Well, so much for the "What I'm doing right now" picture... at least until I figure out another solution. I use Insight Broadband cable modem service, and it is against the terms of service to host a web server or FTP server. I was using both to host the picture on the site, and to upload the latest update. Evidently they caught on, and I got a nice warning letter:

Insight Broadband - AUP Violation!

Please Do Not Respond to This Email -- If You Have Any Questions, Please Contact Your Local Insight Office.

Dear Insight Broadband Customer,

We are contacting you in regards to your Insight Broadband service. Our Network Operations Center (NOC) runs a test over our entire network on a regular basis to find computers setup to run as servers. Your computer has come back with ports open, indicating that it is running as a dedicated Internet server. Your computer must have these ports closed. Running a server is against the Insight Broadband Service Agreement (section 9).

Running a dedicated Internet server puts an unnecessary load on our network. Even if you think you are not using the server, you put yourself at risk to hackers and/or viruses, which could use the open ports to expose and control your computer. Once a server is circumvented, it can be used to hack into other servers in or outside our network.

If you are running a server-based OS, such as Windows XP Server or Linux, please keep in mind that these operating systems are designed for running dedicated Internet servers. As such, most of these OSs will open server ports on default, when the system is loaded.

The following is information about your account, and a list of open ports found on your machine:

Account #: ------

IP Address: -------

Open Ports:

Port 21 - Response: 220 Serv-U FTP Server v6.0 for WinSock ready...

Port 80 - Server: Apache/2.0.53 (Win32)

For more information on how to disable these open ports on your machine, you will need to contact your tech support for your computer. If you have installed the operating system on your own, you should contact the support line for your OS.

This is an important issue and needs immediate action in order to ensure no interruption to your Insight Broadband service.

If you are part of a business and need to run a dedicated server on our network, you may contact our business sales department to inquire about our Business Choice accounts.

As always, if you have any questions about this or any other aspect of you service, please call your local Insight office. Thank you very much for your cooperation.

Thank You,

Insight Broadband Technical Services

Please Do Not Respond to This Email -- If You Have Any Questions, Please Contact Your Local Insight Office.

Click here to go to InsightBB.comClick here to go to Insight-com.com

This announcement was sent to you by Insight Communications. If you have any questions, you may contact us at: 4701 Commerce Crossings Drive, Louisville, KY 40229, Attn:Technical Support Group.

So I shut down the ports and will have to quit with the picture until I can find another, clever way to get it on there. Oh well, life goes on....

I'm Certifiable!

This morning I took the Microsoft Certification Exam 70-320 : XML Web Services and .NET Remoting in Microsoft Visual C#. I passed with flying colors, which means that I'm now not only certified in that subject, but I've passed the requisite exams to be a Microsoft Certified Application Developer (MCAD). In the MS developer track, you are a Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) after passing any exam. I've been an MCP for several years, but I've not put the effort forth to get through the exams to get my next certification level. Until a couple of years ago, the hurdle was pretty high. To reach Microsoft Certified Solution Developer (MCSD) status, you had to pass five exams. Microsoft introduced the MCAD certification as a mid-step between the two. It was just the motivation I needed. That, and the fact that we have a state grant at Flexware to get reimbursed for any certifications we get.

So now I have two more exams to pass to get my MCSD. I need the 70-300 Solution Architectures exam, and an elective. I'll likely take the SQL Server exam as my elective. This latest exam was probably one of the hardest I've taken, and I've been putting it off for almost an entire year. I'm glad it is finally over and I can move on to the next one.

Book: 2 , Spiders: 0

Jenn was cleaning out the basement closet today, and came across some more of our eight-legged housemates. Two were already dead, but one big one was still limping along. I grabbed the trusty battle axe, aka a thick book, and ventured in. A couple of quick mashes with the book, and our buddy was curled up. Jenn broke out the handy-vac and sent him on his way. I haven't seen any of the creepy crawlies scooting across the floor since our first run in. I guess they got the message.

Zelda Music == Tchakovsky?

I was sitting here listening to my Sirius radio. That's when I noticed something. I'm listening to Sirius Pops, the classical pops station. The current track is Swan Lake : Dance of the Swan Queen. As I'm listening, this sounds a whole lot like some of the theme music to the Zelda series fo video games on the Nintendo. Have I played so many hours of video games that I'm starting to hallucinate and hear the music in other places, or did the game producer crib the music from Tchaikovsky?


