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Chrome 39 Launches With 64-bit Version For Mac OS X and New Developer Features

kriston Re:As long as it fully supports Flash (65 comments)

Ad hominem attack much? How's that debate strategy working out for you, there?

2 days ago

Chrome 39 Launches With 64-bit Version For Mac OS X and New Developer Features

kriston As long as it fully supports Flash (65 comments)

As long as the 64-bit version fully supports Flash on all platforms, I'm all for it. Like it or not, you need to support Flash, 64-bit or not.

I guess Red Hat and CentOS 6.x users are left in the lurch on this one.

2 days ago

City of Toronto Files Court Injunction Against Uber

kriston There's a reason we license livery drivers (166 comments)

In the rest of the civilized world, there's a reason we license livery drivers. That's how you can get a cab ride or black car ride without getting robbed, or worse. Taxi and Livery Commission (TLC): It's a thing.

2 days ago

Japanese Maglev Train Hits 500kph

kriston Re: stupid germans (418 comments)

This is true in the US as well. It's rather rare for trains to be stopped by the weather. Delayed, yes, but cancelled, very seldom.

To say that the same weather that stops airplanes will stop trains is just incorrect.

3 days ago

Antares Rocket Explodes On Launch

kriston The engines are from the 1970s (443 comments)

The engines aren't just developed by the Soviets in the 1960s. These engines were *built* in the 1960s and 1970s. The engine in the first stage is literally 40 years old.

about three weeks ago

If Your Cloud Vendor Goes Out of Business, Are You Ready?

kriston Re:Not for Federal Customers (150 comments)

As far as the government is concerned, they would do the same thing they did with Conrail, Lockheed Martin, and Verizon Business (nee WorldCom) when their predecessor companies were ready to close up shop: Underwrite mergers and acquisitions by guaranteeing private sector investors with federal dollars. It usually works.

They learned a bitter lesson when New York Shipbuilding closed and are unlikely to let something like that happen in the cloud industry.

about a month ago

At CIA Starbucks, Even the Baristas Are Covert

kriston This is a very real concern (242 comments)

This is a very real concern. They don't want you to know they work for the intelligence community. They work in a submarine as much as humanly possible.

But on a more important topic: I have *never* been in a Starbucks that does anything other than call out the name of the drink ordered.

This story baffles me. I'm calling B.S.

about 2 months ago

Washington DC To Return To Automatic Metro Trains

kriston Re:When I lived in Japan and rode trains every day (179 comments)

There certainly is an interlock that prevents the train from leaving the station unless all doors are closed. The automatic system takes this as a cue to release the brakes and depart the station

As built, the system was supposed to have automatic doors that would open like elevators if someone got in the way. This made operations difficult so the doors now just keep trying to close like every other system.

about 2 months ago

Washington DC To Return To Automatic Metro Trains

kriston Re: They are... (179 comments)

Completely false!! You're thinking of an Amtrak crash caused by two stoned Conrail engineers. That has nothing to do with this conversation in any way.

about 2 months ago

Washington DC To Return To Automatic Metro Trains

kriston Re:A DC resident replies (179 comments)

Washington DC has a very strong and proud tradition of African-American railway workers. From the old railways to the RF&P to the Metro and also operating the premier Acela Express maintenance facility in Ivy City, Washington DC has a very successful and proud heritage of railway workers.

about 2 months ago

Washington DC To Return To Automatic Metro Trains

kriston Re:When I lived in Japan and rode trains every day (179 comments)

No. They have operators who operate the doors and ensure the train does not leave the station with someone hanging out of a door, or other kind of emergency situation.

Are we having a serious conversation here? If not, I'll bail out now.

about 2 months ago

Washington DC To Return To Automatic Metro Trains

kriston Re:Crash not computer-related (179 comments)

No. Both trains involved in the crash were in automatic mode. The only time in manual mode was when the unfortunate soul operating the striking train applied the emergency brake.

about 2 months ago

Washington DC To Return To Automatic Metro Trains

kriston Re:What's wrong with American drivers? (179 comments)

No. The old system was perfectly reliable except in certain slippery weather conditions. WMATA was in the process of replacing the old system with a new system from a different vendor. In the process they mismatched sensors with lineside equipment. The result was death and injury.

Please read the depositions. It reveals much more than most news reports say, with the possible exception of certain Washington Post articles.

about 2 months ago

Washington DC To Return To Automatic Metro Trains

kriston Re:What's wrong with American drivers? (179 comments)

Washington DC Metro and San Francisco BART are very similar systems and were designed from the outset for fully automatic operation. The platform position errors are learned by the system and corrected over time, and this calculation also measures the weight of each car.

