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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Bill to Delay DTV Switch Fails in U.S. House

DailyTech - Bill to Delay DTV Switch Fails in U.S. House

If there’s one issue that I have to disagree with the Obama administration on, it’s their push to delay the DTV switch to June instead of February. The new president has a strong reputation for being tech-savvy – so why delay this? Seriously, if anyone still hasn’t gotten their head out of the sand about digital television, it’s their OWN FAULT. For god sakes, get off your lazy ass and go buy a damn converter box! Never mind that the coupon program is broken and out of funds. The point is, citizens have no excuse not to be ready. Delaying the switch will only cost more money. Broadcasters and media networks are poised to make the switch in February, and postponing the switch date will only jack things up. PBS, for example, will have to sing to the tune of $22 million for going along with this crazy retrograde scheme. For once, the Republicans have done the right thing in opposing any further delay.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

uTorrent IPFilter Updater v1.5.1 Released + Adventures with Python

UPDATE: Version 1.5.1 was released on Jan. 27, 2009. This fixes a critical bug with a link that should have been dynamic instead of hardcoded, causing an error of “Download Link Not Found”. The new application logic accounts  for this correctly.

The all-new version 1.5 of my popular uTorrent IPFilter Updater has been released! Ever since the old Bluetack site stopped providing the downloads, all the files have been served from a new site – I’ll admit that the new interface and web design is pretty spiffy, but it’s become a major pain in the ass as everything goes through a Remository backend that discourages automated downloads. The download links change regularly and are NOT regular files – rather, files are served through a script, and the system seems to implement a download limit of 3 times a day. Naturally, this fundamentally screwed all earlier versions of my updater.


Being a self-proclaimed lazy fool, I vowed to create a program/script that could deal with this unpredictable dynamicness. This sort of task was just begging for a cheat-friendly, high-level language. Thinking what I’m thinking? Python! With its excellent gzip, urllib2 and re (regular expression) modules, Python is well-suited for this type of thing. Especially with its regex capabilities, it is a very powerful language when it comes to string manipulation. I was quickly able to cobble up a Python version of the updater that does the following:

  1. Check to make sure you have uTorrent installed!
  2. Fetch the HTML source of the info page containing the blocklist download link.
  3. Use a regex search to isolate the download link. (Necessary since the link is changing)
  4. Launch wget to do the dirty download work.
  5. Uncompress the resulting .GZ file.
  6. Move the ipfilter.dat to the uTorrent AppData folder.

The seasoned Python guru might ask why I chose to use wget, an external utility, instead of the built-in urllib/urllib2 modules to do the downloading. Quite simply, I would have had to do more coding (percent bars, screen output, etc.) Besides, wget is a capable and well-known downloading tool…

As I mentioned earlier, the new download site has a download limit; the Updater does nothing to circumvent this (probably unfeasible anyway). If the Updater detects that you have reached the download limit, it will exit with an error message noting that.

***For now, version 1.5 contains no new features and does more or less the same thing as the previous versions.***

If you already have Python 2.6.x installed, you may just run the plaintext script (see readme). For you non-Pythoners out there, I’ve created an EXE version using the excellent py2exe tool. To run the EXE version, though, you will need the Visual Studio 2008 SP1 Redistributable. Download that from Microsoft here.

To-do list:

  • add an option to allow downloading of the "paranoid” ipfilter
  • smart checking of local/remote file dates to prevent unnecessary downloads

For more info and the download link, visit the program webpage at

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Microsoft Certifies 8-Year-Old Sysadmin

Microsoft Certifies 8-Year-Old Sysadmin | Maximum PC

They just keep getting younger and younger. I wonder...if a company hired this kid, how would the IT department respond?

Thursday, January 15, 2009

New 3-Column Layout!

Given that I run my usual monitor at 1400x1050 resolution and that widescreen displays seem to be an incurable fad these days, my old Blogger-provided “Denim” two-column template was getting to be more and more inadequate in terms of screen size. The solution? Turn it into a three-column layout – a form factor that is becoming more and more popular. At first, I tried taking the existing code and trying to hack in another column, but due to my shoddy HTML skills that became a big flop. Miraculously, a Google search yielded immediate results – someone had written an entire tutorial on adding another column, with my old template as the example! This person was kind enough to post a pre-configured version of the modded three-column “Denim Stretch” theme, which is now running my blog in all its glory. As you can see, the new layout utilizes the screen much more efficiently, and I add more gaudy widgets to the TWO sidebars (yippee!)

Thursday, January 8, 2009

AMD Phenom II Announced, Benchmarks Out

AMD’s new Phenom II processor line has been released, and first out of the gate are the 920 and 940 chips, running at 2.8GHz and 3.0GHz.

Some key points to keep in mind…

  • it’s 45nm
  • not a new architecture, but basically an improved die-shrunk of the original Phenom
  • backward-compatible thanks to Socket AM2
  • somewhat slower performance than the Core i7 clock-for-clock, but WAAAYYY cheaper (current pricing is $236 for the 920 and $278 for the 940)
  • Uses the same basic chip layout as a Core i7: four private L2 caches but one big L3 cache
  • can compete with middle- to high-end Core 2 chips
  • overclocks well, 3.8GHz not uncommon in the reviews
  • currently uses DDR2, but is fully DDR3-ready; AMD will switch to the new AM3 socket when the time comes
  • TDP of 125W (compare to the original Phenom’s max TDP of 140W)

Most importantly: AMD is now competitive with Intel again!

From DailyTech, see this list of reviews for much more info.

AMD Phenom II
@ TweakTown
@ Elite Bastards
@ Lost Circuits
@ Hot Hardware
@ The Tech Report
@ bit-tech
@ Overclockers Club
@ Guru3D
@ AMD Zone
@ Legion Hardware
@ Legit Reviews
@ t-break
@ TechSpot
@ Bjorn3D
@ Driver Heaven

Get your Windows 7 Beta Tomorrow

How to Get Your Windows 7 Beta 1 on Friday | Epicenter from

Sometime tomorrow, Friday, January 9, Microsoft will open up Windows 7 to the public by offering downloads of Windows 7 Beta 1 to the first 2.5 million visitors. Registration for a key is required, and the beta expires in August. If you want to get in on some next-gen Windows action, stay tuned to the official Windows 7 webpage throughout the day, as a specific time has not been announced.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

iTunes ditches DRM (finally!)

iTunes going primarily DRM free? (Update: yes, it is! 3G downloads, too) - Engadget

It's about time that the record labels and the music stores realize that DRM doesn't protect sales - it HURTS them. DRM is nothing more than a draconian method to insult customers. Amazon has already caught on with its DRM-free MP3 store, and now Apple has announced it'll ditch DRM too, during the ongoing Macworld expo. The entire iTunes catalog should be liberated by the end of the quarter. Finally, we actually get what we pay for (imagine that!) Unfortunately, though, Apple is making sure to remilk its current customers with existing DRM'ed songs by offering them a chance to "upgrade" their collection to the new "iTunes Plus" DRM-free .m4a format.

I think I'll continue sticking with free-free-free BitTorrent, thank you very much.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Parallel parking done right

From our college friends at the University of Toledo comes a pretty awesome automated parallel parking device, created for a 2006 mechanical engineering project. Really, car manufacturers should integrate this as a standard, or at least an optional feature - just imagine the anger and frustration caused by trying to parallel-park in New York or something. This mechanical method is much easier, not to mention WAAAYY sexier.

Check out the build team's blog over at