There is a new telephone service that has been getting a lot of attention recently. This one is a little different though: you use your internet connection to make calls. Skype is a tool developed by the same folks who brought you the Kazaa P2P file sharing service, only this time the focus is on voice rather than files. To be sure, internet voice chats are nothing new. NetMeeting has been around since 1996, allowing you to have voice chats over the web, and most instant messengers include some type of audio / video conferencing features. What sets Skype apart is the quality of the service, and rich set of features. First, Skype has focused on getting voice, and voice only, just right. Skype will work behind some of the toughest firewalls where most instant messenger apps are so fragile that a sneeze on the network shuts them down. The software and service is completely free for making PC to PC phone calls.

One of the features that really sets Skype apart is the SkypeOut service. For a little more than 2 cents a minute, you can use Skype to call justa bout any real phone (mobile or landline) anywhere in the world. There is no monthly subscription fee. Just buy SkypeOut credit like you would a calling card and go to town.

Of course, some folks aren't comfortable making calls from their PC. There is something intimate about having that handset next to your ear that you know that you are making a phone call, and not just talking at your PC. That's where the CyberPhone steps in. It looks like any other telephone handset, and plugs into a USB port on your PC. It works directly with Skype to allow you to place regular phone calls. If that isn't enough freedom for you, grab a handheld PC, such as a Dell Axim or any other Microsoft PocketPC handheld, and you can Skype over your WiFi network. A couple of my buddies at work have PocketPCs, and we tried out the Skype connection that way with great success. There is an element of coolness to knowing you can walk into any place with a open WiFi connection (public libraries, Starbucks, cafes, etc.) and start making free / cheap calls on your PocketPC.

I'm just dabbling with Skype right now, but if this service continues to grow like it has over the past six months, I would almost consider ditching our regular phone service for it. Skype offers a SkypeIn service in beta form now that allows regular landline and cellphone users to call your skype account. Service runs $40 for an entire year, which is about what most people pay per month for their local and long distance service. This is an interesting technology that I'll definitely be keeping tabs on.

Nintendo A Capella

By now you all know that I absolutely LOVE video games. When I ran across this video, I was just utterly amazed. A group of singers, I presume in a college club, perform several old school Nintendo theme songs a capella. It is really amazing. Give it a listen!

Day Light Savings Time

There has been quite a bit of political debate in Indiana recently concerning Day Light Savings Time (DST). Most of Indiana is not on DST. Instead, we are on Eastern Standard Time. The result? For a portion of the year, we are in the same time as New York, and for a portion of the year we are in the same time as Chicago. We never change our clocks, we just let 'em run.

Our governer (Mitch Daniels) is hell bent on changing that. When a recent call failed to get the necessary votes to pass the DST plan, Daniels got on the phone and badgered enough Republicans to change their mind. There was a re-vote, and this time it passed. I'm still not sure if the bill says we would go on Eastern or Central time, but it still has a ways to go before it can be enacted into law. Nevermind the fact that the US legislature has already told the state that they may not mandate a time zone to all of the counties.

Why go on DST? Ostensibly to allow for more daylight hours in the evening to be outside. That's the major reason. During the summer, the number of daylight hours increases. We end up with more daylight, both before normal work hours and afterwards. The idea is that, by moving our clocks forward an hour, we wake up earlier in the day and shift those morning daylight hours into the evening. In the fall, as the daylight hours wane, we would move our clocks back.

There are other arguments as well, most of which I put little stock in. Proponents claim that DST will be good for the Indiana economy. That's a pretty fluffy response to just about any bill before the state house. Proponents claim that a large amount of time and money is lost by businesses who must help people outside the state understand how Eastern Standard Time works. Of course, no one has ever presented any hard numbers on this, so it is really difficult to validate the claim. Another claim I saw recently was that, by switching, we could save 10,000 barrels of oil each year due to the decreased use of lighting in businesses. Nevermind that we use 100,000,000 barrels, that reduction would be a trivial 0.01% decrease in usage. Add to that the fact that, if we get home while it is still warm, we're likely to switch on our air conditioning. Air conditioning consumes a lot more electricity than lighting.

From those opposed to going on DST, I've heard people say "Just wake up earlier". The comeback to this one is, "But the businesses I work with won't be up at that hour." Either way, I don't think either argument has much merit. To me, this is a really trivial issue that I wish our legislature would just drop so they could address some of the more important issues. If it were up to me, I'd leave our time where it is now. I don't have to change my clocks, and I don't really have any need for extra daylight. In fact, if we switch to central daylight time, we won't even get the extra daylight benefit. Maybe I'm just a stick in the mud, or afraid of change, but I almost feel like our using standard time is something that sets Indiana apart, and I like that.