The real challenge is that under crush loads the system tries to get a good idea how much braking force to apply with the extra weight of the passengers, but often gets the calculation wrong because even though the system "knows" how much each car weighs, people sway back and forth as the vehicles slow down and we undershoot the platform. So, what? The train pulls ahead (automatically). The operator just opens the doors.

I've never experienced a train overshoot a platform but I've had many trains undershoot. It's not a big problem, more of a curiosity.

about 2 months ago

Washington DC To Return To Automatic Metro Trains

kriston The automatic system was fine, not the upgrade (179 comments)

The automatic system was fine for nearly 40 years. The upgrade process killed nine people and injured 80 and caused a safe system that ran reliably for nearly 40 years to run in "manual" mode for five years because of a maintenance error.

Several depositions from railroad workers who were tasked with upgrading Metro's nearly 40-year-old system mentioned a real problem. The signals were "bobbing." This happened because the older signal system was being replaced with a different vendor's technology in two phases with catastrophic results.

In phase one, the lineside signal cabinet equipment was replaced but the original track sensors were left. In other cases, it was reversed: the track sensors were replaced but the lineside signal cabinet equipment was original. In both cases the vendor was different and not totally compatible.

Naturally, as we would expect, the two different vendors' equipment was not interfacing perfectly. This caused signal "bobbing," where track occupancy would "bob" from red to green repeatedly. Trains would vanish from the system. Phantom trains would appear in the system.

This massive oversight reported in the depositions wasn't really taken seriously in the press nor by the accident investigation. From this point of view, the system failed due to incompatible equipment made to interface in order to save money and service disruptions. They didn't interface properly, and people died as a result. Nobody seems to care about what appears to be the real problem: incompatible vendors made to interface to save time and money.

But we now have faster trains with shorter headways that sometimes fail to stop at the correct spot in stations, so we have that going for us. At least the lineside cabinet equipment and track sensors are now from the same vendor, eliminating the problem that killed those people and put hundreds of thousands of others at risk for a couple of years until that deadly day in 2009.

about 2 months ago

Hitachi Developing Reactor That Burns Nuclear Waste

kriston It's mostly a USA problem (200 comments)

It's mostly a United States problem that waste isn't reprocessed. This is now and has been done on an industrial scale in Europe and the U.K. for several decades. For some reason the United States, under the guise of non-proliferation, will not permit reprocessing of spent commercial nuclear reactor fuel.

The story in this article isn't news. Everyone knows how to reprocess spent fuel since before the 1960s. What would be actual "news" is the time at which the United States allows the well-proven, industrial-scale reprocessing to be applied to its own reactors.

Even Canada does it. The United States' nuclear energy policy is laughably stupid. It's a shame, really.

about 3 months ago

How Does Tesla Build a Supercharger Charging Site?

kriston Thirty minutes is ridiculous. Swap out the packs. (190 comments)

Thirty minutes is ridiculous. That is not "rapid" ANYTHING.

The only real solution is to streamline the process of swapping out battery packs, or, ideally, hydrogen fuel cells.

This is where hydrogen fuel cells really make sense. They are the ultimate battery pack. They are interchangeable modules. You stop at a filling station and replace your depleted fuel cell with a full one in fewer than five minutes.

I know Tesla has a battery pack replacement service, but it really needs to be affordable and streamlined and not require expensive robotics.

NOBODY wants to wait thirty minutes for "rapid recharge." The money spent on this infrastructure should, instead, be spent on optimizing the use of hydrogen fuel cells. They are the ultimate battery and they don't wear out.

about 3 months ago

Ask Slashdot: Datacenter HDD Wipe Policy?

kriston If it's not written policy, it isn't done (116 comments)

The rule of thumb here is:
If the process you are expecting is not written into your agreement or documented as a matter of company policy, then the process is not done.

Likely you're not using a data center certified under HIPAA, PCI, SOX, SSAE/SAS-70, otherwise it would be documented and you'd already know.

about 3 months ago



myOpenID to shut down in February

kriston kriston writes  |  about a year ago

kriston (7886) writes "This is an email sent to users this afternoon.


I wanted to reach out personally to let you know that we have made the decision to end of life the myOpenID service. myOpenID will be turned off on February 1, 2014.

In 2006 Janrain created myOpenID to fulfill our vision to make registration and login easier on the web for people. Since that time, social networks and email providers such as Facebook, Google, Twitter, LinkedIn and Yahoo! have embraced open identity standards. And now, billions of people who have created accounts with these services can use their identities to easily register and login to sites across the web in the way myOpenID was intended.

