Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

HD DVD. Should I?

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I made my decision about a year ago. The format I want to use is HD DVD. That’s my vote.

XBox.com is offering 5 free HD movies with the purchase of the XBox360 HD DVD Player or the Toshiba HD-A3 DVD Player. If you buy the XBox 360 version you also get a copy of King Kong. A pretty sweet deal, however..

This whole Blu-Ray versus HD DVD issue is pathetic and vaguely familiar. Can you say BetaMax versus VHS? Why do they do this to us? I have a beautiful TV capable of 1080P and really want to get started on a 1080 movie collection but don’t want to make the wrong choice and end up with a library of unwatchable movies. Yes unwatchable, as I conform to the industry and buy products that use the industry chosen format (video camera, video converters, portable player, etc) those movies in the other format will quickly gather dust. 

Sure, for home I can buy the LG BG100 that is capable of both formats and cover my format player bases. But I still have my problem…I really want to start buying high definition movies. I suppose by buying a HD DVD Player and getting these movies I am “voting” for HD DVD and this is my contribution to helping the industry decide on the chosen format. It just disgusts me that my vote could turn into a player that everybody will laugh at me for owning 2 years from now. But the bright side is that I’ll have a beautiful collection of HD DVD drink coasters.

What to do? 


First Impressions of the 50" DLP TV: Samsung HL-T5089S

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image Our new TV arrived this weekend. It’s beautiful. You know, I had to buy it. No really. Our new house has a built in entertainment cabinet and the old Mitsubishi 42″ rear projection didn’t fit in the TV slot; it was too deep. So since I was forced into removing inches from depth, naturally I had to make up for it by going a bit wider to make up for my loss. I had to upgrade from a 42″ to a 50″. I hate when that happens. Hehe…

After some advice from my friend Alex and much research I decided that the SamSung HL-T5089S was the TV we needed. Sight unseen. I was able to partake in a killer sale at HighDefinitionStore.com for $1749, with free shipping. This TV sells for $2199 everywhere else. The sale is still going on if you’re interested. I can’t believe the prices on this site! Seriously, check it out. It’s insane. These guys are the real deal. The site and company are a tad lacking in technology and online order processing but let me tell you: They got the job done. No gimmicks or BS, and they are quick.

Off the sales pitch and onto my story…Alex had told me that the new generation of DLPs are currently the best bang for your buck and my research revealed the same. Investigation quickly made it obvious that the Sony KDS 50A2020 (black cabinet) or 50A2000 (gray cabinet) and the Samsung HL-S5087W were the most loved in the 50″ DLP class. Both TVs are sold EVERYWHERE. I viewed them both in the store and liked them both very much. I was torn, but I needed ALL the details before I made the final decision and started on my bargain hunt. Researching the 5087 on SamSung’s site, I discovered that there was a newly updated model out, the HT-T5089S, but it can’t be found in the stores (at least around here). I couldn’t look at the TV so I needed to do an in depth technical review to figure out the differences. It took quite a bit of investigating but I was able to figure out that the slight differences between the 5087W and 5089S were:

  1. 5089S has Bluetooth for wireless headphones (vs. no Bluetooth)
  2. 5089S has USB 2.0 (vs. USB 1.1)
  3. 5089S has HDMI 1.3 with CEC (vs. unspecified HDMI version)
  4. 5089S Single Tuner PIP
  5. 5089S Doesn’t have game lag (as reported in the forums)

The average “sale” price for the 5087W in the store is $1700, $49 more for better features and claimed improvement for gaming lag seemed like a no brainer to me. I was willing to take the risk even though I hadn’t seen the TV’s picture quality.

The risk paid off.

This thing is sweet! I haven’t seen anything in 1080P yet but Discovery HD has quite a few 1080i shows that look soooo beautiful. On the downside, I’m constantly reminded in a whopping 50″ view that 98.75% of all the other cable channels’ image quality sucks. Sucks pixel ass to be more specific. Pixel ass sucking aside, my son and I are looking to purchase an Xbox 360 in the near future (I’ve got a deal with him that I’ll pay half) and we are really pumped to see what Halo 3 is going to look like on this thing. I’m betting there will be no pixel sucking going on with Halo 3. 🙂

Setup is easy. The remote is simple and easy to use. The menus are very nice looking and easy to use. The TV uses LEDs which means no color wheel, less energy and quieter (or no?) cooling fan, side view is great (10 degree more than the Sony 50A2020) and light coming through our windows doesn’t wash it out.

