Enough with the hand-wringing over Win8. Just backup your stuff like you do with any upgrade and take the plunge. It’s really not that different from 7. (And no, “Get a Mac!” is not relevant to this post so save yer breath.)
“Angry Birds Space” went on sale last night. Two weeks ago, after news broke that this game was coming, another game called “Space Birds” hit iTunes. Look familiar? It’s a rip-off in every possible way…VERY lazy. Come on, people! Write your own games, don’t copy the hits right down to the artwork just so you can make a few easy bucks off the easily fooled.
Then again, if you’re dumb enough to think this is an actual Angry Birds game, maybe you deserve to lose that dollar!
A couple of months ago I got a wild hair and decided to rebuild my PC: new motherboard, processor, hard drive, graphics card, power supply–the works. It was aging at around 3 years (5 years for the motherboard) so it was long past due, and now it’s shiny new and very zippy. Once it was all done, though, I decided to take it a step further and jump into the world of SSDs. I’ve been toying with the idea for a while because everyone says they’re amazingly fast, but I never quite committed to the idea. But some were suddenly on sale at New Egg, so I took the plunge. And once I got it set up, the speed is BLAZING. Boot time is cut in half, programs open damn near instantly (even behemoths like iTunes and Photosop), and things in general are snappier. Here’s a rundown of my experience, in case you’re thinking of trying this yourself.
I didn’t plan on reinstalling Windows fresh, because I had just done that during the rebuild (and before the SSD idea) and it took me days to get it set up the way I like it and reinstall my stuff. So I thought I could just image the C: drive and then restore that image onto the new SSD, which would solve the problem of a reinstall. The trouble was that my C: drive at the time used up about 70GB, and the SSD I bought was only 64GB because that’s what fit my budget. Luckily I had found an excellent article about SSDs and how to prep yourself for the switch, and it showed me how to strip my Windows installation down to the essentials and move everything else to another drive. It worked great, leaving me with a Windows drive at only 25GB. Niiiiice. (Here’s a forum thread which was very helpful as well.)
So my next step was to image my C: drive and restore it to the new drive. I use the free and excellent DriveImage XML on a weekly basis to backup C:, so I created a new backup image of my newly-slimmified Windows drive, plugged in the SSD via a SATA port, and restored the Windows image onto the SSD. Easy, right? So I try booting from the SSD, and…nothing happens. It says there’s no Windows installed. WTF!
More Googling. I figured out that the SSD drive wasn’t able to boot Windows on it because in the registry its drive letter was still set to something other than C:, which makes sense since I had it mounted as “just another drive” earlier when imaging it. So it was Paragon Rescue Kit to the rescue–it let me change the drive letter of the SSD to C: in its registry, and after that the drive booted just fine. Neato.
Of course, all this imaging and restoring and drive letter stuff could have been avoided if I had just reinstalled Windows from scratch, which is probably what most people do. So if you give one a try, I recommend a fresh reinstall if you can stand it. But you definitely can go the image/restore route if you have a little patience and know-how.
The one thing I’m finding that I have to be careful of is setting any program which uses C: for temp/scratch space to use another drive instead. Some things were obvious (Photoshop), while others weren’t (Spotify). But I just checked any program that has anything to do with audio and video and made sure the settings didn’t use C: for temporary files, and that’s that.
Anyway, that’s my SSD experience for anyone who cares. I’m so used to the speed now that I can’t imagine going back!
I’ve collected some really great browser extensions that make my online surfin’ and communicatin’ so much nicer, and since I haven’t done one of these kinds of posts in a while, I thought it would be fun to share what I’m using. These will strip away online ads, clean up the clutter, and keep you relatively untracked as you hop from site to site. Note: I use Chrome and Firefox, not IE or Safari. Some of these may be available for Safari but you’ll have to look those up yourself… Also, if any of these links don’t work sometime in the future, just do an extension search within the browser and you’ll probably find it. Links change all the time.
AdBlock (Chrome / Firefox)
Not only does AdBlock strip away 95% of the advertisements that clutter most sites these days, but it’s highly configurable in case you want to pinpoint specific items. You can even add sites to a whitelist so they’re not altered, which is great for those few times when AdBlock interferes with scripts or other things that the site needs to use. Lately I’ve been using it to clean up Facebook by removing entire chunks of crap, leaving my newsfeed as the focus (you know, the way it should be). Here are my custom filters and what they do, you can add these to your own via the extension options (or experiment with the right-click menu on any website).