By 2009 it had become obvious that the vast majority of consumers would prefer to utilize an existing identity from a recognized provider rather than create their own myOpenID account. As a result, our business focus changed to address this desire, and we introduced social login technology. While the technology is slightly different from where we were in 2006, I’m confident that we are still delivering on our initial promise – that people should take control of their online identity and are empowered to carry those identities with them as they navigate the web.

For those of you who still actively use myOpenID, I can understand your disappointment to hear this news and apologize if this causes you any inconvenience. To reduce this inconvenience, we are delaying the end of life of the service until February 1, 2014 to give you time to begin using other identities on those sites where you use myOpenID today.

Speaking on behalf of Janrain, I truly appreciate your past support of myOpenID.


Larry Drebes, CEO, Janrain, Inc.

Link to Original Source

Will France quit nuclear?

kriston kriston writes  |  about a year and a half ago

kriston (7886) writes "Reuters is reporting that France is considering cutting back on nuclear power. France went so big on nuclear they are a net exporter of nuclear-generated electricity which has caused severe economic and logistical problems. That's part of the reason they are cutting back. Is the other premise of this article that considers a nuclear engineering career crisis somewhat overblown?"
Link to Original Source

Chumby Industries out of business

kriston kriston writes  |  more than 2 years ago

kriston writes "Chumby Industries informally announces via Facebook and their blog that they re out of business.

Duane has taken possession of remaining stock and is selling it off.

Very sad."

Link to Original Source

Microsoft invests $300 million in B&N Nook

kriston kriston writes  |  more than 2 years ago

kriston writes "CNNMoney is reporting that Microsoft has invested a 17.6% stake in Barnes & Noble's Nook business unit, valuing the e-book business at $1.7 billion which is twice the value of the entire Barnes & Noble company itself."
Link to Original Source

Amazon issues 9-day credit for AWS outage

kriston kriston writes  |  more than 3 years ago

kriston writes "Dear AWS Customer,

Starting at 12:47AM PDT on April 21st, there was a service disruption (for a period of a few hours up to a few days) for Amazon EC2 and Amazon RDS that primarily involved a subset of the Amazon Elastic Block Store (“EBS”) volumes in a single Availability Zone within our US East Region. You can read our detailed summary of the event here:

We’ve identified that you had an attached EBS volume or a running RDS database instance in the affected Availability Zone at the time of the disruption. Regardless of whether your resources and application were impacted, we are going to provide a 10 day credit (for the
period 4/18-4/27) equal to 100% of your usage of EBS Volumes, EC2 Instances and RDS database instances that were running in the affected Availability Zone. This credit will be automatically applied to your April bill, and you don’t need to do anything to receive it.
You can see your service credit by logging into your AWS Account Activity page after you receive your upcoming billing statement.

Last, but certainly not least, we want to apologize. We know how critical the services we provide are to our customers’ businesses and we will do everything we can to learn from this event and use it to drive improvement across our services.

The Amazon Web Services Team

This message was produced and distributed by Amazon Web Services, LLC, 410 Terry Avenue
North, Seattle, Washington 98109-5210"

Link to Original Source

Cherrypal mini-laptop now runs Android

kriston kriston writes  |  more than 4 years ago

kriston (7886) writes "The Cherrypal Asia laptop at is now shipping with Google Android installed. This replaces the older Cherrypal Asia mini laptops that were running Windows CE and Linux based. Both laptops run the ARM9-based VIA 8505 SoIC platform at 533 MHz with 256 megabytes of RAM and 2 gigabytes of NAND flash. The $148 version has a 1024x600 screen while the sub-$100 model runs 800x480. I'm looking forward to seeing how Android can squeeze more throughput out of the VIA 8505 since Windows CE didn't do such a great job on the original Cherrypal Asia."
Link to Original Source

Why do some devices refuse to charge via USB?

kriston kriston writes  |  about 5 years ago

kriston (7886) writes "I have lots of MP3 players, mobile phones, video devices, and game controllers. All of them can plug into USB sockets, but a curious few simply refuse to charge. The chief offenders are Motorola phones, Creative MP3 players, and most annoyingly, the Sony PlayStation 3 controllerss. Simply putting +5V at 500 mA on the port is not getting these things to charge. What is the magic secret ingredient these chargers have that make these USB devices start charging?"
Link to Original Source

What desktop search engine for a shared volume?

kriston kriston writes  |  more than 5 years ago

kriston (7886) writes "Searching data on a shared volume is tedious. If I try to use a Windows desktop search engine on a volume with hundreds of gigabytes the indexing process takes days and the search results are slow and unsatisfying. I'm thinking of an agent that runs on the server that regularly indexes and talks to the desktop machines running the search interface. How do you integrate your desktop search application with your remote file server without forcing each desktop to index the hundred gigabyte volume on its own?"

