Autumnal Equinox 2014

September 23 2014 02:29 GMT

Tobacco v Alcohol

Every year tobacco kills more Americans than did World War II — more than AIDS, cocaine, heroin, alcohol, vehicular accidents, homicide and suicide combined.
· George Will; June 18th, 2009 Washington Post op-ed


Brink’s Pill Heist

On the 17th of March in what could well become the basis of the next Hollywood crime caper movie, $75 million worth of pharmaceuticals was stolen from a warehouse in Enfield, MA from Eli Lilly & Co.

The thieves disabled the alarm system, scaled an exterior brick wall, cut a hold in the roof, rappelled inside, loaded pallets of merchandise onto an awaiting vehicle, and left with a semi-truck full of stolen goods.

Prozac, Cymbalta, Zyprexa according to Eli Lilly no narcotics or painkillers were stored in this ware house.

Why worry about drugs from abroad when it seems the drug trade is very much alive right in our own back yard.

Originally posted 2010-03-19 02:00:13.

Windows 7 – Which edition is right for you?

So you want to upgrade to Microsoft® Windows 7, but you’re not sure which version is the right choice…

Essentially there are only three choices for consumers in the US this time: Home Premium, Professional, and Ultimate… and certainly you can go through the matrix and figure out what’s best, but here’s my advice.

If your computer won’t be used in a business setting where it’s necessary that you join a domain (Active Directory Service) then you may not need anything more than Home Premium.  If you have ADS on your home network, consider therapy.

If your computer is not capable of hardware virtualization (you can use the detection tool below) then you won’t be able to use the Virtual XP mode of Professional or Ultimate.

If your motherboard doesn’t have the TPM (Trusted Platform Module) you won’t be able to use the enhanced security of Professional or Ultimate.

The only other useful feature in Professional/Ultimate that’s not in Home Premium is the ability to be an RDP (Remote Desktop Protocol) server that would allow remote access from another machine.  All versions support remote assistance requests.

There’s absolutely no reason to buy a higher end version than you can use; it will not run any faster or better.  The version you install will be locked to the hardware you install it on, and it’s hard to move it to another computer (it might be impossible).

Don’t waste your money by stroking your ego — buy the version that fits your hardware and your needs best; and for most people that’s going to be Home Premium.

Microsoft® Hardware-Assisted Virtualization Detection Tool

Originally posted 2009-10-25 01:00:38.

eStation Zeen

We know from FCC filings by Hewlett-Packard that they will be releasing a tablet device called the eStation Zeen, and a printer called the eStation Zeus.

HP announced their PDAs will move from Windows to WebOS (a mobile OS they acquired from Palm earlier this year)… and now they’re moving tablets from Windows to Android.  Though, they’ve committed to continue offering Windows on enterprise class devices.

HP might have given Steve Balmer a Windows tablet to showcase to take thunder from the iPad; but my suspicion is that HP is committed to nothing but profits.

Anyway, I’m sure we’ll see what HP has in store; or should I say in stores… soon.

Originally posted 2010-08-13 02:00:22.

Pharos GPS 150


Several months ago I purchased a Pharos GPS 150 at Fry’s for $149 with a $50 Mail-In-Rebate.

The Pharos GPS 150 is identical to the Pharos GPS 250 except with a smaller screen; and both run Windows CE and their own Ostia mapping / navigation software.

It’s a nice device, the only real short coming of it is that inability to manage addresses from a computer… but the mapping software is loaded onto an SD card, and it’s easy to remove — just break that warranty seal on the side and under it you’ll find an SD slot with a 1GB SD card in it.

To do any of the hacks you’re going to need to invest in a 2GB SD card.  I would recommend getting a fast card, because the performance of the device will suffer if you get a really slow card.  But that said, for $10 or less you should be able to buy a 100x 2GB SD card (I got one at Fry’s for $7.99 and got one free at Micro Center).

There are a number of hacks for the GPS, from adding more applications to it to allow you to watch videos, play music, view documents.

The other hack of interest is to take Tom Tom’s software they sell for Mobile Phones (and other Windows CE devices) and load it onto the GPS.  You could of course purchase the software from Tom Tom, and you can probably find it on a P2P network if you just wanted to try it out before you bought it.  Again, this software isn’t what they load onto their GPS units, but it is very similar.  Oh, if you want to try Tom Tom, make sure you get some maps (preferably of your immediate geographic area).

The instructions for hacking the GPS are fairly straight forward, but remember, copy your original SD card to somewhere safe, copy it to somewhere to modify it, and put the original card in a safe place… and don’t put your original SD card back into your computer.  If you manage to destroy your backup then it’s time to take a break and get away from the computer.

For a $100 GPS the unit’s quite capable without any hacks applied; but the ability to “customize” it makes it that much better of a buy.

FYI: retailers sell the Pharos device under private labels, and you should be able to hack those devices as well, but read up on the forums before you spend any money on what you think is a private label Pharos device.  While you can probably get the sticker off and put it back on without anyone being the wiser, some retailers charge restocking fees for non-defective GPS units, and only allow exchanges for defective ones.

Here are some useful links, you can do a search to find more.


Pharos GPS 150 Product Information

Pharos GPS 150 Hack – Details, with Tom Tom Information

Pharos GPS 150 Hack – Simplified, with Extra Applications

Originally posted 2008-05-15 21:34:33.

Email Addresses

Ever go to a web site to enter your email address and find that it wouldn’t fit in the field they provided?

It’s amazing in a world of standards that companies (and individuals) continually ignore them and decide for themselves what’s acceptable.