Custom filters I use–add these minus the stuff in italics:
- www.facebook.com##DIV[id="rightCol"] Kills the entire right-hand column of crap
- www.facebook.com##DIV[id="pagelet_friends_online"] Kills the Friends Online box on the left
- www.facebook.com##DIV[id="pagelet_bookmark_nav"] Kills the Bookmarks box on the left
And just so you can see how these filters make FB look, here’s a before and after shot of my own newsfeed.
clea.nr (Chrome / Firefox / Safari)
This is an amazing add-on which does wonders for cleaning up YouTube and Amazon clutter. Amazon is especially horrific. You can disable it on either site at any time by clicking the button at the top of the screen (which only shows when you’re on one of the sites). Check out the website to see it in action.
Disconnect Me (Chrome / Firefox)
Prevents multiple social network sites and search engines from tracking where you surf and what you click on. Tells you how many it blocks for each site, very nifty! There’s also a Chrome-only extension which works specifically for Facebook called Facebook Disconnect, but I recommend blocking more than just Facebook.
I’ve been eyeballing the iCade for a few months now, wondering if I want to spend $100 on a gadget with a very narrow focus: playing a handful of iPad games using old-school controls. But the more I looked into it, the more appealing it looked–because if you’ve chosen to jailbreak your iPad, you suddenly have access to MAME which plays thousands of classic arcade games (provided you can find the ROMs). So, shortly after my 40th birthday, I said “Fuck it!” and ordered one.
I rarely spend that kind of money on this sort of goofy, cheesy thing, but something about it really appeals to my inner arcade nerd. That kid who, throughout the 80′s, used to hang out at arcades for hours on end, gleefully dumping quarters and tokens into machines that were so exciting at the time. I still remember what it was like with all the loud, crazy electronic noises filling the room and the groups of people huddled around machines, stacking quarters on them. My brother and I used to make a pass through the arcade each time we went in, just in case a new game had arrived…that was always something exciting. (I remember when “Tron” came out and the machines had these giant monitors stacked on top so the crowd in back could better watch the action.) Today the very sight of a tabletop Ms. Pac-Man game sends me back 30 years! So I definitely have a soft spot for arcades and the golden age age of coin-op gaming.
Once I put this together and got it working, I snarfed down a few compatible apps and gave it a spin. The controls work like a charm: the joystick is very responsive, and the buttons have that perfect clicky quality. They’re physically unlabeled so you have to remember what does what, but it’s not too bad. The unit even has a fake coin slot which lights up when it’s connected to your iPad. Sweeeeet.
The real fun came when I installed iMAME4All on my jailbroken iPad. I dumped some ROMs into it, and suddenly a whole new world of retro arcade gaming opened up. I’ve played MAME games before, but never like this, with a joystick and buttons to be madly mashed! All my favorites are there: Donkey Kong Jr., Jungle Hunt, Zaxxon, Tron, Qix, Q*Bert, Dig Dug, Wizard of Wor, Alien Syndrome, Joust, Super Pac-Man, Gauntlet II, Gorf… It’s an arcade nerd’s dream, and it really takes me back to those days I remember so well.
The biggest caveat to playing the old arcade games is that iMAME is a little finicky: you have to have ROMs that were tweaked a certain way, otherwise they won’t work. You can find massive archives of them online, but unless they’re in that specific format (MAME 0.37b5), they won’t work. Luckily I found a couple of sites which offer them: this one (free and verified) and this one (pay site, not tested by me). It’s also a legal gray area, as some companies still own the copyright to the code while many have long since gone out of business…so that’s a dilemma for you to work out for yourself. Also, the controls are a little odd sometimes, such as for games which required a trackball or steering wheel, but nearly everything I tried was playable and looked/sounded wonderful.
About a year ago I gushed about the Barnes & Noble Nook e-reader. Well, lately I’ve been reading about their new version, now called the Simple Touch Nook. This time I didn’t wait months and months to get one…I grabbed it the week it came out. Got lucky, too, as the B&N downtown was out of stock–all they had was one reserved by a customer who never came in to pick up, so the guy sold it to me instead. You snooze you lose, bitches! Anyway…
Not only does this version have a screen that’s a bit brighter and cleaner-looking, but it’s touch-sensitive so you can tap and drag and all that other stuff that people like to do with their gadgets these days. It’s not a tablet, though…it’s simply an ebook reader. They removed all the extra crap like audiobook capability (including the headphone jack that accompanies it) and the 3G option, choosing to focus on reading as much as possible.