The only Samsung HL-T5089S negatives I’ve found so far are:

  1. The cable box remote codes in the manual don’t work for the latest Cox Cable box (haven’t checked for an update online yet).
  2. I took me a day to figure out how to get back to the original setup wizard that I was prompted with when I initially turned the TV on. Turns out it was a main menu item entitled “Plug & Play”. Maybe I’m just stupid, but “Plug & Play” on my TV didn’t click with me as a setup type item on my TV. This term is bad for TVs and its Microsoft history doesn’t help it either.
  3. Lying on the floor and looking up at it looks bad (it sits on a 24″ cabinet”). Certain colors have a lighter color shadow. However, sitting on a couch 8 feet away and slightly lower than the TV the problem isn’t seen. 

If you’re in the 50″ market and you’re not mounting your TV to the wall or caring how much of the entertainment cabinet depth you consume (HL-T5089S is 13.4 inches deep!) then I recommend this TV. If this isn’t the TV you want then I still recommend HighDefinitionStore.com for a great deal. 


Hosting a Web site from home with Cox, Comcast or Verizon

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Since its creation QAInsight.net has been hosted from an underpowered pizza box lying on the floor, under my desk, in my office at home. The recent move to Arizona has caused some moving around and downtime. It’s been down this last week while I putzed around with getting it to work from the new office closet with my new Internet provider Cox Cable. Cox blocks incoming ports (and so does Verizon Fios) which makes hosting a Web site a little challenging, but not impossible. The providers say that it’s for security reasons, and there is some truth to that, but for those of us who understand those security reasons…well, port blocking is just a huge pain in the ass. If you don’t understand the security issues stop reading and go pay a professional to host your site. Perhaps somebody like GoDaddy.com.

If you’re still reading… My research on the Internet regarding this subject led to many forums and articles with people having the problem of not being able to host a site at home but no specific directions on how to make it happen. Today, I hope to help you make it happen. Beat the system..You know… stick it the man. Keep in mind your Internet provider, modem, router, Web server may not be the same as mine but I’ll try to keep things as generic as possible so that you can try to apply it so your situation. Forgive me for the things that are wrong that I am about to divulge, for I suck at networking. Proceed at your own risk.

WARNING: You could screw things up! WARNING: The traffic to your site could cause your ISP to cancel your service.

And awaaaay we go:

Things needed

1. An Internet provider. Cable, DSL, or FIber. Dial-up isn’t going to work.
2. A router. You’ll need one that is capable of IP forwarding and Web Forwards. I use the NetGear RangeMax Next -WNR854T (mostly because my internal wired network is Gigabit).
3. A domain name. GoDaddy.com is the best place to get one of these. I recommend you get something cool like MyPimpNutz.com or MyPrettyPony.tv to establish your presence on the dub dub dub.

For simplicity let’s start with the 10,000 foot view:

  1. You Domain Name talks to a Dynamic DNS service.
  2. The Dynamic DNS service points to the IP on your modem, and if your ISP blocks ports it will also forward the request to the modem using a different port #.
  3. Your modem forwards to your router and your router forwards to your internal web server.
  4. Your web server receives the request at the port with the specified header and processes it.

Simple enough from that point of view eh? Okay, here’s the detail (not so simple):