FCC approves satellite radio merger in 3-2 vote

kriston kriston writes  |  more than 6 years ago

kriston writes "FCC approves the Sirius takeover of XM Satellite Radio in a 3-2 vote Friday night. They won't be required to include HD Radio but they must pay $19 million in fines for repeater anomalies, set aside 8% of their channels for public interests and minorities, and maintain a price cap for three years. The final vote was from Deborah Taylor Tate and she cast it when the companies agreed to the fines."
Link to Original Source



Redux: Optimize performance of EC2 EBS volumes and Amazon WorkSpaces

kriston kriston writes  |  about 5 months ago

This is an update to my previous Journal article "Optimize performance of EC2 EBS volumes and Amazon WorkSpaces." Along with writing each unused sector, Amazon also recommends reading from each sector. To do this we can use the Windows version of the "dd" command available at

1) Find the name of your drive:
        wmic diskdrive get deviceid

2) Choose one. It will look something like \\.\PHYSICALDRIVE0.

3) Type this command carefully:
        dd if=\\.\PHYSICALDRIVE0 of=/dev/null bs=1M --progress --size

4) When completed, repeat step 3 on \\.\PHYSICALDRIVE1 and any other volume you have on your instance. For example, Amazon WorkSpaces will have a \\.\PHYSICALDRIVE0 for drive C: and \\.\PHYSICALDRIVE1 for drive D:.

These instructions are from this article:


Optimize performance of EC2 EBS volumes and Amazon WorkSpaces

kriston kriston writes  |  about 5 months ago

Amazon EC2 and Amazon WorkSpaces are very handy. Unfortunately, the first time you bring up any new instance the performance starts slow and improves over time. This is apparent when creating any new EC2 instance on EBS, when creating a new EBS volume from a snapshot. This includes creating an AMI and also copying volumes to other Availability Zones.

The culprit is Thin Provisioning. The EBS volume is only allocated physical space when it's needed. This is fine for Amazon but not so fine for your performance. There is an easy to to remove this millstone from around the system's neck but it will take some time and may cause network charges to do so. It's well worth it if you plan to use the system for regular work, and especially if you use Amazon WorkSpaces as one of your daily desktop environments.

My examples use the "dd" command in Cygwin or Linux. In Windows you can use Cygwin or search for the various dd.exe commands available on the internet.

On a brand-new Amazon WorkSpaces instance, see how much space is free on your "C:" and "D:" drives. On a regular EC2 instance, see how much free space is on all your drives (you will know this already). Write these values down.

Start a shell (or Cywgin shell as Administrator) and do the following. Note that if you're using dd.exe without Cygwin it's up to you to figure out what the "if" parameter would be.

dd if=/dev/zero of=./datafile-40gig.dat bs=10M count=4096
Check how much data is free:
df -kh .
Then repeat the "dd" command again with new values to fill the remaining data.

In this particular example my volume had a little over 40 gigabytes free so I'm creating a file of 40 gigabytes in size. The block size is kept at 10 megabytes. You can fine-tune this but in my experience nearly any values that add up to 40 gigabytes takes the same amount of time to complete.

Of course, when these complete, don't forget to delete the files.

That's it. You don't need to reboot. Thin provisioning has been defeated and you can enjoy better performance on your EC2 and Amazon WorkSpaces instances.

Note: In Windows you could theoretically create a new paging file of 40 gigabytes but I have not been able to prove that Windows actually writes 40 gigabytes to disk or just allocates the 40 gigabyte space as in-use. I suspect the latter, in which case it does nothing to improve performance.

This process can be used on any other storage architecture, virtual machine or not, that is configured to use Thin Provisioning. If you suspect shenanigans are happening in which the storage system knows you're just writing zeroes and defeats you, you can use /dev/random to counteract and force physical alocation. It will take far longer to write the data file, however.


Using Amazon WorkSpaces from Linux using rdesktop

kriston kriston writes  |  about 6 months ago

The Amazon WorkSpaces product is an interesting and affordable desktop-as-a-service from Amazon. For a flat, monthly rate, you get the equivalent performance of an m3.medium EC2 instance for far less cost but also with somewhat less configuration flexibility. The compelling feature of Amazon WorkSpaces is supposed to be close integration with your own Active Directory with Group Policies. For me, the more compelling feature is the high-performance, proprietary Teradici PCoIP protocol used for remote access instead of the traditional Microsoft Remote Desktop Connection protocol. The PCoIP protocol is much more efficient and faster than RDP but, unfortunately, the Amazon WorkSpaces client is not available for Linux or ChromeOS. With some work you can get access to your Amazon WorkSpace using the conventional Microsoft Remote Desktop Connection or even VNC.

