Archive for May, 2008

Graphics Comparison: Xbox 360 vs PS3

I found this recent article on Gamespot to be quite interesting.

You can read the article for yourself, but I was surprised to see that the Xbox 360 came away the “winner”, if there was one.  The X360 is certainly more ‘mature’ at this point, but the PS3 has a year under its belt now.  It should be relatively dialed in.  I would expect that the PS3 graphics will only get better — as the X360 has — but I would’ve expected leaps and bounds better even at this point, given the cell processor setup that the PS3 uses.  I’m also surprised to see that the PS3 appears fairly washed out and blurry (too much anti-aliasing?) in most of the screenshots. 

Lastly, the biggest issue, perhaps, is that the PS3 gets dinged for running less smoothly than the X360.  Again… a surprise to me.




Seen on a bumper sticker today….

Liberalism is a curable disease

Now that is funny!

</political satire>


Pet Peeve: Voice-Activated Phone System Menus

It’s the wave of the future: hands-free operation of everything, everywhere.  We tell computers what to do and they do it.  Have you even seen any of the Star Trek movies?  Scotty (James Doohan) has been doing this for years.

Well, folks — the future is here, now.

Voice-activated phone system menus — a.k.a “Interactive Voice Response” systems — have been frustrating helping us for years.  It’s more and more common these days to call your favorite business and be presented with voice prompts that say things like “For English, say ‘English'” and so on.  I understand that some customers may *require* this type of setup, but for the rest of us it’s just plain irritating.  Honestly, I would probably prefer a system that gets you to a person *immediately*, you present your request, and they transfer you directly to the queue you need to be in.  Instead, I have to say things like “tech support”, “billing”, “no”, “yes”, or “operator” into the phone — and usually more than once, since the system won’t always pick up on what I’m saying.  Better yet, be prepared for *serious frustration* if you have any sort of background noise!  I’ve had some aggravating and embarassing times trying to navigate a voice-menu while at work, since my co-workers can usually hear me trying to speak loudly enough to be recognized, but not so loudly that I’m being obnoxious.  Repeating “tech support” over and over is especially amusing.

Good times.

What I really fear, however, is the future of these voice-activated menus.  Will my doctor’s office have them too?  Hmmm.  What might THAT look like?…

  • CLINIC: “Thank you for calling the <Your City Here> Family Clinic.  For emergencies, please hang up and dial 9-1-1.  To schedule an appointment, please say ‘Appointment’.”
  • CALLER: “Appointment.”
  • CLINIC:  “I’m sorry.  We didn’t hear you.  To schedule an appointment…”
  • CLINIC: “You’ve reached our Appointment Scheduling line.  Please state the nature of your medical need.”
  • CALLER: Ahem. <whispers> “Herpes.”
  • CLINIC: “I’m sorry.  We didn’t hear you.  Please state…”
  • CALLER: “Herpes.”
  • CLINIC: “Did you say ‘herpes’?  If so, please say ‘yes’.”
  • CALLER: “Yes”.
  • CLINIC: “Thank you.  Please state the type of herpes that you are calling about.”
  • CALLER: <click>

Honestly.  The good, old “press 1 for billing, press 2 for support…” menus are just fine with me.  Would someone please tell Verizon that?

Getting to know you, IIS 7.0

So… I’m finally getting around to installing and *using* some Windows 2008 servers around our office.  I like Windows 2008 so far.  It installs nicely, looks good, performs well, and appears to be very secure.   Not that previous versions of Windows Server were bad or anything.  In fact, the web server that I’ve just replaced was loaded with Windows 2000 Server “Standard” and was, at one point, up and running for nearly 3 years without a reboot!  That’s impressive, if you ask me.  Why replace the server then?  Well… eventually a dual P3-500mhz server starts feeling a bit sluggish 🙂

That said, I’ve just installed a Dell PowerEdge 1950 1U rack server with dual quad-core CPUs and 8 gigs of RAM.  It’s impressive today, but will be roughly the specs of my cell phone in a few years.  That’s technology for you.  Anyhow, a new box deserves a new OS.  Windows 2008 Web Server (64-bit) was installed, and that task went swimmingly.  The “web server” role in IIS 7.0 is a default for a “Web Server” OS, naturally, so that was taken care of.  Otherwise, IIS 7.0 is a different beast from its predecessors.  Very different.