It’s also shed nearly half its weight from the previous version so it’s extremely light and comfortable to hold for long periods of time (the old one used to be kind of a pain to read in bed), and the screen flashes from page turns are vastly reduced from the previous model. Just tap the left or right side of the screen or press one of the buttons to turn a page. Even more than before, this thing makes it easy to get lost in a book. It doesn’t even show you a clock at the top of the screen when you have a book open, so you’re not tempted to keep track of time.
So while I love the device and find it a pleasure to use, I’m not so enamored by by ebook prices. Really, publishers? You’re going to charge $14.99 for a virtual book that has zero manufacturing cost? Most ebooks tend to be around $9.99 though, which is a little better but still too much. I think $4.99 is a little more reasonable for older books, and $9.99 for new releases. But I also live in Happy Land, in a gumdrop house on Lollipop Lane! (Thanks, Homer… )
The DRM (copy protection) is another bit of bullshit you have to put up with when buying from the big ebook sellers like B&N, Amazon, and Apple–it’s meant to prevent piracy, but what it essentially does is lock you into using only ONE device for your ebooks. Sure, you can also read them on your cellphone or PC, but you’re limited to their crappy reading software when there are far better alternatives out there. When I buy any digital content–books, music, video–I expect to be able to stick it on any device I choose and play it with whatever I choose. There are ways to strip the DRM from ebooks, it’s easily found on the Net. All it takes is a little time and tinkering to figure it out. But I digress… You can also “sideload” books and other files to read so you’re not just stuck with the B&N store. In fact, you can read books from several other ebook stores, some of which might have a lower price, as well as download ebooks from your local library if it supports them. You have to load them to the Nook via Adobe Digital Edtions, but it works like a charm.
In a nutshell, I love this gadget! Using it is a breeze and the price is just right, too. If you’re not attached to paper books, give this a look. (Oh yeah, and don’t be fooled when you look at a demo Nook and the screen looks dirty or has “ghosting” from previous page turns–the demo I saw had this same problem, but the one I bought didn’t. I think a reset does the trick to clear things out when that happens.)
People like this are so goddamn irritating. They’re the kind of twats who insist on staring into their bright little screens in the movie theater. Yes, I do carry my iPhone everywhere and check my “stuff” now and then. But I’m not hanging on every Facebook update, every tweet, every new email. I enjoy reading it, but I also know how to engage in the real world, too!
I feel sorta sad for people like this, actually. What kind of empty life do you have if your PHONE becomes your soul mate? But the anger returns when I think about the way he ignores his wife and family to play Angry Birds and fantasize about how much more complete his life would be if only he had an iPad. Your gadgets should not come before your family. What a disgusting person.
Wilson, the smartphone user in Arkansas, said there are moments when he feels as though he disappears into the smartphone’s tiny screen, particularly when he’s just sitting around the house watching TV with his wife.
“I’ll be on my phone looking at Twitter and Facebook and playing ‘Angry Birds’ and I should be showing her affection and stuff like that. Sometimes I forget to do that,” he said.
“I’m just out of touch with reality sometimes because of my phone — I can just look at all the apps and stuff like that and just dream about the iPad and whatever — wishing my screen was bigger — and without realizing it, well, I haven’t said anything to my wife for an hour. It’s not that great.”
Wilson said he’s happy to take his iPhone everywhere.
At Arkansas Tech University, where he’s a student, one sociology professor does not allow phones in his classroom, Wilson said. But instead of leaving his phone at home — one possible way to abide by this rule — Wilson goes through extra preparations to keep it at his side.
“When I go into that class, I put it into airplane mode and silent [mode] and I turn it off,” he said.
He even uses the phone during church services.
Once, when asked to read a scripture in front of the congregation at the West Side Church of Christ, Wilson used a Bible app on his iPhone.
I feel a rant coming on. It’s almost here… and… . . . . .
Computerworld asks the burning question: should ISPs cut off bot-infected users? Oh, absolutely! Without question. Why aren’t they already doing this? Judging by the vast number of bot-infected PCs out there, it’s obvious that most people either don’t give a shit or are too stupid/lazy to take an interest in the matter. It blows my mind how many people are still ignorant about something that can lead to identity theft, drained bank accounts, and all sorts of other fun stuff. Why don’t they leave their houses unlocked and leave the keys in their cars while they’re at it? You know, just to be consistent.