  1. Go find out what ports your Internet provider blocks. You’ll probably get lost in their maze of a website so just Google it, e.g. “List of blocked ports for Verizon Fios”. Write them down. In my experience Cox Cable and Verizon Fios block port 80 (the one we care about for the purpose of this post) Comcast does not. If your ISP doesn’t block ports then you won’t need to worry about the “Web Forward” instructions in this post.
  2. On your Router
    1. Logon to your router
    2. Make sure your router has DHCP turned on, if not, turn it on.
    3. Make sure the option to get the Internet IP Address is set to “Get Dynamically from ISP”
    4. If you can, setup the LAN TCP/IP IP address and IP Subnet Mask. Make these 192.168.1.1 and 255.255.255.0
    5. Find the feature for “Port forwarding”. Add a new port forwarding rule, if your ISP does not block port 80 then make the start and end port 80 and the server IP address 192.168.1.10 (you will specify this in the Web Server portion of this article). If you provider does block port 80 then do the same thing but use 8080 (or any port that they do not block).
    6. Find a page with the router status. Write down the IP address of the router (LAN port, 192.168.1.1), the IP Subnet Mask (LAN port, 255.255.255.0), the IP address of the modem (Internet port) , and the Domain Name Server (Internet port)
      Things should look kind of like this when you’re done:
      image
  3. On your Web Server: Logon to your web server.
    Setup the TCP/IP properties on the local area connection:
    1. Logon to your Web server
    2. Setup the TCP/IP properties on the local area connection:
      1. Enable “Use the following IP Address”
      2. Give it a static IP Address 192.16.1.10 (or something other than your router IP address)
      3. Give it a subnet mask of 255.255.255.0 (the same subnet mask you gave your router)
      4. Give it a default gateway of 192.168.1.1 (this is the IP Address you gave your router)
      5. Enable “Use the following DNS server address” and for the “Preferred DNS Server” input the IP address of the “Domain Name Server” that you wrote down from the router
        All said and done it should look something like this:
        image
  4. Dynamic DNS
    1. Go sign up for dynamic DNS (free) at ZoneEdit.com
    2. Log in to your account and click “Add zones” 
    3. Enter the domain name that you want DNS services for and click “add”
    4. A pair of name servers will be assigned to you
    5. Contact your registrar (people that sold you the domain name, GoDaddy.com in my case) and tell them to change the name servers for your domain or logon to your account at your registrar and change them yourself.
    6. Wait approximately 1 day for this change to take place. But in the meantime…
    7. If you determined that your ISP IS NOT blocking port 80 then proceed (otherwise skip to sub-step 6):
      1. Click on the link  “IP Addresses (A)”
      2. For the “name” textbox type in *.yourDomain.com (type in your domain name). Using *. will cover the case where people come in with and without the www.
      3. Input the IP Address that was specified in the router as your “Internet Port” (in other words the IP address assigned to your modem from you ISP)
      4. Click the “Change” button.
      5. Click the “View” link at the top of the page and make sure the IP Addresses section contains the entry you just input
        It should look something like this:
        image

        If you determined that your ISP IS blocking port 80 (and you skipped sub-step 1-5) then:

      6. Click the link “WebForward”
      7. In the “New Domain” textbox type in your domain name, without the www. (e.g. qainsight.net)
      8. In the “Destination” textbox type the following: http://www1.yourDomainName.com:8080
      9. Do not enable “Cloaked”
      10. Click the “Add New” button
      11. Click on the link  “IP Addresses (A)”
      12. For the “name” textbox type in *.yourDomain.com (type in your domain name)
      13. Input the IP Address that was specified in the router as your “Internet Port” (in other words the IP address assigned to your modem from you ISP)
      14. Click the “Change” button.
      15. Click the “View” link at the top of the page and make sure the WebForward and  IP Addresses section contains the entries you just input
        It should look something like this:
        image
  5. Okay! We’re close to being done. Now go logon to your Web server
    1. Open up Internet Information Server (IIS Manager)
    2. Expand the server name node
    3. Expand the “Web Sites” node
    4. Right mouse click your web site (assuming you’ve set this up already)
    5. Under the “Web Site” tab click Advanced
    6. Click the “Add” button
    7. Select the IP Address for server (192.168.1.10 is mine)
    8. Enter the “TCP Port” of 8080
    9. Enter the “Host Header Value” of: www1.yourDomainName.com (yourDomainName is your domain name!)
    10. That’s it. Other things need to properly get a site to display I’ll leave to you (default pages, application pools, etc)

There you have it. Don’t forget it will take a minimum of 24 hours before the name servers are set and propagated, so you’re not going to see instant results if you did this all in one day. If it doesn’t work, double and triple check all your settings to make sure they stuck. Watch for the redirect from www to www1 in the browser. If you get an error and no redirect  to www1, look at your name server and Dynamic DNS settings. If you get the redirect to www1 but the page doesn’t display then look at the web page, application, or IIS settings.

What to do if your IP changes…Change the IP entries at ZoneEdit.com. There are tools that detect the changes and update this automatically for you but I’ve never had to do that since my IP typically updates about once a year which hasn’t warranted me investigating the tool.