In migrating to our new web server, I had forgotten to implement an “http redirect” off of one of our websites.  Basically, folks browsing to the old URL of should be taken to instead.  I’ve been doing this for years, and it’s always been an easy task in IIS 5.0 and 6.0.  It should be just-as-simple in IIS 7.0, right?  Well, yes and no.  Basically, I couldn’t find it anywhere.  I searched online, browsed some blogs, and even (*gasp*) checked the help files.  They mentioned this awesome “HTTP Redirection” module, but it was nowhere to be found.

Finally, I decided to check the Add/Remove Roles portion of Windows 2008.  This is a setup first introduced in Windows 2003 and has carried forward.  It’s a good thing, actually, because it means that Windows Server installs relatively cleanly, and doesn’t include server functions that you never intend to use.  It’s also more secure, since items like POP3 access or an FTP server aren’t installed and running upon OS install, thus less to exploit.

What do you imagine I found?  Right there in the “Web Server” role — installed by default, if you remember — is the much-discussed “HTTP Redirection” feature.  Evidently that particular feature is NOT part of the default configuration.  Perhaps the help files could’ve mentioned that?  How about under the “HTTP Redirection” heading it says something like “Optional Install” so that I have something to go on?  Am I asking too much?  Perhaps.  Regardless, after checking the box and hitting “Install”, that feature was installed and ready for me to use.  It works just fine.

Live and learn.

“FakeTV” light is pure genius

File under: Why didn’t I think of that?

For those of us who have “lights on timers”, we usually take some solace in knowing/thinking that some burglary is *potentially* disuaded by our clever setup.  No burglar would ever guess that a house where the living room light comes on at 6:04PM every evening, and is off again at 10:31PM is actually empty!!!  It’s iron clad.

In case you have some doubts, however, you might consider the FakeTV device.  This little sucker emulates someone watching TV in a room, but without the “someone”.  The blue glow, changing color, slight flicker, etc. — it’s all there!  And at $49 or so, it won’t break the bank!

Bring on dem burglars.

FYI: I dig cars

Over the past few years, I’ve become more and more infatuated with cars.  Automobiles in general, really, but cars specifically.  I also seem to enjoy the quirky vehicles.  The ones you don’t see that often, but you retain a soft-spot in your heart for ’em.  For instance, my last vehicle — a 1978 Jeep Cherokee Chief — was definitely a head-turner, but the gas mileage was eventually too much for me to stomach.  The *very best* I ever achieved was 11mpg, and I was stoked!  My current vehicle, then, is a complete departure from the last one.  Now I drive a 1992 Saab 900 Turbo, and I definitely dig it.  It’s a conversation starter.  You feel as if you’re part of an exclusive “Saab club”.  The gas mileage is pretty darn good — especially for a turbo.  Also, it can hold a LOT of stuff in that hatch area.  In fact, just yesterday I piled in two very large rack servers, 3 cardboard boxes, and a fairly good-sized hand truck — and I didn’t even put the seats down!  Impressive.

None of that really has much to do with this post, of course, but it gives some back story as to why I’d want to check out the book ‘Lemon! Sixty Heroic Automotive Failures‘.  It’s chock full of the wackiness and rollercoaster ride that is the automotive industry over the past century.

Anyhoooo, my personal favorite thus far is the Subaru 360.  Observe…

This little dynamo packed some mean features when first released in 1958.  For instance:

  • 356cc engine (my last motorcycle had twice the engine size)
  • 16 horsepower
  • Suicide doors (they open backward)
  • 117 inches in length (current Mini Coopers are 142″ long)
  • 900lb. curb weight (slightly more than 1/3 the weight of a modern Mini Cooper)
  • Approx. 66mpg

The best quote from the book was regarding the Car & Driver track test where the Subaru 360 performed the 0 – 50mph test in 36 seconds.  They were aiming for 0 – 60mph, but the car wouldn’t make it.

