All posts by Shawn

I’m Nervous

SDG&E are working on something to do with the electricity under the streets tonight where I live. Which means they are shutting off all the power to my neighborhood between 10:00 pm and 8:00 am tonight. If I don’t go to bed right away, it’s going to be strange. Sit around and do a puzzle by candlelight or something?

What in the hell did people do before the Internet? Hmmm… I guess they watched TV. But what did people do before TV or electricity?

If you never hear from me again, we probably went mad and killed each other.

T-minus 21 minutes…….

Bluetooth Phone Control In A Car

You know what I wish someone would do? Come out with a way to control a Bluetooth phone hands free while in your car. The 2004 Acura TL can do it right out the factory. Seems strange that after-market manufacturers like Alpine wouldn’t jump on the opportunity. Not only would it be a hot item, but Alpine systems are modular, so they could come out with a Bluetooth module for $80 or $100 or something and it would work with any Ai-NET compatible deck.

That’s what they did with their iPod controller… it’s just a “magic box” that hides away somewhere, and works with any Apline stereo (that supports Ai-NET).

Just seems like an opportunity for someone to do it, because they would sell a TON of them.

Virgin Mary Sandwich

Someone tried to sell a 10 year old grilled cheese sandwich on eBay that had bore the image of the Virgin Mary. eBay pulled the auction right before it closed, but the bidding was up to $22,000 and the auction itself was viewed over 100,000 times.

You know it’s a true miracle because after 10 years, the sandwich never sprouted a single spore of mold. πŸ™‚

Publish To Blogger Via Email

Did you know that you can publish to your blog simply by sending an email? I didn’t until I noticed it under the Email tab under Preferences.

This is my first post ever that I published without logging into Blogger. Let’s hope it works. πŸ™‚

How To Hide Deleted Comments In Blogger

It’s really annoying when someone spams your comments in Blogger (or accidentally posts twice). You can delete the comment, but it’s not “really” deleted… instead it has a message saying the comment was deleted by an administrator. In the case of a spammer, it’s really ugly to have 20 or so of those if you ask me.

So I decided to come up with a hack that will remove it. This only works if you run your blog on your own server (FTP or SFTP published) and your server is running Apache with PHP extensions installed.

First I created a PHP file and dropped it in my blogger base directory:

myfile.php file:

<?php

    $file
= file_get_contents ($_REQUEST['file']);

    
$a = substr_count ($file, 'deleted-comment');

    
$b = preg_match ('/<h4>(.*?) Comments:<\/h4>/i', $file, $matches);

    

    echo
str_replace ('<h4>' . $matches[1] . ' Comments:</h4>', '<h4>' . ($matches[1] - $a) . ' Comments:</h4>', $file);

?>

Then I created a .htaccess file in that same folder:

.htaccess

RewriteEngine On

RewriteBase /

RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} 20..\/..\/

RewriteRule ^(.*) myfile.php?file=$1

Great… problem solved. Basically it reads the file and spins it through the script before it’s output to the user.

BTW, this is not a detailed “how to”, so use at your own risk and don’t email me if it doesn’t work. πŸ™‚

iTunes Music Store

Dude, let me just say how happy I am that the iTunes Music Store is around now. Before the music store, I would order a CD online, but get tired of waiting for it to come, so I would use Napster to download the album so I didn’t have to wait. Anyway, long story short is by the time I get the CDs in the mail, I already have the music (if you download, you should always buy the music in my opinion). So I have tons of audio CDs that I bought that I never even bother opening (still shrink-wrapped) only because I buy all the music I download.

The iTunes Music Store saves me from having to buy CDs that I never open! Yay!

Now if they would just create an iTunes Movie Store, I wouldn’t have to have all these stupid DVDs (which I never actually use) laying around. Plus it would curb illegal downloading (people that don’t actually own the movie/CD) and protect the copyright owners with the DRM.

