Radio W4KAZ

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New BlogBox

Surfing over to the Dell Outlet last week resulted in a moment of weakness.  There were several bargain buys on Inspiron 537’s, 545’s, and 546’s.  I settled on a nice Inspiron 545s, boasting 4gig of ram, 64 bit install of Windows 7, and a Dual Core Intel CPU.  No extra “flufware” was installed on the system by the folks in Austin.  The 545s is a low profile slimline system, so there not much room to add junk into it later, but at the Outlet price it solved an itch that has been begging to be scratched for a couple of years.

New Hotness.

After almost 10 years, the old Dimension 4300 is really dragging on normal day-to-day usages.  So it is well past time where it should be put to pasture.  It runs Ubuntu Linux well enough, but I have a lot of windows applications I use frequently, so XP has been king.  The 4300 has a 1.6Ghz P4, but it is memory constrained at 512Mb max.  PC133 memory(its that old).  XP runs a lot of things well enough despite the system constraints, but is hard pressed to run the modern antivirus/firewall packages and be able to run a modern internet browser with all of todays’ superfluous and gratuitous  visual content.  Bloated OS, bloated security, bloated browsers, bloated web content.  Itty bitty memory.  Not conducive to a good user experience.

Old-n Busted.

So the Dimension 4300 is going to be a great file server, Linux experimentation platform, and all around backup contest logging box. Just in case the really old and busted CPU in the shack croaks…

It is hardly a shock to find that the New Hotness is pretty damn nice.  Everything is relative.  Windows 7 is taking some mental adjustments.  Ten years of XP have worn big habitual ruts in the gray matter.  But there are a few nice surprises under the hood of Win7. Anybody using/administrating Windows 7 should goog up “GodMode”, a nifty but undocumented control panel quick-list.  The MS-geeks should have made it a documented feature.  Also, the whole system is just blazing fast in comparison to the old.  The on-board graphics are quite sharp, and seem fast enough for daily use.  Probably not a video gamer’s box, but certainly fine for general usage.  Ten years from now – who knows?

One quirk that took a moment to adjust to was finding the directory being used for storing program data.  Many XP applications defaulted to storing program data in the program’s directory.  Under Win7, the application’s program directory is protected.  To get around that, data files used by an older application are shunted into a directory under the current user. A bit of head scratching and cussing later, the location of that directory was found to be defined by the environment variable “appdata”.  After a bit more head scratching it became clear the “appdata” folder was indeed under the user account, but it is a hidden directory.  To get to it directly you can hit ‘Start’ and type %appdata% into the run/search box.  Or you can just enable the file explorer to see hidden files.

Grrrr.  Not sure why it ever made sense to RedmondGeeks to hide the application data……

So far I’ve only run into a couple of minor problems installing software on the 64 bit OS.  I decided to define a separate admin account, and set up user accounts for everybody as users without admin privileges.  General applications can be installed by running the install as an administrator.  This worked well for most applications.  Two glaring exceptions to that generalization: Security software, and Google’s browser.  The security software is understandable – that is best installed by the administrator directly.  But there’s no legit reason Google’s browser should be such a pain in the ass.

And pain in the ass it is.  Running the install of Goggle’s browser as a user with “run as administrator” resulted in no visible installation.  The install program runs, then ends without any messages/ warnings/ errors.  Backing off on that, the install was run directly from the admin account.  In that instance the install succeeds – almost.  After that installation, the browser was available under the administrators log-in, but not to any users.  The install did not offer an option to choose users.  Somewhat less than satisfactory.

So for the moment, Google has been kicked from the New Hotness.  Banished.  Shunned. Deposed. Rejected.

What with IE/Firefox/Opera/Safari all working properly, its not like there are no options.  On the browser front, it has been nice to be able to get back to using Firefox regularly.  Firefox had become really bloated since  I first used it – it is a real performance pig on the old-n-busted 4300.  Having adopted Firefox early on, it was really disappointing to see it become fatter and slower than IE. Over the last 18 months Opera has been the preferred browser.  Opera has been an off-and-on affair over the years, since it has in many cases been the most innovative of the browsers.  In previous incarnations rendering of web pages was not always as reliable as the others, but it has always been the fastest of the group. Since the more recent editions of v9.xx and now v10, it is both fast and consistent.

