2003, 03:31PM
    Almost every computer today is equipped with the TCP/IP networking protocol. (the chief communication standard in the world, due mainly to it being the essential Internet protocol). Basically, networking traffic of any sort is broken down to 1s and 0s, just as all data in a computer is. The 1s and 0s transmitted across the network connection is actually a series of minute high and low pulses of electricity. The recipient then "decodes", or demodulates, these high and low pulses as a 1 or a 0. (high or low).
    One professor at Algoma University posed a question to his 4th year Computer Science students, can sound be used as a transmission medium?

    The result was TCP/IP over Bongos drums.

        - Ricky Ricardo and Andy Kaufman would be proud.

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    REM : Greatest Hits
    music : by Tommy - September 18th 2003, 12:21AM
    I'm fired up. REM is on tour for the Greatest Hits record that should be out soon. Its got all their hits, "End of the World", "What's the Frequency, Kenneth?", "Everybody Hurts", and some of their lesser known hits "Find the River", "Begin the Begin", "Fall On Me".

    update : The show was awesome! Everything was great. They should post the setlist to their website. Ed Harcourt sounded quite a bit like Coldplay, with maybe some Radiohead thrown in for 'artistic genius'. REM came out kickin' with "Begin the Begin". Also got to hear a few new songs, as well as their biggest hits (save for a few from Monster). They ended with a great little tune called "End of the World...". , and was probably the best way to end an REM show. I loved it.

    For more information, visit REM's site at www.REMHQ.com.

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    "Hello World"
    programming : by Tommy - September 2nd 2003, 06:42PM
    I'm taking a C++ and COBOL class at SFA State this semester.
    I already know C++ to the point that I am fairly comfortable with it. I hope to expand on this knowledge during the semester, and to learn the "right" way to code.
    As for COBOL? I'm not too sure how enjoyable it will be.
    This cool link shows how each language differs by presenting the most simple "hello world" program. There are some very odd-looking programs/scripts listed on there, I'm sure you havent heard or seen at least 75% of the languages listed on there.

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    Silent Computing
    hardware : by Tommy - August 26th 2003, 11:39AM
    Any of you that know me, know I have been working on my silent server. Trying to get Neodux to run from a small solid-state x86 computer. Although I do have it running (see previous post), I wonder about how feasible/practical it would be to silence my desktop computer.
    The hard-drive would stay in my desktop system, since I gotta have more space than just 256Mb. But, how much would it cost to silence my CPU cooler? How about my power supply?

    For CPU-cooling, the most efficient and silent way to dissipate heat is using water-cooling, and with some of the latest advances in water-pumps, it sounds as if you can totally eliminate all moving parts from your water-pump.

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    Neodux going Mini-ITX
    news : by Tommy - August 19th 2003, 06:13AM
    This is my newest toy. It arrived this afternoon. Its quite impressive. Very fast for what it is, and the silence is quite nifty.
    Its a fully-functional motherboard made by VIA. It sports a heat-sink for the CPU and chipset (no "loud" fans needed!), on-board video, PC133 memory access, one PCI slot, onboard network and onboard sound - all in 6.75" x 6.75"!!!

    So what am I going to do with it? When I go off to school in the next week or so, I want to take Neodux with me, but I don't want to hear it. Enter the solid state reincarnation of neodux! I'm going to use the EPIA P5000 motherboard, my IDE-to-Compact Flash adapter (to boot off a CF card instead of those loud hard drives) and run from 512Mb of PC133 (later 1Gb). So, no moving parts!

    update : Talk about quiet! Its almost eerie to not hear this thing in action. I found an awesome distro called SmoothWall. I am completely blown away. It works right from the get-go, quite secure, installs from a 21Mb ISO on CD, and fits nicely onto my 256Mb CF with room left over. Best part is, its all configurable from a web-interface. Really an amazing distro. I can't believe there hasn't been more buzz around it.
    for more info on other miniITX projects, visit mini-itx.com.

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    [Reg).*] [(Expressions)]
    programming : by Tommy - July 31st 2003, 11:13PM
    I've been learning Regular Expressions lately. I must say, they are very nifty. Knowing them will save you alot of time if you're trying to match a word or string of characters from an outside source. I found this page that seems to be pretty easy to understand and geared towards those that are learning regex's.
    If you are learning, try using them in vi or awk.

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    Flash Memory and VRAM
    linux : by Tommy - July 29th 2003, 02:48PM
    And now for something for all the speed-geeks. This was a post I had on the old neodux site, here is the link again. It's good reading for any geeks out there. (Probably completely useless to anyone else.)
    In short, it's a how-to for creating a linux swap partition using your left-over video memory.

    And, for those of you wishing to just boot from a non-volatile RAM-disk, go buy a CompactFlash disk and get a CompactFlash-to-IDE adapter. (There's nothing particular special about that one, its just the first of many) CF has very low seek times even compared against the fastest SCSI drives.

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    Lookin' for Books?
    books : by Tommy - July 10th 2003, 12:02AM
    I'm sure most of you know what a book worm I've become. Some kind of computer book junkie. Well, I buy quite a bit from Amazon.com and I typically find what I'm after in their Used Books section. I'm also a big fan of Halfprice Books. I also check out are the sales tables at book stores and stuff. For some good deals, not just on books, check out Overstock.com. Anyways, without listing too many more sites, I found most of them linked from ISBN.nu. What you do, is find the book you're after, give it to isbn.nu and it will search all of the best online book retailers and give you the breakdown of the pricing. (kinda a searchable-salescircular.com for books)
    FYI: PHP Cookbook is freaking awesome!

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    PHP Sessions & Cookies
    php : by Tommy - June 23rd 2003, 02:20AM
    I just found this article from ONLamp, a member of the O'Reilly network, to be quite helpful in understanding Sessions and Cookies in PHP.
    I hope to incorporate this setup into Neodux shortly, to allow users to post their own stories, instead of just myself and the other admin-level users.
    The biggest holdup has been my summer classes, which will be over soon enough, and about time!

    I also hope to finish up this calendar widget-thingy to the left, within the week.

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    New Look
    neodux : by Tommy - June 10th 2003, 12:22AM
    Yeah, yeah. This is the new neodux - all original (but still being made). I decided to try my hand at making a blog, and here it is. I hope to have it nearly as functional as xulphlux, but that will take some doing.
    I'm going to continue building onto the site as its up, and I'll add features periodically as I finish them. aight? aight.

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    Rock Out!
    music : by Tommy - June 7th 2003, 07:09PM
    Proton Radio plays some awesome music. Very deep progressive beats.
    DeepMix.ru is another great online stream : just a little more down-beat and relaxing.
    For you junglists and DnB heads, check out JungleTrain and BassDrive.
    If you want to go completely relaxed, check out FlareSound, they get funky and downbeat. Check 'em out! Enjoy!

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