Archive for category Geek Stuff

Good Review of the Upcoming Fedora Core 5

Fedora LogoAs many of my close friends know, I’m big into Fedora’s Linux distribution. It’s my distro of choice and I religiously update my ‘Cores’ as the lastest one comes out. I’ve been looking forward to the new Fedora Core 5 release and was interested in reading a good review, since I still have not had a chance to install it on a spare box. This review is both comprehensive and very well written:

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The Xen Virtual Machine Monitor

The Xen Virtual Machine MonitorIf you’re familiar with what VMWare does (the creation of smaller virtual machines running concurrently on the same computer), then you’ll want to take a serious look at the latest release of the Xen Virtual Machine Monitor. What exactly is Xen, you ask?

Xen is a virtual machine monitor (VMM) for x86-compatible computers. Xen can securely execute multiple virtual machines, each running its own OS, on a single physical system with close-to-native performance.

If you have a few minutes, check out the project’s website and give Xen a try whenever you need to setup any sort of Virtual Machine, either for testing purposes or for some debugging.

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Need to rebuild your computer? Have all your keys?

Encryption KeysI was chatting with a friend this morning when he mentioned to me that he spent part of his weekend rebuilding one of his home computers. He indicated that he was reluctant doing some of the cleanup work because he wasn’t sure where he had packed all his legally purchased software keys; he moved to a new home a couple weeks ago and he has boxes scattered all over the place. I immediately brought up a little tool I have used in the past that has more than once get me out of such a bind. Take a look at the Magical Jelly Bean Keyfinder. Make sure you pickup the Beta version, since the stable version is a little outdated and will not detect keys for Office 2003.

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Dual-LCD Monitors

DELL UltraSharp 2005FPW 20.1-inch Wide Aspect Flat Panel LCD MonitorI've been using an LCD monitor at home for about 4-5 years now, ever since my old CRT monitor started acting up and began being sensitive to anything electrical being turned on in the house. Recently, my wife and I decided to transform our seldom-used dining room into a full office; lots of Ikea office furniture and accessories later, I was able to double my deskspace as well as have a place to be a geek on the same floor where we spend most of our time as a family. Of course, all that extra deskspace was the perfect opportunity to purchase a new LCD monitor. A great sale and some online coupons later, I was the new owner of a fantastic DELL UltraSharp 2005FPW 20.1-inch Wide Aspect Flat Panel LCD Monitor. This morning, as I was sitting in front of my computer, it hit me; I have a perfectly good 18.1" LCD monitor just sitting upstairs in my old office gathering dust! I cleared a little bit of space to the right of my Dell LCD and brought the critter down. I use a dual-monitor setup everyday at work, using my laptop screen and a large external CRT monitor. It's a great productivity booster for me, since I can have my Instant Messenger and email clients on my extra screen, while my main desktop holds the applications I currently need to complete whatever job is at hand. A dual-monitor setup is simply incredible if you have the opportunity to set one up for yourself. The use of LCD's is even better, since the power consumption of the two monitors combined is still under what my old CRT beast used to suck out of the power-outlet. Not to mention the negligible heat produced… UPDATE: My new monitor setup meant that a change to my online status page also had to be made. Also, since I was moving the monitor down, I decided to finally move the old webcam down also, so the home-office webcam is also back up and online. Enjoy!

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Firefox Extensions for Web Designers

Get Firefox!If you’re a Mozilla Firefox user and do any kind of Web Design, then the folks at have a list of 5 Firefox extensions that you should drop into your everyday toolbox. While I mostly agree with the list, I would definitely add the X-Ray Firefox extension to the list; The X-Ray extension let’s you see the tags on a page without viewing the sourcecode.

Top 5 Firefox Extensions for Web Designers
X-Ray Extension for Firefox

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RSSOwl – Platform Independent Standalone RSS Reader

My RSS reader of choice is currently Bloglines; it meets all my needs, is always accessible from any computer/browser I’m using at any point in time, and all the RSS data and fetching processes is conducted by the Bloglines servers. Whenever I can avoid installing another client on any of my computers is a blessing.
Now, if I needed to install an RSS reader, RSSOwl ( is definitely the client I would use. First off, it’s Open Source and as such is freely available. It’s available for many system architectures I use, such as Linux, Mac OSX, Windows and Solaris, with an emphasis to keep the same look and feel across all of these. The one negative point I have is that being a Java application, it depends on having a properly installed working copy of the Java Runtime Environment (JRE) on the computer you intend to install it on.
RSSOwl has a long list of features:

  • Import your favorite newsfeeds using the OPML format.
  • Bookmark your favorite newsfeeds in nested categories.
  • Import Blogrolls into RSSOwl.
  • Built-in internal browser to read news that contain HTML.
  • Export the content into one of the formats PDF, RTF or HTML.
  • Choose between a 2-column and a 3-column layout.
  • A lot of search-options make RSSOwl a powerful application to search inside a newsfeed or an entire category.
  • The integrated newsfeed-search engine allows to search for newsfeeds by keyword.
  • Simply enter the website containing links to newsfeeds into the feed-discovery and RSSOwl will show all the newsfeeds it has found.
  • Place RSSOwl into the system tray on minimization.
  • RSSOwl is highly customizable. “Preferences” allow to change fonts, languages, colors, hotkeys and a lot more.