I have no issues with DRM on stuff I buy… I just want to be able to download electronically the media I buy, that’s all.

How Will You Remember President Bush?

Election day is finally here. I’m a registered voter in California, but I’m not going to vote because the electoral voting system is stupid. California is a lock for Kerry, so he gets all 55 electoral votes regardless of what percentage of California actually votes for him. If I lived in a state where the vote could go either way, I would get out and vote.

I’m also a Republican, but not so much that I would ever vote for someone simply because of their political party. I thought Ronald Reagan (R) was a great president, I thought the first Bush (R) was a mediocre president and then I thought Clinton (D) was a great president.

In my opinion, the 2nd Bush is a terrible president… not because of anything specifically he did (or did not do). While I don’t agree with some (most) of the things he does, I don’t think it makes him a bad president. If he gets reelected today, I hope things go much differently in his second term, although I kind of doubt it.

The reason I think George W. Bush is a terrible president is because he is the first president that actually made me feel embarrassed to be an American, and if the president makes people feel that way (however it happened), I think they are a terrible president.

Team America, Fuck Yeah!

I went to the movies on Friday with Yelena and we saw Team America. This is quite possibly the funniest movie I have ever seen in my entire life.

If you just want to be entertained and aren’t caught up in being “politically correct” it’s one damn funny flick.

One of the best parts was the freedom fighters theme song that they listened to when fighting terrorists (it’s a heavy metal/rock tune)…

America! Fuck yeah!

Comin’ again to save the mother fuckin’ day, yeah!

Trust me, you just have to hear it… I wish I had the MP3. πŸ™‚

Update: you can hear the beginning of the song if you have iTunes installed. Just click here (you can pay $0.99 if you want and download the whole thing to iTunes).

Xbox Media Center

Had a little longer to play with the Xbox Media Center from my previous post, and this thing just gets cooler and cooler the more I dive into it.

  • It has Mplayer built into it so it basically can play any audio/video format without problems including streaming content
  • Audio visualization (like WinAMP)
  • Organizes music, pictures, video, programs, etc.
  • Shows the weather from cities you predefine (pulls from weather.com)
  • Plays Internet radio
  • Supports numerous network shares for media (Windows/SMB, iTunes, etc.)
  • Plays movie trailers (picks them up from Apple’s movie trailer website)
  • Supports Python scripting language, so anything it DOESN’T do, you can make it do

Did I mention that this thing is bad ass? Oh yeah, I did.

TiVo With Ethernet

I was checking out some of the TiVo stuff, and me first thought is why do these things have phone jacks to dial out instead of Ethernet ports? Phone lines are so “old school”. πŸ™‚

I hear everyone talk about TiVo competitors, but I don’t know of any specifically. If someone knows of something similar to TiVo that uses the Internet to get programming data (rather than a phone line), please leave a comment telling me what it is.

Pictures of Hummer H2 SUT (Finally)

Well, I finally decided to do a “photo shoot” with my old truck (a white Toyota Tacoma) so I could put it up for sale. So I got it washed today and also put a new battery in it. So while I was at it, I took a couple pictures of my new car (a Hummer).

When I was getting a new battery for the Tacoma, I forgot to use the parking brake (and I forgot to put it in gear too). This is bad because it’s a manual transmission. πŸ™‚ I guess I’ve just gotten used to driving an automatic now (this is what I thought as I got out and my Tacoma started rolling away.. heh).

BTW, after driving the Hummer for a month, my Tacoma seems TINY after driving it again.

I got the Hummer washed today as well, and it was pretty comical watching them try to wash it. First they put it part of the way in the mechanical car wash, and basically have a bunch of guys in there washing it by hand. Then they back it out, and finish it in the detailing section (it was planned, I guess they have done it before). Then what was the best part was they had a lady who must have been about 4′ 8″ drying the Hummer. The top of her head didn’t even come up to the hood.

