Archive for June, 2008

An article in the Seattle Times newspaper hypes up a blocker for web advertisements called Adblock Plus, and one of the more popular filters used with it called EasyList. Both are free, and web sites apparently are scared sh!tless about them…they claim if these tools and other like them become universal, "it could eliminate most of the money that supports online services and content."

Problem: tools like these have been around since the Internet was known as the World Wide Web. There is nothing new here.

In fact, these tools are cumbersome and can be difficult to maintain for the average n00b (yes, many computer users have a n00b life-sentence). For example, you can’t block ads with Adblock Plus…you need to also download a filter, such as EasyList. No one-stop shopping here, and that deters a large segment of surfers, cuz they just can’t figure it out. Keeping the list in your filter properly updated is also difficult for many to understand. And when you have to rebuild, or you buy a new machine, you gotta start all over again. So many people have relied on shelf software instead, such as Norton, and they pay for it. Convenience has a price.

However, the convenience is curiously being taken away. For some reason, the 2008 edition of Norton Internet Security is dropping their ad-blocking feature. Symantic claims that it’s because all mature browsers have pop-up blockers built in, but c’mon…pop-up blockers DON’T block advertisements. And pop-up blockers have been around since…well, since the Internet was known as the World Wide Web.

Could some sort of pressure have been exerted upon Symantic to discontinue what many of their customers considered to be the best feature in the Norton suite? And who could have so much power to exert this pressure? Or perhaps a conspiracy theory is a little over the top: Symantic may simply be worried that blocking web ads may not be entirely legal, and they don’t want some sort of lawsuit down the road.

And good gawd, Google AdSense is everywhere, with an annoyance factor of 12. But web ads aren’t only annoying. As I pointed out before, even advertisements from trusted sources (like, um…Microsoft, for example) can be used to compromise and/or infect your machine.

All of this is why I utilize The Original Ad-Blocker: it’s called the HOSTS file. It’s been a part of the Windows OS since long before anybody "surfed the Internet", tools can’t get any more "universal" than this. It’s dead simple: you download the latest, continuously updated list from mvps.org, copy-n-paste everything into your local HOSTS file and save it…you’re done. Nearly all advertisements, including those that could serve you malware, are completely blocked. AdSense is gone, too. If you’re on a dial-up connection, it drastically speeds up your surfing as well. If you want to unblock a certain URL that serves ads, just remove it from the HOSTS file.

So basically, those web sites griping about how their ads could be blocked are about 15 years late to the pity party…

Get yer bluetooths!

Posted: June 26, 2008 in Uncategorized

I never really thought I needed a cell phone, although a couple of times a month I wished I had one just for the convenience. Otherwise, my time in my truck was decompression time, crank my tunes, listen to the news, etc. But on my 40th birthday, there were three times I wished I had a cell on my way to celebrate with my sisters…and when I needed to call home toward the end of the evening, one of my sisters pulled a bad joke on my wife with her cell. So I started shopping for my own cell that next day.

I don’t actually talk much on my cell. For example, two years after getting my cell, I wanted to upgrade to a newer phone (the LG I originally got thru Verizon sucked), and the salesguy told me I averaged 74 minutes a month.

Anyway, I could easily tell that holding my cell and talking while driving was distracting…I genuinely felt very uncomfortable. Answering or dialing was much worse, cuz I’m fumbling around with the damn thing. So if the conversion wasn’t VERY short, I always pulled over, but watched other drivers talking or texting on their phones…one of whom I once saw rear-end another car in the next lane, hand and phone attached to ear. The rear bumper of my new truck survived unscathed when a cell user tapped my ass at a stop light. Saw some kid almost run someone off the road cuz he started making an unintentional lane change while texting. Yup, I was pretty convinced I wasn’t the only one who shouldn’t be holding a cell while driving.

Late last year I switched to AT&T and got a Sony w580i. I really like this phone, and I’m using it more than I used that old LG. But again, holding it to my ear while driving…uh-uh. So I got a Motorola H700 bluetooth headset…it’s more like an "earset". This thing is awesome. When I get an incoming call while driving, I just hit the button…no fumbling around with the phone trying to answer. And if I need to make a call, hit the button. But the best part is that I don’t feel distracted at all, and both hands are free (to grab the wheel, of course…).