Maybe we should put it this way: would you have unprotected sex with a prostitute who has open, runny sores and crabs carpeting his/her nether regions? I certainly hope not. (It’s not a perfect analogy but you get the idea.) If you wouldn’t do that, then why wouldn’t you learn about safe surfing and email habits, which would prevent you from getting your PC infected? What’s so hard about running one of the many free checkup tools now and then to rid your PC of bots and other nasties? Answer: there’s nothing hard about it. You just don’t care. Either that, or you’re a complete and utter moron…take your pick.
Many like to use the excuse “But I didn’t know this could happen.” Bullshit! Unless you’re either completely illiterate or have managed to avoid reading newspapers, magazines, watching T.V. over the past 15 years, you’d know that bots and other spyware is a BIG DEAL. You don’t have to be an expert to be aware of this stuff, folks. The other excuse is, “I’m not a super nerd, I don’t know how to do that high-tech stuff!” Well, then…maybe you should learn. It’s really not that difficult. They have this crazy thing now called Google, it can teach you all sorts of stuff. You should really check it out. Hell, Microsoft even provides FREE VIRUS AND MALWARE PROTECTION. All you have to do is turn it on! But no, you’re going to pay some Geek Squad loser at Best Buy $100 to clean your PC every six months when it slows to a crawl from all the bugs infesting your data. Really, there’s no excuse for being ignorant of this stuff these days.
Of course accidental infections can happen even to the best-protected users, but if so many PCs are constantly infected, it’s obvious that they’re either running unattended (maybe at schools) or they’re owned by people who are completely ignorant of the problem–and I’m betting the latter is the majority. Anyway, if you can’t be bothered to learn how to protect yourself from spyware, then maybe you don’t deserve to be online at all because you’re putting the rest of us at risk. Be a responsible user or stay off the goddamn internet. If you can’t even do that, I think your ISP should be able to cut you off until you figure it out.
Botnets are a major source of spam, denial-of-service attacks, and other net nasties. For several years, I and others have advocated a more aggressive approach to fighting botnets.
While ISPs can’t prevent users getting infected with bots, they are in a superb position to detect the signs of infection. Once an ISP has detected that a user is infected, they can ensure that the problem gets fixed — remediated, as we jargonistas love to say.
The idea is that ISPs could detect signs — say, by intercepting outbound spam, or botnet command-and-control traffic — and cut the infected customer off from the internet. The user would be placed in a walled garden, where a web browser would only be able to see certain pages, which give instructions on how to fix the problem.
Contractually, the ISP would be reasonably justified in cutting off a user from the internet, as bot infection would be contrary to the terms of the ISP’s acceptable-use policy.
P.S.: Any comments telling people to “just get a Mac” will be deleted.
P.P.S.: Just kidding! But seriously…enough of that shit.
Ahhh, the unedited ”Close to the Edit” by Art of Noise. Still one of the best/weirdest videos I’ve ever seen, awarded by MTV for Most Experimental Video and the Best Editing. The bits where they destroy classical instruments actually pissed off some in Britain, leading to a different video later on. But look how much fun it must have been!
The other day I got another instant message from God (I think he’s bored) telling me about these new religion-based search engines. They’re aimed at self-deluded people who somehow can’t get enough censorship in their lives, and these new search engines really do the trick.
Some Jews, Muslims and Christians are abandoning Yahoo and Google and turning to search engines with results that meet their religious standards.
Shea Houdmann runs SeekFind, a Colorado Springs-based Christian search engine that only returns results from websites that are consistent with the Bible. He says SeekFind is designed “to promote what we believe to be biblical truth” and excludes sites that don’t meet that standard.
Houdmann says a search on his site would not turn up pornography. If you search “gay marriage,” you would get results that argue against gay marriage. And if you type in “Democratic Party,” your first search result is a site on Marxism.
But SeekFind isn’t the only search engine carving a niche market among religious Internet users. There is also Jewogle for Jews and I’mHalal, a Muslim search engine that started in the Netherlands.
Narrow your search and your mind at the same time! Wow, what a bargain! This makes it much easier for these people to avoid being offended by other opinions and ideas, which is pretty much the way organized religion likes it. When I asked God about that part during our IM chat, he got a little testy–he hastily typed something about people “exercising their free will to be told what to do” before closing the chat and logging off.
Naturally the first thing I did was try SeekFind myself. The site boldly displays the Bible quote “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find.” But what I found was that searching on certain things (non-sexual in nature) won’t turn up any related results at all. So you can seek all you want, but you may not actually find anything because you’re CENSORING YOURSELF.
Of course, I can respect religious peoples’ wish to avoid porn and stuff like that (especially since it can show up in even the most innocent of searches), but come on–most search engines already have options for filtering that stuff.