Motorola RAZR V3

This is one cool cell phone. It’s a flip phone that when closed is less than 1/2″ thick.

As far as I can tell, it’s only going to work with Cingular service though, and I don’t like Cingular, so I won’t be getting one. But either way, it’s amazing what they can pack into such a small design (quad-band [whatever that means], USB port, MP3 ring tones, camera [with zoom], MPEG-4 support, bluetooth, etc.)

They should make one for Verizon, and then I would switch to Verizon.

Oh, and it’s going to be $700 when it comes out next month. I’ve seen some “unlocked” ones on eBay for a little more as well.

60GB iPod With Photo Functionality and Video

Rumors are running rampant these days about a new 60GB iPod that Apple will be releasing in the next 30-60 days (it’s claimed to already be in production).

New things it has/can do:

  • 60GB hard drive (40GB was the previous largest)

  • Higher resolution color LCD screen

  • iPhoto synchronization for storing photos (I wonder if this means there is a Windows version of iPhoto coming soon like iTunes)?

  • Audio/video out (display your pictures on a TV for example)

  • $100 more than the previous high-end iPod

If this turns out to be true, I’m getting one, I have the original 1st generation 5GB iPod that could use an upgrade.

Use Your Verizon Minutes For Onstar

Normally Onstar charges $0.30 – $0.47 per minute (depending on how many minute you pre-purchase) to use the built in phone. Well now Onstar and Verizon have a new (well in the last few months) partnership that allows you to use your Verizon cell phone plan minutes for the phone in your car.

This was a smart move for both companies, because my Onstar service is free for the first year with my new car. The cheapest plan ($15/month) is not worth it for me to pay for it at the end of the year. The partnership makes me want to keep the $15/month Onstar plan as well as switch my cell phone service from Sprint PCS to Verizon. Neither company would have made any money from me otherwise.

Too bad the website to get info (like pricing) isn’t really functional right now.

Onstar Voice Recognition

I’ve had my new car for about a month now, and about a week ago, I realized I could actually talk to my car (and it talks back). It’s amazing how well it works too. Not only that, I realized that the Onstar system that comes in cars has a phone number assigned to it, so you can call your car (makes sense now that I think about it). You can say “dial xxxxxxxxxx” as you would naturally, just rattling off the numbers and it gets the right number all the time.

I remember when my mom got a new car when I was a kid, and I though it was super high-tech because it had a button (that’s right, 1 button for the A/C). But it was cool because it lit up green when you pushed it.

Now you can talk to your car, navigation systems tell you how to get anywhere (or where the closest ATM/restaurant is), the computer analyzes how dirty your oil is in real time to tell you when you should change it (rather than just doing it every 3,000 miles), radio is being beamed down from satellites, etc.

Now we just need flying cars, and I’ll be happy. πŸ™‚

Apple + Grape = Grapple?

I found these a few months ago at Ralphs grocery store. It’s an apple that tastes like a grape.

I figured it was some new genetically engineered fruit, so I went online to check it out. No such luck… it’s just a normal fuji apple that is “bathed through a patented process and in a few days the entire apple takes on the essence and mouth-watering taste of Concord grapes”.

Oh well… not as cool, but they are still tasty. πŸ™‚

Home Mortgage Interest Tax Deduction

Sometimes I really feel like people are incapable of thinking for themselves… Let’s take a home loan for example.

It’s widely known that you can write off the interest of the loan (not the principal) in your income taxes. Soon I’ll be building a house, and everyone keeps telling me that I should get a loan so I can write off the interest. Okay, that’s nice… but why not just pay for it outright I ask them? Their response is always, “Because then you can’t write off the interest.”

So if people would stop repeating what other people say and actually think about it, they might not think that way. Let’s do the math here… A 30 year loan for $1,000,000 at 7% interest would be $6,653.02 per month. That means you have paid $2,395,087.20 over the course of the loan (roughly $1.4M in interest). Wow, that’s fantastic, eh? Now you can write off $1.4M that you paid out that you otherwise could have simply kept. Which at a 30% tax bracket would be a savings of $420,000 because of your write off.

