Tab Dump

TAB DUMP! Hello random reader! As you can likely tell from a quick look, I am far less active on this blog than I likely should be to justify its continued maintenance… This said, I’ve had it up for many years and so I don’t see it going away anytime soon…

In this spirit of stubborn indifference to reason and logic that I present you another ‘tab dump’ post – where I share what tabs are open in my browser currently (before I close them as I paste them in this post)… Oh, for joy! I know that you can hardly wait!

This seemed interesting – turing a RPi into a wireless router… Like many Raspberry Pis, mine is currently sitting in a drawer doing little more than collecting dust… I was previously using it as a local git repo, but it made little sense with the many other running PCs in my household with far more sufficient resources (namely storage space) than the Pi has… In an effort to find a use for it and having previously been in need of a new router (wound up replacing with a Buffalo with DD-WRT instead), I stumbled across this project in some reading and thought it neat – http://jacobsalmela.com/raspberry-pi-and-routing-turning-a-pi-into-a-router/

Leviathan Wakes – or does it? As a daily IO9 reader, I am frequently exposed to books that I think I’d like to read (but that I rarely do) – this was one such book.. http://www.amazon.com/Leviathan-Wakes-James-S-A-Corey/dp/0316129089?tag=io9amzn-20&ascsubtag=[type|link[postId|1588137170[asin|0316129089[authorId|5717795175536518860

Always looking for something new and fun to get into around the area, I found this post via Reddit and thought it had many interesting activities I could give a go before eventually departing the area – http://www.graspingforobjectivity.com/2014/06/35-things-to-do-in-birmingham.html

Back to the router bit – I needed a non-official/mainstream release for my new router(s) – http://www.dd-wrt.com/site/support/other-downloads

Additional router noise (one of 2 routers that I picked up) – http://www.dd-wrt.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?p=881386

Bootstrap 386 – I found this to be a pretty interesting Bootstrap theme and just have not been able to accept the fact that I will never actually use it for anything personally and so I keep it open in hopes that I will find a purpose 🙂 http://www.uicorner.com/bootstrap-386-theme/

Breaking Spotify DRM with PANDA – interesting read on getting around Spotify DRM (not that I do, just thought it an interesting concept when I saw the post on Hacker News) – http://moyix.blogspot.com/2014/07/breaking-spotify-drm-with-panda.html?

Beautiful Web Type – because who doesn’t like pretty things?! http://hellohappy.org/beautiful-web-type/?1

Web Design TutsPlus – Don’t quite remember why I Had this open, but hey! http://webdesign.tutsplus.com/

As someone who hates running out of juice (never know when the next prettiest food picture I’ve ever taken could be missed due to a dead battery on my phone)… After having recently picked up a bum RAVPower cheap-o external pack, I saw this highly recommended and about the same price, so I’ve kept it open in case I decide to actually pull the trigger – http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00IP1MQNK/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00IP1MQNK&linkCode=as2&tag=happyexposure-20&linkId=MQFKNSFDS7J4NA2Q

As an avid listener to modern folk, I thought this was a pretty funny headline (though I don’t think I’ve made it much farther into the actual article)… Related: Spotify’s ‘Freak Folk’ station is pretty nice 🙂 http://www.avclub.com/article/folk-2014s-heaviest-music-206414

Because who doesn’t like feeling comparitively inadequate – http://www.laurencegellert.com/2012/08/what-is-a-full-stack-developer/

More fun local activities!!! http://www.al.com/living/index.ssf/2014/07/6_great_swimming_holes_to_visi.html

Mo.router.stuffs – http://www.dd-wrt.com/wiki/index.php/Repeater_Bridge

Mo.mo.networks.stuffs – http://forums.anandtech.com/showthread.php?t=2237536&page=2

A new Rasp Pi that I can do nothing with?! Take another $35!!! http://www.raspberrypi.org/introducing-raspberry-pi-model-b-plus/

Because I generally spend my days toiling away trying to identify why some .Net lib isn’t working as expected or why a would-be-simple WCF service grows to 1GB memory utilization in 24hrs of uptime, I find that I often don’t scratch my curious itch when it comes to newer non-MS development type stuff… In that spirit, I’ve recently been reading up on Koa JS – http://koajs.com/#introduction

More Koa – https://github.com/koajs/examples/blob/master/404/app.js

… and finally… more Koa – http://dailyjs.com/2014/01/09/koa/

Whelp.. That’s about it.. I hope it was as good for you as it was for me…

Until next time – “CLOSE SOME OF THOSE TABS!”