Here is how you can use regular "rdesktop" on Linux and Macintosh, or Microsoft Remote Desktop Connection on Windows to connect to Amazon WorkSpaces. It won't be as fast or as nice as the Amazon WorkSpaces client but it works as acceptably as any RDP connection.

First, open your Amazon WorkSpace and ensure that Windows Firewall has opened TCP port 3389.

Then open a cmd prompt and type ipconfig. Essentially, you are finding out what private IP your WorkSpace is using. Write it down.

In the EC2 Console, poke around to find the public interface associated with that private IP address you wrote down and write down its public IP address.

Again, in your EC2 Console, find the Security Group associated with the public interface you found in the previous step.

Edit the Security Group associated with the public interface. Create a rule that allows TCP port 3389.

Now you can log in using "rdesktop" on Linux or Remote Desktop Connection on Windows. Just use the IP address for your WorkSpace that you found in your EC2 console. If you want to be more elegant, register your WorkSpace's public IP in DNS using Amazon Route 53 or

You're going to quickly find that Remote Desktop Connection isn't as fast or nearly as responsive as the official Amazon WorkSpaces client. This is because Amazon WorkSpaces uses Teradici PCoIP, a proprietary product specifically designed for high-performance remote desktops. This protocol is much more efficient and faster than Microsoft Remote Desktop "RDP" protocol, but with these steps you can still enjoy access to your Amazon WorkSpaces without being limited to using machines that can run the proprietary WorkSpaces client.


Installing Java for desktop use in /opt/java

kriston kriston writes  |  about 8 months ago

Putting symlink in /usr/lib64/mozilla/plugins for -> /opt/java/jre/lib/amd64/

Trying to run a Java app from, say,, the Java runtime might still refuse to work on the principal of "security reasons." Feh.

Run this as the normal (non-root) user: /opt/java/jre/bin/jcontrol
Click on "Security" tab and select "Medium" which allows the Java plugin to run unsigned Java apps with a prompt.

That is all.


Dell XPS 12 Ultrabook problems

kriston kriston writes  |  about 9 months ago

The Dell XPS 12 Ultrabook has a number of problems that require too much attention. Perhaps that's why I bought one new today for over $400 off list price. This Ultrabook has a 12.5" 1920x1080 screen, touch screen, Intel Core i5, 4 gigs of memory, 128 GB SSD, and has a nifty screen flipping feature so you can use it like a tablet.

Here are a few problems so far.

The keyboard is bad and the keys stick up unevenly. Normally this isn't a problem but the white LED backlighting points out to you which keys are jutting out. It's okay to type on but I prefer to flip it into tablet mode and plugging in a tenkeyless mechanical keyboard.

More importantly, the touch screen can stop working. What happens is the two I2C HID Devices under Human Interface Devices are disabled by Windows because it "detected a problem." This happens randomly but most often when coming back from sleep. I got used to the touch screen, especially in tablet mode, so I'm not sure I want this feature disabled. Simply doing 'Scan for hardware changes" in the "Action" window will re-enable them but they will eventually stop working again. So updating the BIOS should fix this. The BIOS update from Dell from A03 to A04 updates the BIOS, another Intel firmware (likely the touchpad's firmware since it's an Intel device), and a third firmware, and reboots. Following this, updating the touchpad drivers from Dell should do the trick and I will be watching this for success.

Finally, updating to Windows 8.1 complains that my user is not an Administrator. Well, this is, of course, incorrect. What I did to fix this is to remove the Windows Update 2871389 from the system, reboot (takes a long time), run Windows Update and install updates again, reboot (again takes a long time), and then go back to the App Store to download it again. Finally, now I'm waiting for over three gigabytes to download.

The screen is beautiful and it's too bad Dell and Intel didn't test this Ultrabook enough. They must have lost a ton of money on this model. My local store had around 25 new in stock at fire-sale clearance prices. You can't get a 12.5" 1920x1080 Ultrabook at anything near this price, let alone a Core i5 with 4 gigabytes of memory, 128 GB SSD, and a "carbon fiber" case, whatever that means. Just make sure you have the patience and problem-solving skills to work out the problems.

Windows Experience Index details (before Windows 8.1):
Processor 6.9
Memory 5.9 (bummer)
Graphics 5.7 (Flunky Intel graphics)
Gaming Graphics 6.5 (Flunky Intel graphics)
Disk 8.1 (Superb!!).

A great value for a new Ultrabook over $400 off the list price. Too bad for Dell's profits on this troublesome Ultrabook.