The Firefox performance issues on a low resource system seem to be a script related problem, although the sites with a ton of images are always slow too.  All of that probably relates to the memory constraints, system paging, thrashing, and the intrusive nature of modern antivirus applications.  Running without the AV software speeds it up in some cases, but the hardware limitation is a bigger problem.  The 4300 box at idle uses almost half the available memory in that system.  The New Hotness zips right along.  Sweet.

The New Hotness can support up to 8gig of ram.  I expect to stuff it to the limit to allow room for tinkering with virtualization(VirtualPC, Sun’s VirtualBox, etc.), and maybe a bit of low end graphics card upgrade, if a decent low profile card is available at a bargain price.

Set for another decade – maybe.

New Blog Theme

After a few weeks of off-and-on dorking around with themes for the Cape Lookout Expeditions website, I think I finally found one I really like.  So its going to turn up here soon too. 

Right now the hold-ups are desired customizations to the theme.  Unless I find a widget closer to what I’d like to see, getting the sidebars to display links ordered the way I’d like them is problematic. 

I like the expedition photo banners, but there are a lot of shots I can add from around the KazShack.

Fun with MySQL and WordPress

Spent a few hours tugging with the WordPress database.  It seemed like a good time to move the database into a more recent version of MySQL.

It should have been pretty easy.  Create the new  table space, define, and load the tables.  Tell WP where to look for the data base, and done. A snap, right?

Not so fast SQL-breath! All of the data appeared to load properly, and WP came up as it should.  The problem was some junk data interspersed within the text of most every post.

Here was the tricky part.  I generally use Notepad++ for general plain test editing. It is a really nice programmer’s text editor.   But it wasn’t displaying the junk characters embedded within the text. Grrrrr.

But Notepad++ can also convert the text files code type from ASCII to UTF, etc, etc.   From one platform to another, sometimes “plain text” turns out to be not so plain.  But by using the various different text encoding formats, I was finally able to display the junk data. And get rid of it.

After that, everything looks pretty good now.  Also settled on the google translation widget.  Folks seemed to use it more often, and I’ve been told it gives the more useful translations.

Web Cheat Sheets

A nice compilation of links to handy cheat sheets.

Public Statement re the “Fi-Ni Report”

At this time I would like to make a public statement acknowledging the fact that I am in no way connected to the publication of the Lost Island DX Society, the “Fi-Ni Report”, nor any of its paraphernalia dispensing outlets. I reap no monetary benefits from the sale, promotion, nor dispensing of any of the materials related to either the Lost Island DX Society, nor from Dr. DX’s product sales.

I just don’t know how that unfortunate rumor could have been instigated.

I do admit to being acquainted with both Dr. DX and Macho Cueso, and more closely with Leche Dinero, but these casual acquaintances are the limit of my contact with the formal publications of the LIDS group.

Also, the actual geographic location of Lost Island and Jumbawunba Land are confidential and closely guarded by the LID Society. Due to the nature of my confidentiality agreement I am not at liberty to disclose any information regarding any information regarding LIDS that is not previously published by their official outlet, the Fi Ni Report.

Society membership is strictly controlled personally by Big Gun DXer. Please take up all such inquiries with him. I’m sure his QRZ info is kept current.


Retrograde Browser Progress

A bit of divergence into the realm of Internet browsers.

I have been moving from browser to browser, since the days before the internet and their initial introduction. I have maintained my ground-floor AOL account(1992?) for email continuity, because it has been disseminated so far and wide. But it must be over ten years since I actually used the AOL software, having switched to Netscape very early on. Internet Explorer in its several iterations has never been high on the favored list, except that most e-commerce is geared towards being compatible with it.

[aside: I wonder what a full set of AOL disks would bring at auction on ebay as a curiosity? Enough to cover postage?]

The problem is really the ten year old desktop I normally use for web-surfing. Just too cheap to buy a new computer for checking e-mail and web surfing. But the hardware constraints and limitations have brought some performance issues to the forefront as time has marched on. I suspect the main consideration is the 512MB memory limit. [yes, it IS that old] Obviously, I’m about five years past time to upgrade. Alas – I still see no “need”, even with the price of computers now down to, or below, the price of a nice suit of clothes and a good pair of shoes. Desktops cheaper than iPods!….almost.