Who’s Myspace?: Dear, Future. By the time you are reading this, this will be your present (but it will read ‘facebook’) and you will know that this was now your future. in the past…

Today I found myself up to my eyeballs in long forgotten backups – bad, I know… I should really do some spring cleaning – but odds are that won’t be happening… Sites and projects from nearly a decade ago in some cases – nothing more than 404s or the sort today for the most part…

In an exercise to prove my wife’s accusations that I “never throw anything away” and to help out an old friend, I sought out a long forgotten backup to help my friend get some of her old content back (hard drive failures play hell on our media retention – long gone are the days of misplacement or house fire to be the cause of losing our stuff (note to self: buy long life external  HD (better make it 2) and backup pictures regularly (better make it 3!!!))).

After tossing up the site on my server, I was surprised to see how many links took me to here:

Dear, 201?.
Welcome to 201?(?) – just insert ‘Facebok’ where it says ‘Myspace’.

Sincerely,
-The Past

It sounds like someone has a case of the Mondays…

Things that went wrong today:
– Spilled cup of coffee in mouse, keyboard and lap
– Router died
– Poked self in eye taking a drink of water
– Poured (a significant amount of) water in my lap
– No towel in the bathroom (discovered post-shower, naturally)
– Got yelled at by a school bus driver in front of my neighbors
– Dog pooped next to my chair while I was out ‘being introduced to the neighborhood’ by the friendly neighborhood bus driver

So… Dearest of Mondays.. If you could just go ahead and just die the horribly painful death that you truly deserve, that would be swell…

Here’s the skinny on the angry bus driver if you’re curious and really bored:

(School Bus idling on the road that I am about to take a right onto)
Me (thinking): “… What’s that bar on the front of the bus? Oh, cool – it kind of looks like a bus rack like the ones on the metro busses… That’s awesome!”
(take the right hand turn – driving past the school bus, which is to my left)
[The school bus driver has his window slid open – he has a look that can only be described as equal parts hatred, anger and disgust]
Bus Driver (yelling): “HEY! YOU!!!! … [indistinguishable angry yelling becoming distant]!!!!!”
Me: “What the hell is that dude’s problem?! Yell at me in my own neighborhood – asshat! Why the hell was he yelling at me anywa…. Ohhh… That’s wasn’t a really cool bike-rack wielding school bus… That’s was a school bus with a missing stop sign on their front swinging arm that is unloading children on the opposite side of the bus from me…”

At this moment, I feel it to suddenly be ‘more Monday’ than it was just a mere 5 minutes earlier… Briefly, I contemplated flagging the driver down and letting him know that his bus was in need of repair – that from a perpendicular approach, one couldn’t distinguish him ‘unloading’ from him making a simple left turn and that this was dangerous. That this was ultimately why I failed to stop while he was unloading – that I really did care about the safety of the kids.. I promise, Mr. School Bus Driver, I am a good guy once you get to know me…

But as I started playing through this scenario in my head, I the good fortune to remember something very important:
“It’s Monday – and that means that there is only one way that this can possibly turn out … You lying face down in the street, bleeding from multiple fresh puncture wounds and soaked in your own urine after having been tazed by the local P.D. when your good intentions of notifying them of their need of repair have been misinterpreted as you ‘running down a bus full of children to settle a verbal dispute with the concerned bus driver’”.

With all of this in mind, I plan to not leave my house again today and hope that the structural integrity of my house holds out until Monday passes once again and Tuesday graces us with its “at least it’s not Monday” good vibes…

Time for a beer – you guys pray that I don’t accidentally cut off a finger with the bottle opener.

Recording your desktop in Windows 8 using VLC

I recently encountered a situation where I wished to record my desktop – specifically, to document a discovered security vulnerability in a 3rd party system to assist the authors in resolving the problem…

I tried a few desktop recording applications that I had previously used without issue, but Windows 8, being the ‘new beast’ that it is, was proving to be a problem for these applications.  With varying degrees of failure, I set out for a quick and easy way to record my desktop – nothing fancy, just record…

Fortunately, a helpful YouTuber (vineet369) made mention of using VLC – something that I was not even aware was an option, despite many, many years of VLC use.  Here is the original thread, in case you are interested.