User names (or local part of the address) can be 64 characters long, and domain names can be 255 characters long.

Here is an example of a reasonable well written validation for email addresses — if you want to see poorly done ones in action it doesn’t take too much effort to find ones that limit the entire email address to less than 30 characters!

<?php function isValidAddress( $email, $check = false )
# PHP Email Address Validator
# (C) Derrick Pallas
# Authors: Derrick Pallas
# Website:
# License: Academic Free License 2.1
# Version: 2006-12-01a
if (!ereg(”
. ‘^’
. ‘[-!#$%&\'*+/0-9=?A-Z^_a-z{|}~]‘
. ‘(\\.?[-!#$%&\'*+/0-9=?A-Z^_a-z{|}~])*’
. ‘@’
. ‘[a-zA-Z](-?[a-zA-Z0-9])*’
. ‘(\\.[a-zA-Z](-?[a-zA-Z0-9])*)+’
. ‘$’
, $email
) ) return false;
list( $local, $domain ) = split( “@”, $email, 2 );
if ( strlen($local) > 64 || strlen($domain) > 255 ) return false;
if ( $check && !gethostbynamel( $domain ) ) return false;
return true;

RFC822 superseded by RFC2822.

User names (for email) may contain:

  • A to Z letters, upper and lower case.
  • 0 through 9 digits
  • . (fullstop, period) but not as the first or last character
  • ! # $ % & ‘ * + – / = ? ^ _ ` { | } ~ – all are permitted.

The maximum length of the user is 64 characters; the domain is 255 characters; so with the @ a valid address could be up to 320 characters.

Further, did you know that user names are case sensitive (but domain names are not).  Of course many email systems treat user names as case insensitive.

For information on domain name limitation you should see IANA.

Now you know more than most developers who write code that accepts or uses email addresses!

Originally posted 2008-08-25 22:12:27.

BigLots! — Caveat –

If you’re a savvy consumer you can save a great deal of money at BigLots! (of course, that’s true of any surplus store, dollar store, clearance sales, etc).

And while I’m not going to stay away from BigLots! because of what I’m about to tell you… I’m just going to continue to watch the prices that are rung up on the register (and you can easily watch while they ring up each item there — not like some stores where you can’t see the price they actually charge until you get the receipt [which is after you sign the credit card slip]_.

At the end of each and every season, BigLots! further reduces seasonal merchandise; however, they don’t actually change the prices on the items (for the seasonal reductions — though they do sometimes change prices for items they’re clearing out) they just post a sign that says extra XX% off such-and-such items.

What they don’t make clear (nor do I really think they want to) is that only some of item in that class are marked down; not all of them are.  And there’s really no way to know what’s marked down and what isn’t except to either find an employee that will check (or happens to just know) or take it up to the cash register.

I found this out a while ago; but it bit me again the other day when I was going to buy a pack of LED Solar lights, the sign said “30% off Patio Lighting”, and sure enough the package I liked the best (well — I really wanted ones made from metal not plastic — but at least these had the solar cell under the lens so that it was protected) wasn’t marked down at all… and I certainly wasn’t going to pay that price for an item that wasn’t really what I wanted.

So, remember, always watch what you’re charged for items, and go over your receipt — and don’t be the least bit shy about asking why it’s more than you expected, and having them void out the item (or the transaction) or returning the over-priced item.  Retailers in general do what ever they can get away with — and my advice to you is not to let them get away with anything ever.

Originally posted 2009-08-28 01:00:58.

50 Years of US Peace Corp

Today marks the fiftieth anniversary of John F Kennedy’s founding of the US Peace Corps (1-March-1961)… originally just a pilot program, but approved and funded by congress now as an American fixture.

The Peace Corps traces its roots and mission to 1960, when then Senator John F. Kennedy challenged students at the University of Michigan to serve their country in the cause of peace by living and working in developing countries. From that inspiration grew an agency of the federal government devoted to world peace and friendship.

Since that time, 200,000+ Peace Corps Volunteers have served in 139 host countries to work on issues ranging from AIDS education to information technology and environmental preservation.

Today’s Peace Corps is more vital than ever, working in emerging and essential areas such as information technology and business development, and contributing to the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. Peace Corps Volunteers continue to help countless individuals who want to build a better life for themselves, their children, and their communities.

President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps to promote world peace and friendship.

The Peace Corps’ mission has three simple goals:

  1. Helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women.
  2. Helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served.
  3. Helping promote a better understanding of other peoples on the part of Americans.

Originally posted 2011-03-01 02:00:46.

Android Infinges?

Well, Oracle alleges that Google Android infringes on Sun patents numbers 6,125,447; 6,192,476; 5,966,702; 7,426,720; RE38,104; 6,910,205; and 6,061,520 — much the same as the Sun / Microsoft law suit did nearly a decade ago.

Whether or not the Google Dalvik machine does in fact infringe on intellectual property Oracle acquired through it’s purchase of Sun or not, it’s clear that Oracle is after the money…

I don’t particularly consider Google to be my best buddy in the open source software world — they too are after the money (only they want to leverage control of information — which parleys into targeting advertising)…

I suggest Google do what Microsoft did, but do it now rather than wait for the courts; just ditch Java — it’s a crappy language anyway, and it’s not like the Google Dalvik machine could run any arbitrary Java program anyway.  Certainly Google can create an open source language to replace Java on Android, and in doing so help rid the world of Larry Ellison and his ego and greed.

Originally posted 2010-08-29 02:00:52.