Anyway – I used Netscape rather than AOL’s software(go figure!) for several years and then parted ways with Netscape in favor of IE, mostly due to compatibility issues with the common level of HTML being used at the time. I then adopted Firefox early on, and have seen its level of performance degrade over time as new features have been added. Safari was an improvement over Firefox for a short time, but quickly began showing signs of memory and CPU bloat.

Overall, Opera has always been the fastest of the lot. It was also always the least compatible with certain websites that used wonky HTML hacks, or sites that stretched the envelope with latest-greatest HTML techniques.

IE8 has recently re-emerged as a better choice than either Firefox or Safari on this brain-dead CPU. On the kids’ faster gaming computer, I still prefer the look and feel of Firefox, and its bloat is not noticeable on a 2.6gig CPU with 3gig of ram.

But here on the old-n-busted box, the latest three releases of Opera have been quite an improvement over the other lot. I’ve grown to like some of the look and feel of the Opera browser, and it is still showing the fastest load times of the four currently installed. Safari now sucks so badly on this box, it is virtually useless. It is kinda sucky on the fast box now too, but usable.

But the surprise is that IE8 is now the second best performance wise, and is actually better than Opera on pages with Flash content. (Not “good”, but “better”)

I have IE8 set to run in “compatibility mode”, and it still has the occasional hiccup, but overall it now beats out both Firefox and Safari. Perhaps the Redmond nerds caught a hint with the smashing success of Vista.

Curiously, Opera is also still able to run on Windows 98 and WinME, so it makes a useful tool for a dinosaur set up for shack use.

Opera is pretty snappy in the Ubuntu partition too. The Opera version 10 compatibility on any platform seems quite good too.


(Apologies to the foreign audience, this contains intentional mis-spelling and slang…)

First there was the E-vul Big Blue. Then the dred MyCrowsofft. E-vul Bigg Oyl. E-vul Bigg Pharma.

But with so many looking to get something for nothing these days, maybe Bigg GooG is positioned to be more hazardous in your day to day lives.. Use those apps with caution kiddo.

That is not to say there are no reasons to use any of the Bigg GooG apps. Rather, maybe take time to think on the ramifications of being hyjacked. If your use of a service is compromised, can any real damage be done? If the answer to that is “yes” or “maybe”, you should be hearing Robot in the background – “Danger Will Robinson…”

And yes, that applies to blog software. You DO look at the PHP code before installing it, don’t you? If you find a program/plugin with binary encoded data embedded within it, be wary.

For those who have never read Heinlein: TANSTAAFLThere Ain’t No Such Thing As A Free Lunch

Webmaster Tips

I ran across a reference to this list of webpage performance tips from Yahoo developers. These don’t necessarily apply to anyone using a CMS like WordPress or Blogger, but some of the ideas are easy to implement, so they are useful if you also manage any raw HTML pages.

It pays to read some of the articles down in the WordPress dashboard. This one by Matt sure pointed me to the above bit of paydirt.

Website Upgrade

I don’t usually adopt software on its immediate release, but I was planning to upgrade the blog software anyway, so the new version arrived at the appropriate point in time. So far everything appears to be good to go.

update#1: I’ve also opened the comments up, since it appears there are three or four people making regular visits. Feel free to chatter away.

update#2 :Whoops–having a problem with the sub domain. I can access the blog as but not as Hmmmm.

update#3: Thursday, 20070927: Still having a sub domain problem. Its better-sorta. The sub domain is redirecting to the home directory now instead of just barfing. I scratch my scalp and ponder. Perhaps in the fullness of time, I shall grok.

Update#4: Tursday 20080308: Still a problem.

New Theme-more updates

Here’s a new look for the site. I like the relatively plain “Joe Friday” feel. The sidebar was easy to customize too. The obligatory credits for the original WP theme author are at the bottom of the page. Credit for the banner photo is to N4YDU, a sunrise shot he took from the N4A Iota expedition.