The following instructions are how I was able to accomplish recording my desktop – I am sure that there is likely more than one way to do this, but again, this was just the way that I went about it…

First, open VLC.  Next, press CTRL+C (or click File > Open Capture Device…).

On the dropdown list labeled ‘Capture Mode’, select ‘Desktop’.

Now, adjust your ‘Desired frame rate for the capture’ – I went with 30, but feel free to experiment to get the desired fluidity and file size that you desire…

Now, click the arrow next to the button labeled ‘Play’ and select ‘Convert’.

We are almost ready to record… You will want to specify the destination file name where it says ‘Destination file:’.

Finally, click ‘Start’ – you are now LIVE!

LIGHTS! CAMERA! ACTION!

There are a lot of additional settings that you can tweak with on this, but this is the quick and dirty way to get recording – feel free to experiment and share your results!

 

Edit: I’ve posted a video here for those not too keen on reading: Desktop Recording in Windows 8 using VLC

NTFS File System Tunneling (…is stupid …and wrong)

I will keep this short… I’ve already spent far too much time on this easy to work around peculiarity of NTFS and how it associates file meta information under the hood…

Consider this console app: http://pastebin.com/66QABWS3

If you were to actually read this (don’t feel too bad if you didn’t – the last link will explain it all) and didn’t have knowledge of the magic going on behind the scenes, you may be fooled into thinking that this application would write out “42” at some point in it’s lifetime…

Unfortunately, reasoning such as that would be based in reality – where up is up, down is down and true doesn’t equal false.  I say ‘unfortunately, due to the fact that this is not the reality that your NTFS file system (if you have one) is operating in…

It is actually operating in a place where when one thing dies, another assumes its identity and carries on its life as if it is the original thing – clearly it isn’t, but your NTFS file system assures you that it is…

NTFS is telling you: “This file that you create and then delete every 10 seconds, as you have for the last month and a half… Well, it wasn’t just created 9.9 seconds ago.. No.. It was created a month and half ago… Really it was… I don’t care that you just deleted it and then recreated a COMPLETELY NEW file in it’s place – THIS IS THE FILE CREATED ONE AND A HALF MONTHS AGO. FER-REAL-ZIES!”

Welcome to the nonsensical world of NT File System Tunneling …

-Matt

Festive Results – Google 2012 Holiday Easter Eggs

I stumbled across something that caught my eye a few minutes ago, so I thought that I would share… in the spirit of giving and all 🙂

Browse to http://google.com and search for something… Anything… Heck, it can be ‘something’…

Google Results - something

Notice… Oh, look!  Results… Oh, wait… yeah.. that’s normal…

Now, navigate to http://google.com and Google something Christmas-y… like… say… ‘Charlie Brown Christmas’ – what can get more Christmas-y than that, right?!

Christmas-y Results - Charlie Brown Christmas

 

Pretty neat, right?!

According to geek.com (yup – first screenshot.. beat me by a day), this little Easter egg works for “Hanukkah” and “Kwanzaa” as well…

 

Happy/Merry (would hate to offend) Festivus!!!!!

 

-Matt

 

 

 

 

 

The loss of a friend – Rest in peace, Diamond (1998-2012)

On August 27, 2012 my wife and I lost one of our most cherished and beloved friends – our 14yr old Chihuahua. Diamond is and will always be loved and missed. We now have a hole where this friend of over a decade provided us with unconditional support and love.
Diamond was our little tank for many, many years.. This little girl has traveled from U.S. coast to coast and was always making friends everywhere that she went. Never one to turn down a snack or 16th meal, Diamond was always the slightly standoffish life of the party – and she will be missed by all that knew her.

An example of her personality comes from early in our relationship… While traveling west through Colorado for work, I would get frustrated when encountering traffic… Out of frustration I would often “huff and puff” – her just sitting on a pile of clothes and such in the back seat looking confused/nervous… Then, out of no where, with each huff or puff she would crawl forward and gently scratch at my shoulder as if to say “Calm down – it will be ok”… This continued through all of our travels… I’d huff or puff and she’d reassure me… Amazing how a the reassurance of a little 7lb Chihuahua named Diamond can take the frustration and tension right out of a angry grown man.