Why aren't Android binaries stripped for performance?

kriston kriston writes  |  more than 2 years ago

I was doing some reverse-engineering of my Nook Color with Cyanogenmod just to see where they store the data for Angry Birds. Most of the configuration stuff is in Lua, which is interesting, but I also noticed that the shared objects have copious help text and even documentation inside them which would never be seen by the end user. These are space-, memory-, and cpu-constrained devices. Why aren't these data stripped out?


Bootstrapping compilers

kriston kriston writes  |  more than 2 years ago

This evening I'm building OpenJDK 7 for FreeBSD and it requires me to install an older version of Java to build this version of Java. It reminds me of when we would use the Solaris compiler to build a nominal version of gcc and then use that gcc to build gcc again, and then use the built gcc to build the final gcc a third time.


Scanning documents and cleaning them up

kriston kriston writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Years ago I got into the habit of taking handwritten notes and scanning them into the computer. I then have a digital record and no paper lying around to get lost, stolen, or cluttered.

A problem has arisen with this recently. Late-model multi-function copiers like the Xerox ColorQube scan at such a high resolution and sensitivity that they capture not just the handwritten notes but the texture of the paper. This is extremely annoying because all I want is the writing, of course, and even the "Remove Background" feature of the Xerox ColorQube just doesn't.

So, for the time being, here is a cheap way to remove backgrounds. Load the scanned document into your favorite editor and reduce it to sixteen color palette.

For example, in Paint Shop Pro 4, my favorite for quick-and-dirty fixes, select Colors...Decrease Color Depth...16 Colors and select "Palette Windows'" then "Nearest color" and finally "OK." This magically removes the background noise and so far it has worked on nearly everything I scan.

Be sure you do this after scaling down your image. PSP 4 calls this "Resample" which, by the way, is the only correct way to resize an image in PSP 4.


Solving Google Earth's bad performance

kriston kriston writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Forget CentOS, who are taking too long with 6.x. Amazon AWS with Red Hat Linux 6.1 for $0.085/hour for t1.small is excellent and $0.02/hour for t1.micro is even more excellent for high-availability services.

For file backup services, the S3 reduced-redundancy storage for $0.093/GB is a steal, but make sure you convert your storage buckets to RRS. The Windows Home Server plugin does not set RRS so use an Amazon EC2 instance to run and quickly convert your bucket to RRS for big savings. The AWS console won't work on huge buckets, nor do the popular Windows-based S3 tools. This might cancel out some of the savings.


How to kick-start Windows 7 updates

kriston kriston writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Do you want to kick-start Windows 7 updates for a computer you've built or set up for someone else? This is what I do and it mitigates the threats to newly-installed machines. It installs certain libraries and other dependencies that trigger Windows Update to give you the latest and greatest. You can let the user do the Service Pack updates at a later time. In this situation we are bootstrapping the update process for most of the important libraries and software you care about without buying Microsoft Office and installing the most important updates before you leave the user to his own devices.

Download and install the following software in this order on another PC and put them on a USB drive.
Do not connect your new computer to the internet yet.
Run these installers in this order. Nothing should ask you to reboot, but if it does, let it reboot and continue with the next one.

Microsoft Word Viewer 2003 (the latest is Word 2003).
Microsoft Visio Viewer
Microsoft PowerPoint Viewer 2007
Microsoft PowerPoint Viewer 2007 SP1 Update
Microsoft Excel Viewer 2007
Microsoft File Format Converters
Microsoft DirectX Redist
Microsoft .NET 3.5 SP1 (Windows Vista and XP Only, x86 and x64 are in the same download)
Microsoft .NET 4.0 Full (x86 and x64 are in the same download)
Microsoft Security Essentials

Restart your computer.
Go to the Windows Update control panel, click "Check for updates," and then install all of the Required and Optional ones.
After you're done with all this, go to the Windows Update control panel and ask it to install "for all Microsoft products". This is somewhat more difficult to find.
Go to Windows Update and hit "Check for updates" again and install everything.

Note that Microsoft .NET 3.5 SP1 includes .NET 2.x and 1.x inside it. Windows 7 has 3.5 SP1 built in already. Windows Vista may or may not depending how old it is.


Cherrypal now runs Android

kriston kriston writes  |  more than 4 years ago

The Cherrypal Asia laptop at is now shipping with Google Android installed. This replaces the older Cherrypal Asia mini laptops that were running Windows CE and Linux based. Both laptops run the ARM9-based VIA 8505 SoIC platform at 533 MHz with 256 megabytes of RAM and 2 gigabytes of NAND flash. The $148 version has a 1024x600 screen while the sub-$100 model runs 800x480. I'm looking forward to seeing how Android can squeeze more throughput out of the VIA 8505 since Windows CE didn't do such a great job on the original Cherrypal Asia.