Hmmmm… pay $1,395,087.20 so you can get back (“save”) $418,526.16. What a deal!

It is a good thing, but if you can pay cash, that’s better… it’s funny to see people argue that you should “keep” your money rather than pay off your loan so that you can have the tax “break”.

If you are reading this, and you think it’s a good idea, maybe you should shop around for the highest interest rate you can find, because then you get a bigger tax write off. πŸ™‚

I Love Gas

One thing I have noticed since I started driving a Hummer is that when you are driving, everyone is really nice (much more so than my Toyota truck). Probably because people are scared you are going to drive them over.

There is one rather funny exception to this though. Small cars (I’m assuming the drivers are pissed off that people drive Hummers) are the only cars that have cut me off (and they do it a lot) since I’ve had it. Doesn’t matter what kind, but they all probably get 40 miles per gallon. I’ve seen lots of Geo Metro, Ford Focus, Honda Hybrids, etc. up close lately. πŸ™‚

Personally, I wish the Hummer got better mileage, but regardless I think it would be funny to have the following license plate (the California DMV website has a pretty cool tool for building a license plate and checking if it’s available, which is where I made it). Although that’s just asking for an angry hippie to key your car. heh

Someone already has that license plate BTW. πŸ™‚

Xbox Mod Chip

I have an Xbox that I bought 3 years ago (pretty much when they first came out), that I use about once every 6 months. While at a friends house, he showed me his Xbox that was modded so he could copy games and stuff.

While I wasn’t really interested in the copying of games, some of the other things you can do looked interesting enough that I decided to see if I could do something like that without ruining my Xbox.

First up… for $59, I got an Xecuter 3 mod chip which comes with everything you need (except a soldering iron and solder).

I got mine from Mod Chip Man.

Much to my amazement, I soldered everything in correctly to the Xbox motherboard on my first try without ruining the board (it’s been 13 years since I’ve soldered anything).

Then I installed a replacement dashboard… For this I went with EvolutionX (also free).

I haven’t installed much stuff on the Xbox yet, but I did install Xbox Media Center… and all I can say is this one program alone is going to make me actually use my Xbox. It lets you manage your CDs and MP3s, etc. from your Xbox. It has network/Internet connectivity so it can also give you the latest news via RSS feeds, the weather for whatever cities you want and my favorite part… It can mount network volumes from other machines or access iTunes play lists via the network. All I can say is WOW. I would have done this years ago if I knew about it.

My Opinion Of Russia

Russia was pretty much as I expected except for one thing. People’s apartments are tiny and their appliances are miniature. The refrigerator and stove look exactly the same, just scaled down 30%. Apartments are more like studios (you basically have one room plus a small kitchen, with that one room being an office/bedroom/living room).

There were lots of pretty women in Russia, but I expected that because Yelena told me there was (none as pretty as her of course).

The government was pretty disorganized… No one asked me for my customs form that I took the time to actually fill out upon entering and then again leaving the country. Airport customs didn’t ask me if I was taking anything out of the country (actually they didn’t ask me ANYTHING). Nor did they even bother to look at my passport.

I’ll post some pictures when I find out what Yelena did with them (since they are not on the digital camera anymore).

Russian Economy

The economy in Russia is out of whack (you hear about it in the news, but you don’t really know until you visit). Here’s some examples…

  • A Hummer costs $120,000

  • A Kia costs $38,000

  • Gasoline costs $1.50 per gallon (for 95 octane no less). Maybe someone there should start selling gas mail order. heh

  • A normal apartment runs $500 per square foot (to purchase).

Now this might not seem extraordinary, but it’s not abnormal for people to make less than $500/month at their job.

Necessities are cheap though… you can buy an ice cream cone (yes, this is a necessity) for $0.20, and we bought 2 bags of groceries for like $7.00.