I had the privilege of calling her a best friend for nearly 13 of her 14.5 years on this planet and feel a better man because of this. Not ‘just our pet’, Diamond truly was my family and I will miss her deeply until the day that I die.

Diamond battled a un-diagnosed digestive/stomach/intestinal issue for the past year and a half… My wife and I spent countless sleepless nights caring for her and more time that we can count in and out of vets and clinics trying to find the root of her problems. In the end, ‘severe IDB’ was believed the be the problem, though vets were ultimately unsure…

Yesterday, Aug 27, 2012 our little girl lost her battle as a result of an internal rupture and we were forced to make one of the toughest decisions of our lives and have her put to sleep per the vet’s recommendation.

While one of the hardest things that I have ever had to do, I was allowed to hold her as she went – telling her how much that I loved her as my wife stroked her, telling her the same. I cleared her a spot in the back at her favorite scavenging area (just in the woods where she felt out of sight and free to do what she wanted (eating)) and I take some minor solace knowing that she is no longer in any pain – despite the selfish part of me wanting just one more day with her..

Diamond, you are loved and will be eternally missed.

The Lenovo Nightmare – An adventure with customer service of the worse kind

tl;dr – Lenovo has decided that customer support and functional support systems are not important.  If you are a masochist, by all means, go buy from lenovo.com.  If you don’t like abuse and wasting time, go find another vendor as Lenovo has a long way to come before I or anyone should do business with them.  Thankfully to a few forum mods with connections, I was able to get out of my nightmare – but it was not without cost in time, energy and emotion.

So, after my failed attempt at getting an HP laptop, I decided to go ahead and go with one of my original two desired brands and ordered a Lenovo directly from lenovo.com (ASUS was my other (first) choice – price was the deciding factor).

Initially, things were smooth.. I setup an account with Lenovo. Being the bargain hunter that I am, I initiated a chat session (after all, this is how I got my Maxx for $69.99) to see if there were any additional discounts available.  After selecting sales, the chat session quickly connected me with a sales rep who checked on the available offers and wound up saving me about $200 in addition to the already on sale price… This was the last smooth part regarding my interactions with Lenovo.

Within 24 hours, my order shipping date was bumped back a month.  Of course, I was not happy about this..  No biggie, but I would like an explanation, so I decided to bounce back to chat… This time, selecting a support option, I notice a much slower connection – waiting some 40 minutes before being connected to a rep.  Chat session going smoothly until I ask about the delay – then no further responses from the rep.  I decide that perhaps calling is the way to go.. I select a post-sales support option and am told for nearly an hour that ‘a rep will be with you in a few moments’ – I start to get this sinking feeling…. ‘Is this the level of support I can expect?’…  Finally connected with a rep – a indiscernible comments made in a language that isn’t English and then I am disconnected… AWESOME!

So, I decide to bounce to forums.lenovo.com and see if others are experiencing issues – ZOMG:!!!!1 THE MOTHERLOAD.  No, I was not alone… Actually, quite the opposite… People writing experiences that mimic mine so closely that I may as well have wrote their post… What caused further sinking was the fact that some of these posts were 2 and 3 months old… I continue to read and see something bad – some of these 2 month old posts have updates as recently as a week ago and they are not good…  I read customer service horror story after horror story – countless customers frustrated to tears with overcharges, non-delivered hardware, non-honored warranties, shady practices forcing people to keep poorly made devices, people being cussed at by support, you name it… If it is “customer service worst-practices”, you can read an account of it on the forums.