But there are "experts" who claim that even hands-free phones will cause "inattention blindness".

The evidence is mounting that the conversation itself is the risk, not holding the phone. The research shows the risk of having an accident is about four times higher for drivers using cell phones, whether it’s handheld or hands-free.

Yeah, whatever. All I know is that I didn’t feel confident at all holding a cell while driving, but feel very comfortable having a convo with my earpiece. It’s not unlike talking to a passenger in my vehicle, or singing along with my tunes. Still, I only have a couple of calls a week while driving, and they’re almost always less than ten minutes in duration, so I’m certainly not the norm.

Anyway, I’m all set for July 1st…that’s when holding a cell while driving becomes illegal in Washington state. I can’t wait to see some kid get a $124 ticket cuz he considered a text reply as an emergency…

Whole! House! Fan!

Posted: June 20, 2008 in Uncategorized

My house gets hot during the summer, and it’s so well insulated that it gets way hotter inside than the temps outside. With all the doors and windows open, it takes days to cool our house back down after outside temps drop, so the upstairs bedrooms are still too warm to sleep. And don’t even THINK about fetching something stored in the attic. Been having to deal with this for four summers. We don’t want to spend a ton of money on air conditioning, so the next best option was a whole house fan.

The primary (interior) fan was installed yesterday. I tried it out this morning: opened a couple of windows upstairs, turned it on, and there was a massive breeze shooting by me in the doorway of our bedroom. About two minutes later the wife was complaining that it was cold, and asked me to turn it off. YaY!

The gimble fan is being installed today. It runs automatically, based on temperature, so it will suck the heat out of the attic even if we aren’t running the whole house fan…that should hopefully help keep the house cooler during the day, and take less time to cool in the evening.

We’ve been lucky this year…no heat wave in March (man, last year was weird weather for the Northwest), but there have been a few days so far when the house became very hot inside. Today will be the first official test: temps should get into the upper 70’s. We’ll see how well the fans cool the house after 7PM.

The only issue is how loud it is. It’s a NuTone, and I think it has 36" or 40" blades. But considering how much air the thing can move, it probably won’t be needed for more than 20 minutes or so. I can deal with that just fine, all I want is to be able to sleep at night in the summer…

I can’t believe I actually watched golf on TV this weekend…what’s
next, bowling? Am I doomed to be fixated by The Weather Channel within
a few short years?

I heard my neighbor yesterday exclaiming to his wife that "Rocco was
still in it" for the US Open. Of course, I wondered who the hell was
this "Rocco" character, and where did he come from? Never heard of him.
But he’s apparently going toe-to-toe with Tiger Woods. So I had to
watch when I got back inside after a day of yard work…

We’ve all gotten used to the fact that Tiger has been ranked #1 since
he was, what…six years old? And we’ve gotten used to the fact that
the other top-ranked golfers just go on tour to win Second Place and
feed their families and buy a new Porche. But Rocco wasn’t a top-ranked
golfer. He wasn’t ranked in the top 50. He wasn’t ranked in the top
100. To be more specific, there were 156 golfers, plus Tiger…in the world…ranked higher than Rocco.

On the 72th hole, Tiger was able to TIE with Rocco and force an 18-hole
playoff. Then Tiger was able to TIE with Rocco on the playoff and force
sudden-death. But I keep seeing stories like this one calling it "epic" for Tiger. Too many sports writers playing up Tiger’s recent knee surgery…except, this was his third knee surgery. C’mon guys, barely surviving a competition with somebody ranked 158th is not "epic" for Tiger.

However, being ranked 158th, having a bad back, and going all the way to sudden death with Tiger Woods…now THAT’S epic.

The article linked above sez, "There’s no sense debating the greatness that is Tiger Woods anymore."
Oh, please…a low-ranked player took Tiger past the Open, past a
playoff, and was one hole away from beating the almighty Tiger Woods.
This is the tour that people will look back on a couple of years from
now and realize that this tour was the beginning of the end of Tiger’s
reign.

So after blowing a 24-point lead in Game 4 to drop to 3-1 against the Celtics, Kobe Bryant sez the way to bounce back would be, "A lot of wine, a lot of beer, a couple shots, maybe like 20 of them…"

Today, Kobe sez, “The series ain’t over. It’s far from over.”