Review of ABS mechanical keyboard

kriston kriston writes  |  more than 4 years ago

[Reposted from Newegg because I'm proud of my review.]

Blurb: "Great feel and nice loud sound, but not a Model M clone"

Pros: Loud, ringing reverberation is just like keyboards of old PC clones not made by IBM (see Cons).
The keyboard is only a little larger than the keys take up. This is a major bonus if you like small keyboards but don't want to compromise on keys.
FULL SIZE caps lock key for Unix people who remap CTRL to caps lock. This is rather rare on any keyboard (and I am still searching for a Model M clone with full-sized caps lock either).
The keyboard is nice and heavy as nature intended, with amazing, grippy rubber feet (and really good rubber on the risers, too, also rare).
Stiff, solid, and a very tasteful matte black finish that isn't painted on (the plastic is black).

Cons: The case reverberates a bit with a ring. Your table may amplify or muffle it. I don't happen to care but you might.
This is not a Lexmark Model M keyboard clone and does not pretend to be. The reviewers who think this is a Model M are confusing this with another type of old-school "clicky" keyboard.

Other Thoughts: This type of keyboard is not the same as a Model M. The clicking noise comes from the keys landing, not from the (very faint) click in the key mechanisms themselves. However, the click happens at the moment of keystroke actuation which gives this a nice touch. I didn't feel any of the "halfway down" actuation some other reviewers claimed.

This keyboard is an excellent a clone of those "other" clicky keyboards that came with Compaq IBM PC clones in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I have about twenty real IBM/Lexmark Model M keyboards in various states of repair. Those boards click loudly as the key is struck and also when the key hits the back plate. This one only really clicks when it hits the back plate. If you had a PC clone in the late 1980s or early 1990s you know this feel. I think some people call it the "Cherry" feel.
It's not better or worse than the Lexmark Model M; it is just different.


Cherrypal Africa Windows review

kriston kriston writes  |  more than 4 years ago

The unit is a very small and light, slightly customized version of those $100 laptops that have been spreading across Asia for the past year or so. The model I ordered runs Windows CE 6.0 and a suite of custom installed programs like various media players and document viewers. The Youtube application does not work but the rest work fine. The machine is rather slow but it browses the web just fine. The word processor is also good. Some applications are formatted for Pocket PC (the menu bar is on the bottom instead of the top) but Windows CE users are used to this. A benchmark I ran says 200 MHz but I believe that speed is actually due to power management which is always adjusting the CPU speed based on your usage of the unit.

My unit came with some nasty glue that I had to clean off, presumably from stickers that were removed from the original manufacturer. The Cherrypal brand stickers are coming off, too.

I had to order this thing four different times. The credit card processor changed each time, too, but no money was stolen from me. The Cherrypal people say the delays and strange circumstances were due to hacking attempts but my own observations make me speculate that too many customers complained to the credit card ordering processor which caused Cherrypal's account to be terminated for undelivered goods. I persisted through four different ordering processors since December of 2009 and eventually got my unit in late March 2010.

When you order the Cherrypal Africa you are not guaranteed any particular processor type, memory, or screen size, just the minimum specs. This means that your processor can be ARM, MIPS, some x86 variant, or maybe even a PowerPC. Most people seem to have gotten what I have, which is a "VIA" ARM-VT8500 and I'm not really sure if that's the real "VIA" from Taiwan. It also has 128 meg of ram, WiFi, and 2 gigabytes of NAND flash.

In conclusion, I expected what I had received, which is an extremely basic laptop. One thing I didn't expect though was that the "Windows XP" spec was changed to just "Windows" when I had originally ordered it. If I had realized that it is Windows CE I would have ordered the Linux version instead.


Install Go-OO version of OpenOffice on Fedora

kriston kriston writes  |  more than 4 years ago

OpenOffice, the free desktop office application suite, is almost totally compatible with Microsoft Office. It does not support *.docx files and other proprietary (non-free) elements that are needed to share documents with users of Microsoft Office. Novell has solved this with their own version of OpenOffice but it is only for Windows and SuSE Linux. For Fedora users the Go-OO version can be used. Go-OO is the special version of OpenOffice with the non-free elements which Novell's version is also derived from. It should be noted that Fedora's version of OpenOffice is also Go-OO with the non-free portions stripped out.

The challenge is to replace the OpenOffice that cannot be removed from Fedora with this new, enhanced Go-OO version. It's not easy because OpenOffice is a core desktop application and Fedora forbids its removal without removing about 300 other packages that make up the desktop operating system. We're going to force an installation of Go-OO on my Fedora system, uninstall the "required" OpenOffice, and then force another installation of Go-OO on top of that to get things cleaned up.