After a handful of less than helpful interactions with post-sales support, I decide that I am best of just cancelling my order so that I don’t wind up in the same crappy boat as these forum members – but from the forum, I knew this process was going to be an uphill battle…  After again sitting on hold for nearly an hour and again being hung up on (read it in the forums – this is common) I decide to be ‘smart’ and call back but to ask for “Sales”… Surprise, surprise – in less than 5 minutes I am connected to what sounds to be a very happy and helpful guy… Happy and helpful up until the point that the words “I would like to cancel my order” hit his ear – at which time he became abrasive in tone and aggressive in that cancellation was likely not going to be a possibility for me…  Prepared for pushback, I pushed back harder – insisting that cancellation was the only reasonable outcome.  Tired of arguing with me, the rep declares my order as cancelled and proceeds to get off the phone with me quickly.. The rep dodges my requests for his representative information nor would he provide me with any sort of confirmation of cancellation… Not being born yesterday (and having read the forums), I realize that I likely still have an active order.  Head over to the forums and you will find multiple accounts of verbally or chat confirmed cancellations that wound up being delivered and then refused by Lenovo for return/refund.

I decide to try my hand at chat again.  I am able to identify two patterns while going through chat.  1) Post-sales support chat requires 30-50m waiting to be connected to a rep 2) mention the word cancellation and all of the sudden ‘technical difficulties’ run rampant…  The first one wasn’t a huge surprise considering the phones.. The second one on the other hand caused my curiosity to be peaked – why are they going non-responsive?  As a web developer by trade, I had already poked around the DOM of their chat window and watched some of the polling taking place while waiting for connection…  I noticed something curious while chatting – something red in the requests window – a 500….  I started testing – I could exchange between 2 and 15 messages with a rep, but within 2-3 seconds of mentioning a cancellation, the chat ceased to function – the result of a server error that didn’t notify in the chat window (only observable when using firebugs or Chromes web tools)… Now, I am not saying that the chat reps have a kill switch for when a cancellation pops up – not explicitly anyways… But I am going to say that this happened some 12+ times and so seems an odd coincidence and that it is yet another prime example of the suckiness of Lenovo.

Exhausted and frustrated, I resorted to venting in the forums.   I didn’t figure much would come of it – as mentioned, you can see peoples frustrations continue in the ‘General Interest’ wasteland for months without a happy resolve.  Admittedly, the forums were exhausting – complaint after complaint mirroring your own experience.  Me taking the time to voice my concerns as a cautionary tale to any who are lucky enough to come here before purchasing – knowing that in the end I am probably going to wind up bitter and with a device I resent just like these other sad and angry customers.

Long story longer, I posted my frustrations for a week – multiple times a day… I would start in the morning, follow up at lunch and continue at night.  Posting my chat logs, posting my frustrations in phone support, talking with the other abused Lenovo customers… After a couple of days, a couple of forum mods took interest in my complaints.  Starting with forum responses to my posts and eventually turning into PMs with promises of help.  This back and forth continued for 1 week… I am now happy to say that thanks to 3 mods (Ron, Mark and Ty) took on the challenge of working with Sales on my behalf to get my order cancelled and as of this morning, I now have a cancellation confirmation!!!  Admittedly, this was FAR MORE DIFFICULT than it should have ever been.  No customer support should be as poor as that provided by Lenovo.  Never should people have to resort to brand-bashing in the company forum in order to get real assistance.  I cannot thank these reps enough for taking time to get involved – just as I cannot stress to Lenovo enough to “get your act straight”.

This interaction with Lenovo has been an emotional, stressful and rage inducing experience.  I own multiple Lenovo devices and have always regarded the company highly – something that Lenovo was able to destroy in 1 week.  Literally, years of accumulated brand loyalty were completely obliterated in a single businessweek.  As anyone in the industry knows, this is not only bad for Lenovo because they won’t get just my money, but they likely will not get the money of the many, many people who turn to me for tech advice.  Previously firmly on my ‘safe brand list’, Lenovo is now on my “DO NOT BUY AT ANY COST” list.

Having liked the brand in the past, it saddens me to lose Lenovo as one of my go-to brands, but I just cannot imagine doing business with them again at this time.  I feel abused and beaten by them as a company and will not be recommending their hardware anytime soon.  I will keep an eye on Lenovo and do hope that they are able to get their internal company issues resolved to a level where I once again feel comfortable doing business with them.  I am not saying that you should or should not buy a Lenovo device, but I am going to go ahead and give you a tip: if you are considering doing business with Lenovo, please head over to the General Interests Forum (http://forums.lenovo.com/t5/General-Discussion/bd-p/Special_Interest_General) and just read…  You can thank me later…