Windows Could Benefit From Mac Networking

While sitting in the airport yesterday, I wanted to transfer a 800MB file from my laptop (a Titanium Powerbook) to my girlfriend’s iBook. Her computer is newer than mine, so she was running 54Mbit wireless, while mine was 11Mbit. So I setup a private computer-to-computer network (no biggie).

But here’s the part I thought was cool… it was going to take like 15 minutes to transfer the file because we were limited to the 11Mbit and I didn’t want to wait that long. I had an ethernet cable with me, so I plugged it into both computers just to see if Macs could automatically switch a normal Ethernet cable to a cross-over cable (I figured it was a long shot).

Low and behold, not only did the laptop internally switch it to a crossover cable, but the file copy that was going on automatically switched to the Ethernet cable the second it was plugged in. By the time I could check to see if the computers could see each other via Ethernet, the original file copy that was going on via Airport was all of a sudden done. Either way, pretty slick that it switched a file copy to a different (faster) port automatically mid-copy.

Moscow’s Subway System

The metro in Moscow is neat. It takes you anywhere you want to go within the city for a quarter. It’s crowded and old, but that’s part of the fun. Oh, it’s pretty fast too.

It’s sort of like a roller coaster… you know you probably are safe, but your body tells you differently. πŸ™‚

Pioneer iPod Adapter

It looks like Pioneer might be following Alpine’s lead and making an iPod adapter for their car stereos. I couldn’t find any info about it anywhere, but if you look close at the AVIC-N1 specs on Pioneer’s website, it has a little note saying it’s “iPod Adapter Ready”. Hmmm… interesting.

Airline Power Adapter Plug

Since I’m going to be on an 18 hour trip (3 flights) to Moscow next week, I checked to see if there was an off chance that the airline had power plugs in their seats (most airlines do in first class, but I’m not flying first class). And guess what? They DO! And as far as I could find, the airline (US Airways) is the only airline that does have power outlets in the coach cabin. All you need is a normal Empower 15V plug (which I already have). So that will be nice to actually kill time playing a video game, watching 8 movies or whatever else. Yay for US Air!

Now I just need to get an adapter so I can plug the AC power cord into the european sockets, and I’ll be set.

Hyatt Regency Kauai in Hawaii’s Drink – Poipu Passion

Almost two years ago, I went to Hawaii to laze around. We stayed at the Hyatt Regency in Kauai (which by the way is the nicest hotel I’ve ever seen).

Anyway, they had a specialty drink there called the Poipu Passion (I probably had like 80 of them during our stay). Guess what? I found the recipe for it! πŸ™‚

  • 1 1/4 oz Absolute Citron
  • 3/4 oz Blue Curacao
  • 6 oz lemonade

Blend it together with some ice, and yum.

Image Functions In PHP

The image functions aren’t really anything new for me, I’ve done some things (like graphing functions) with the PHP image functions, but I mucked around with some advanced functions (alpha blending of multiple layers and scaling the output). And all I have to say is the PHP imaging functions are awesome (of course most of the credit is because of the GD lib).

But as an example, I made something that can render what any 2005 Hummer would look like (colors, options, etc.) dynamically. It also can dynamically generate thumbnails which ended up being a lot smoother than I thought it would. It’s like modern day paper dolls.

SUV SUT
Base Package:
Color:
Colored Grille
Chrome Brush Guard
Up-Level Chrome
Show As Thumbnail

BTW, this is what mine looks like:

How To Play Tennis

Not that I really know *how* to play Tennis that well, but I started playing (well, at this point I wouldn’t exactly call it playing… more like trying to play).

It’s a pretty fun sport (I’ve played three times in the last week now, and each time I’m getting better). Even hitting the ball against the practice wall is pretty fun. I figure it will be at least a month or two before I’m good enough to go pro though (and earn some supplemental income).