All in all, RSSOwl is the feature-rich reader that will definitely become my stand-alone reader of choice, when the need/time for such a thing comes around in my case. Until then, I remain faithful to Bloglines.

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Tivo Now Offers its Own Wireless Adapter

Tivo LogoThis week, Tivo has silently released its own branded wireless adapter for Series 2 Tivo units. The adapter features 802.11b and 802.11g access, as well as some circuitry that offers “Optimized wireless performance with your TiVo® Series2â„¢ DVR“. Essentially, from what I read and understand, the new adapter is able to take over some of the duties which are normally done on the Tivo unit itself, thus reducing the load on your Tivo and increasing throughput on the wireless side. A good discussion on the new adapter can be found at

The adapter is currently available directly from Tivo and sells for $49.99.

UPDATE: The first review of this adapter is out and shows a performance increase of 60%!

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Face Transformations

Another great link from my good friend Dan, who seems to have way too much time on his hands to be able to find cool sites such as this one…
The St Andrew’s Face Morpher is a site which enables you to upload a shot of your face (or anyone else), set a few data points, such as the location of eyes and mouth, and transform the face into over a dozen different styles. The Java applet works amazingly well, producing some of the funniest, and in some cases almost eerily accurate, transformations of one’s face that you’ll be able to find anywhere… Definitely worth a look.

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Promising New Webmail Application

Just noticed this new webmail application called Hula. Here’s a excerpt from their project site:

Hula is a calendar and mail server whose goal is to be fun and easy to use, while scaling effortlessly from small groups to large organizations with thousands of members.
Hula is an open source project led by Novell

I’ve been using Squirrelmail for years now whenever I had the need to install any type of Webmail functionality. It has great features, it’s proven, and it’s actively maintained. The interface/GUI on the other hand has always seemed unsexy to me though. Hula actually looks very nice. It also seems to have some calendaring features as well as an integrated address book. While I haven’t installed it or even used it, it does look promising as an alternative to Squirrelmail…

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The CSS Cheat Sheet

Came across this CSS Cheat Sheet ( tonight while looking up some information to edit my stylesheets. I know my friend Scott will be VERY interested in this, unless he turns around at work and says “Time Machine!”, our code-word for situations when one of us already knew about the information in question.

This site also has a few other Cheat Sheets for web developers, such as a MySQL Cheat Sheet, a PHP Cheat Sheet, an RGB Hex Color Chart, and a personal favorite of mine, the mod_rewrite Cheat Sheet.

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Access Websites Without Registering

Google LogoEver run a search on Google for some information you were interested in, only to find that after you click on a result you are taken to a site which required registration in order to access the full article? I sure did, on many occasions. Ever wonder how Google was able to index something that can only be accessed by registered users? That thought occurred to me on my ride home today as I was listening to some podcasts. I do some of my best thinking while driving and listening to something totally unrelated to the problem I’m trying to solve. And that’s when it struck me…

There’s no way that the Google bot happened to have ‘registered’ an account on some of these sites and thus had access. Even if it did, the bot just follows links, albeit in an intelligent manner. So, it had to be something else. And that’s when it hit me; the Google bot has a unique browser ‘User Agent’. When one of these sites sees that Google is spidering their pages, they just give it free reign to all their content. After all, it’s important to get as much of their content indexed, and as such, get more people directed to their website from search results. When you and I go to the same site, our browser transmits a User Agent header indicating if we’re using Firefox or IE or another browser.

I decided to test my theory tonight. I fired up my Firefox browser and grabbed an extension which would enable me to customize my User Agent value. I downloaded the “User Agent Switcher” Firefox extension, set my User Agent to “GoogleBot/2.1” (no quotes) and I was ready to go. I needed to find a site that was indexed by Google, but that needed ‘registration’ to be able to view its content. Take the following URL for example:
Try going to it without modifying your User Agent and you’ll notice you need to be a subscriber to have access to more than 2 paragraphs of the full article. Now, modify your User Agent and Presto! You have access to the full article!

While this won’t work with some of the larger sites like the New York Times or Washington Post, it does work with some of the smaller sites which rely more heavily on Google to route some traffic to their site. For now, anytime I hit a site which requires me to register before I can view the full article, I’ll switch my User Agent just in case. I have a strange suspicion this might work on many, many sites…

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Star Wars Episode 4 – in ASCII!

I’m not sure exactly what to think about this; is this an incredible feat of programming patience, or the creation of a developer with absolutely no social life? See for yourself; fire up a command line in either Linux, Mac OS X, Windows, or whatever you love to use. Type the following:


Enjoy the show!

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