Go to http:/ and read the documentation.

Run Go-OO's downloader script in its own directory:
        mkdir GO-OO ; cd GO-OO
        chmod a+rx ./ ./

Forcibly install everything it downloaded:
        sudo rpm --install --force *.rpm

Remove the original OpenOffice packages:
        sudo rpm --erase

Install Go-OO forcibly again:
        sudo rpm --install --force *.rpm

Now it's all set. I can read and write *.docx and *.xlsx files in Fedora. It's also much faster than Fedora's OpenOffice.


HP MediaSmart Windows Home Server update notes

kriston kriston writes  |  about 5 years ago

I'm not sure why, but we bought another HP MediaSmart Windows Home Server with the intention of gifting the old one to someone else. This version is really different. Not only is the server two gigabytes of memory and uses a 64-bit CeLeron processor, it also has a large number of features that were not present in the refurbished Sempron 512-megabyte HP MediaSmart server. I'm not really sure why but this newer model has Amazon S3 backup service and a huge number of new features that aren't present on the Sempron-based version. We updated the server software on both models but only the Intel CeLeron model has the new features.

If you're going to try out Windows Home Server to automatically and effortlessly backup your Windows machines, get a non-refurbished Intel-based HP MediaSmart server. All of these new features are in the HP MediaSmart software and not WHS itself. I'm not sure why HP did this but it's eye-opening.

I'm going to try to install the Amazon S3 and other software add-ins to our older, refurbished model by doing a "factory restore" from the Server Recovery Disc that came with the non-refurbished model and see if these awesome features get installed on the older server.

Very interesting difference. It might be that the newer one has two gigabytes of memory and the other one only has 512 megabytes. It's possible the features are dependent on the memory specifications of the server, but I doubt it.


Windows Home Server the Sleeper Killer App

kriston kriston writes  |  about 5 years ago

Windows Home Server has a really neat feature. Install the Windows Home Server Connector and configure it to back up your computer. In a day or so take the hard drive out of the computer and throw it into a lake. Get a new blank hard drive. Boot the computer from the Windows Home Server PC Recover disc. YOUR COMPUTER COMES BACK.

This is the killer sleeper Windows app of the new century!!


Flashblock getting fooled

kriston kriston writes  |  more than 5 years ago

The Mozilla Flashblock plugin is getting fooled by advertisements on some sites like which use a countermeasure (seems to be iframe abuse). Installation of version 1.5.11a2 from the special link solves the problem for now.


Why Cox Cable's video service is stupid

kriston kriston writes  |  more than 5 years ago

Here's the stupid thing about Cox Cable Television in the Northern VA area.

Technicians are going crazy yanking old cable off the telephone poles to install multi-wavelength fiber and switched-video-compatible boxes because they ran out of bandwidth to compete with all the HD channels that the other services, like FiOS and satellite, offer.

The stupid thing is that FiOS has the same 1 gigahertz video capacity that cable does (not including Video-on-Demand which is served by Internet on FiOS and through hidden video channels by Cox). Likewise, FiOS has twice the SD channels and HD channels without the need for switched-video to solve a perceived bandwidth problem.

This doesn't make sense. I did some digging. For now I still use cable internet so I scanned the Cox Cable signal on my HDTV and found out that nearly all of Cox Cable's SD channels are still analog. This means that most of Cox Cable's 1 gigahertz of bandwidth is consumed by analog channels at 6 MHz per channel, even though you can fit more than 10 digital channels in one analog channel if they were to use digital instead.

Why is Cox Cable spending so much money installing switched-video if all this bandwidth is available?
Why isn't Cox Cable using digital for their SD channels?

Apparently the bandwidth required for Video-on-Demand is the business reason for the switched-video upgrade, but switched-video is not just for VoD. It is also used on non-VoD channels because of a system-wide bandwidth shortage on Cox Cable. This means if nobody in a neighborhood watches Food Network HD, it gets turned off until someone tunes it in again.

The cause of the problem is that Cox Cable is still using 6-MHz-per-channel analog for most SD channels.


Godwin's Law for Software Engineering

kriston kriston writes  |  more than 6 years ago

In professional Software Engineering circles we debate topics with real-world applications.
Sometimes, the debate must be aborted when a participant quotes one of the following so-called pundits. Most of them are academics or failed dot-com company founders.
The key point here is that "professional Software Engineers," referring to people who make a living actually accomplishing real work on real systems.

Here is the list of Godwin's Law violations.
Quoting them makes you forfeit your side of the debate:

Joel "On Software" Spolski
Daniel "I always wear black" Bernstein
Randal "I hacked into Intel and all I got was this felony conviction" Schwartz

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