Fry's Electronics (aka Geek Heaven)

I don't have school tomorrow night, so today has been pretty stress free. This morning, Corbin and I got packed up and headed over to the grand opening sale at the new Fry's Electronics. It was awesome! I thought it was going to be another Best Buy knock-off, but it is so much more than that. It has all of your electronics store fare: PCs, movies, games, audio, video, etc. In addition to all of that, they also carry component parts and lab equipment. It sort of like a Radio Shack, a Best Buy, and a Barnes and Noble all rolled into one, and then pumped up on steroids. They had a wide selection of motherboards, Tektronix oscilliscopes, movies, games, and other great geek stuff.

I had avoided coming in earlier in the week because I knew I needed to control myself. Sometimes I go in a store like that and I just completely lose consciousness and come out with a very light wallet, and very little trunk space. Today I was on a mission. My mission was to get all of the equipment I would need to transfer VHS tapes to my PC, and then burn those tapes onto DVD. This is for a little project I'm doing to transfer all of my parents old home movies over to DVD before the tapes start to rot. They were caught in a flood last year, and we're not sure how long they will last. So in order to complete this project, I needed a couple of things:

  • VCR
  • DVD Burner
  • DVD Media
  • DVD Authoring Software
  • Video Capture Board

Our old VCR bit the dust a couple of months ago, so I needed a replacement. I was looking to get a DVD/VCR combo so I could put it in the arcade cabinet and watch just about anything I wanted. I found a nice Panasonic model for a shade under $100. As I browsed through, I found a copy of Quicken WIllMaker Plus 2005. Jenn and I need to get a will put together, and the WillMaker software was marked down to $30, and with the $30 mail-in rebate, was effectively free. So then it was on to the DVD Burner. I found a Memorex multiple format DVD burner that was $89.99 with a $20 mail-in rebate. There are way too many recordable DVD formats, and this one seemed to support just about everything out on the market. In the same isle, there was a pile of DVD-R media. A 50-pack of blank DVD-R media was marked down to $12, and included a $12 mail-in rebate, so that was another freebie I tossed in the cart. The burner included the DVD authoring software, so I was able to skip that one. Then it was on to the video capture equipment.

This is where my plan hit a little snag. Corbin and I had been in the store for an hour and a half at this point, and we had completely exhausted his supply of snacks and drinks. He was cranky, and we think he is cutting some molars, so he was in an awful mood. I hadn't done my homework on video capture boards, so I needed some type to look into the different models. With Corbin throwing a fit, my patience was wearing out. I decided to high tail it out of the store while I still could. I tossed a couple of DVD cases into the cart on my way to the register. Total Damages: $254.26. Total Rebates: $62.00.

Get My Geek On

Every once in a while, I get bitten by the bug to do some very geeky project. A couple of years ago, that project was to build an arcade cabinet. This week, I got the bug again, although to a much lesser degree. I've been trying to clear out all of the unnecessary stuff from my desk at work. I have piles of stuff I never use, and it clutters up the limited space I have. I had three PCs sitting under the desk that were switched off 90% of the time, and I had a three piece speaker set with a giant subwoofer that I never used. I always wear my headphones, and never use the speakers, but I plug my headphones into the speakers. It was time for all of this stuff to go.

After moving my speakers out, I plugged my headphones directly into the line-out jack on my Sirius radio. That's when I discovered my problem. The radio did not have a volume control. It was intended to be plugged into a stereo receiver, and the receiver would supply volume control. I was faced with a decision: spend $30 or more on a new set of headphones that had a built in volume control, or spend $15 to build my own volume knob. I knew that a volume know is just a variable resistor (Potentiometer) in line with the signal, and I had used them before in lab for class. I headed down to the radio shack and picked up a hobby kit, a nice shiny knob, and a good two channel potentiometer.

Potentiometers are pretty easy to use. In most cases, there are three solder points. You wire ground to one of the points, your source signal to the other, and the output to the one in the middle. As you dial the potentiometer back and forth, the resistance applied between the source signal and the output changes, and in effect changes the volume on the headphones. My potentiometer had two channels, one for the left speaker and one for the right. It was a simple matter to get the wiring done, and the dremel did nice work of poking holes in the sides of the hobby kit. And now, I have a fully functional volume knob!

Now that I'm done with this little project, I do have one thing I would have changed. I used a 100K Ohm potentiometer. That's a lot of resistance. I think my headphones only provide a 10K Ohm load, if that. The result is that I have to dial the "volume" on the potentiometer way up to hear anything, and once I do hear something, the knob is very sensitive to changes. A little to the right, and it gets very loud. A little to the left, and it goes silent. It works for what I need, but if I were to do it again, I'd get a much weaker potentiometer.

This was a fun little project that didn't cost a lot of money, and it let me geek out for a little bit.

The knob and potentiometer, pre-assembly

Finished Volume Control

Jade Mason