Great idea, Kobe…let the booze do the talking…

Whiners, the lot of them!

Posted: June 11, 2008 in Uncategorized
OK, so they’re probably better described as "wankers" (no, I’m not British). Let’s get started, shall we…?

Terrell Owens sez, "They can test me one thousand times!" after he missed a random drug test. Dude, Olympic athletes get kicked out with extreme prejudice for missing drug tests. Professional athletes get heavy punishments for missing drug tests, up to getting kicked out. Oh, but our buddy T.O. gets to slide a bit cuz his primary contact number was his agent’s phone, who apparently didn’t answer it for the first time in his life. Another number was an old one "he never put down". Another number had a "full voicemail inbox". Another number wasn’t even his phone number (um…then why did they have that number on record, doofus?). How the hell are they supposed to contact you, T.O.? Maybe, give you 25 million reasons to call THEM? So T.O. gets to slide because…well, JJ is opening a killer new stadium soon, and T.O. can’t provide nearly as much drama as a suspended player as he could as an active one, so there ya go. Just for fun, let’s calculate the number of tests you’re willing to take: for the next 365 days, you’ll need to pee in a cup…in front of a witness…two to three times a day. Of course, T.O. argues, "I know what I put in my body"…I could be misremembering, but doesn’t Barry Bonds own the copyright to that phrase?

NY Giants receiver Plaxico Burress has three years remaining on his current contract. But he’s not going to show up for training camp because he caught the winning touchdown in the Superbowl, and isn’t getting paid as much as losers like T.O., Randy or Larry. No, it was not the miracle catch which set up his touchdown catch. Translation: "My team got damn lucky last year, our QB can’t stop throwing picks, an SB win ain’t gonna happen again anytime soon, so I gotta cash in NOW".

NBA commissioner David Stern repeatedly called former referee Tim Donaghy a "convicted felon" or "admitted felon" the other night after Timmy squealed about rampant corruption within the NBA (note: calling Donaghy "convicted felon" could earn Donaghy millions in a slander lawsuit). Stern also said Donaghy was the only one guilty of a crime…but if you watched the Lakers being fleeced by foul calls in game 2, and play back some older Finals contests, things from Timmy start to ring true. And remember, Stern is the guy who whole-heartedly approved moving the SuperSonics from a medium-sized market past a small market to a non-existent market…hey, Stern: LA is still trying to get a football team, and they have the largest market…do you know anything about economics? Outside your own pocket, that is…

The (former) Chicago Bears Cedric Benson, and his friends, insisted that water police didn’t need to pepper-spray and kick the snot out of him last month cuz he wasn’t BWI (boating while intoxicated), as the police claimed. So what does he do? He has a couple of drinks and goes driving…at 2AM. Claims he ran "a yellow", not a red light. Refuses a breath test. Then he repeatedly blames the whole thing on "poor judgement". His agent sez a police videotape will "prove" Cedric’s innocence. It’s sad when your agent does the whining for you…

Bobby Engram is no superstar…nobody outside of Seattle really noticed him until the ‘hawks Super Bowl year. And he got hit with a thyroid condition that sidelined him for nine games. But last year, he was again the most productive receiver the team had. He is head and shoulders above Jerramy Stevens, both as a player and a person, but some "experts" believe that doesn’t entitle him to a big payday, primary because he’s almost geriatric now. Holmgren loves him, Matt loves him, Seattle loves him…but the front office is putting on the brakes. Just the same, by holding out on practices, Engram is dropping to "whiner" status…even tho’ he ain’t the guy with three years left on his contract…

A European brewing company just made an unsolicited bid to purchase Anheuser-Busch for $46 billion, or $65 per share, which according to the story is a "sizable premium" over their current trading price of just over $58 share. Within minutes, Anheuser-Busch received an unsolicited phone call from the founders of Yahoo! insisting that A-B is worth at least $68 a share, and to very publicly reject the bid…cuz they’d be fools to accept the first offer.

According to the story, the beer industry has been consolidating in recent years due to things like stale demand in the United States. Personally, I don’t see why there is a demand for stale beer.