Classic stuff.

Watch out for KungPuFanda!

So…my son and I started playing a little “Rock Band” on the ol’ Xbox 360 this weekend. He’s been wanting it for ages — for the drums, of course — and thankfully our friends were nice enough to allow us to borrow theirs. Thanks, Frogchildren (and fam)!

Anyhow, after mispronouncing an upcoming movie title when the commercial popped up on the TV, well… our band name was discovered:  KungPuFanda.

Fear us.

For the heartless among us…

So, I took my loose coins to a Coinstar machine this morning.  Does everyone else have these around?  I think so.

Anyhow, I typically take my coins to a Coinstar machine so that I can get “MONEY”.  You know… MONEY?  I’m not filling up my Starbucks card, Best Buy card, or anything else.  Ahhh… but there’s another option: I can “donate” my change to charity.  That selection looks something like this on the Coinstar machine:

See that happy little “heart” in the graphic?  That’s the subtle dig at your conscience.  “People with a heart give their change to charity”, the rest of us suffer horrible, selfish lives as we hoard our change like modern day Scrooges.  Perhaps the “I’m-not-giving-my-money-to-charity” option ought to look this this?

I’m going to suggest it to Coinstar.

By the way, I got $15.94 from my change jar today.  I ate at Subway for lunch.  Mmmm.

Lyrics o’ the day

One of my very favorite bands (ever, Ever, EVER!) is Over the Rhine.  Incredible music, beautiful vocals, and haunting lyrics.  It’s strange to think that I’ve been listening to this band *actively* for 15 years now!

Anyhow, I wanted to post a selection of their lyrics that I love.  It was difficult to choose any one song, to be honest, because they have so many great selections.  That said, this song showcases how even early on (circa 1994) they could paint pictures with words…

Within Without“, from the album Eve

is it because I cannot see you
that you feel so free to steal
my excess baggage full of darkness and despair
while I fumble with my locks
you’re content to stand and knock
yet I know your knack for thievery is rare

do you know they call it arson
setting fires without permission
in my heart for sure and maybe elsewhere too
though your lack of inhibition
captures my imagination
I end up a wiser person thanks to you

it’s coming to fruition
the sympathetic vibration
your train is at my station
within without

then there is your flare for murder
there’s a dagger in the border
of your cloak and I suspect a captain’s gun
as you put to death suspicions
kindly kill my fears as well
exorcise and slay the demons one by one

though I’m usually pacifistic
you are mercifully sadistic
and I didn’t know that murder could be good
but the roses came crimson
springing from the prison
of the floorboards where there once were stains of blood

it’s coming to fruition
the sympathetic vibration
your train is at my station
within without
it’s calming my suspicion
with soothing intuition
your train is at my station
within without

If you’ve never listened to Over the Rhine, you are truly missing some incredible music.  Go check ’em out right now, then get back to me!  Some of my *personal* favorite albums of theirs are… Eve, Ohio, and Drunkard’s Prayer.

Mmmm. Chocodile.


A kind co-worker of mine (thanks, Chris!) brought me a Hostess “Chocodile” today.  Ever heard of one?  They have a bit of a Bigfoot / Loch Ness Monster reputation in my book, since they’re difficult to spot.  Anyhow, I guess I joke about them enough that upon finding one my co-worker decided to pick it up for me.

Boy, am I glad he did.

The front of the very bland packaging reads: Chocolate Glazed Sponge Cake with Creamy Filling.  It’s a Twinkie with chocolate coating, and it tastes about as good as you’d expect.  Interestingly enough, the packaging has a “Last Sale Date” — thus nullifying the theory that all Hostess products have a half-life.  I’m sure that the Chocodile would’ve tasted just a good a year from now.

For those of you thinking that the “Garth Brooks Chocodile Diet” might be in order, well…the stats aren’t very positive.  A single “cake” offers 230 calories, 11g of total fat (8g saturated), 220mg of sodium, 36g of carbos, and 27g of sugar.  But when something tastes this good, you overlook the dirty details.

You know what?  I could probably go another 10 years before needing to taste the Chocodile again.

It’s THAT good.