Last but not least…Enjoy the convenience and availability of your Web site hosted from home!


How Open Source Failed Me

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For about 2 1/2 years now my wife and I have been keeping a blog for our son Jace. Over at JaceDaniel.com  (notice how all the post images are broken when you go there)  we document the life of Jace and post pictures for 2 reasons:

1. So we can easily share with family
2. Now, 20 years from now, and hopefully forever Jace will have an online “baby book”

In my mind, number 2 being the most important. Why number 2 is such a big deal to me is because my Mom put together and kept 5 baby books for me, from birth to about 13 years old, and those baby books mean a lot when you get older and want to reflect on your past. I want to do the same for my son.

In pursuit of the same but a little more cutting edge than the modern day scrap-booking, I figured the online blog format was the best way to go but needed an image sharing solution. I chose DasBlog for the blog and nGallery for the image sharing solution. Both open source.

DasBlog rocks, it’s a great piece of software with truly dedicated and talented people. nGallery on the other hand… Well it was a great piece of software, it did exactly what I needed but then it was taken over by Community Server and now it is NOT part of the open source/free world.

So here is my issue. This last week I upgraded JaceDaniel.com to DasBlog 2.0  which uses .Net 2.0 but my open source nGallery uses .Net 1.1. I am unable to get both the .Net 2.0 and .Net 1.1 applications  to play nicely in the same sandbox. Even with their own vdirs and application pools. So, now I have a blog/baby book with broken references to a .Net 1.1 nGallery picture gallery. Trying to keep up with the latest in technology hosed me. Suck. So much for a baby book to last decades.

The reality of it is that when I started the blog I didn’t put much thought into how to make an online application/baby book last forever. I am now…I need a solution. Something that will be there when my son is old enough to care. Even if I found a way to fix the problem at hand I am still worried about the future.  What if DasBlog sells out and 10 years from now I’m forced into .Net 8.0 with no backwards compatibility? Screwed again.

What do I do?

Pay for a service? How do I know if they’ll be there in 20 years?

Build and manage my own applications? I don’t have the time.

Am I stupid to put our precious memories on the Internet?


PC won’t boot with ReadyBoost

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Jeff Atwood and Scott Hanselman convinced me that running ReadyBoost on Vista was the way to go and they were right. Running ReadyBoost has increased my system performance quite a bit. I set myself up with the Apacer 2GB Handy Steno and saw the gains immediately. ReadyBoost works and it… feels better.  My click and wait is gone.


After about a week of running and loving ReadyBoost I rebooted my PC. It was not happening. Reboot denied. Nothing but a crisp, black & white, you lose, sorry, no way message of: “Invalid or damaged bootable partition”. Being a week later, ReadyBoost wasn’t in the front of my mind so the heart skipped a few beats while my troubleshooting mind raced to and fro. Seconds later, I re-reminded myself of the ReadyBoost change, yanked the drive, and rebooted. No more error message. What the?


My fix… I turned off the USB Boot feature in the boot options of my system BIOS. The other USB drives attached to my PC don’t have this problem but the ReadyBoost drive does for some reason. Oh well. Easy fix.


MSN Radio is free and has added Pandora

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Listening to music at work consists of two services for me MSN Radio and Pandora; both completely different services, both keeping my ears fairly happy. I started with MSN Radio and after a while realized that the songs repeated about halfway through the work day on any specific genre station. Listening to the MSN Local Sounds station gave me a bit more variety but it still repeated and it was only refreshed with new music once a week. Bored of the same ol’ same ol’, I turned to Pandora to build my own customized radio stations with bands and songs that I like. Pandora allowed me to build stations that I entitled “Space Rock” or “Chick Singers” for example. Pretty cool but the music would also get old after a couple of days if I didn’t give a thumbs up to a few new relevant bands it offered up as “Space Rock” or “Chick Singers”. Over time, I found myself switching between the two; Pandora for one day, MSN Radio another, and switching stations after I came back to Pandora and then MSN Radio.


I guess the people at MSN Radio were reading my mind and recognized the benefits of Pandora because they have teamed up with them and now have the Pandora service available on MSN Radio. The service is free, but a subscription will get rid of the ads. To add to an already sweet offering, the MSN Radio service is free now…ALL STATIONS.


The two services aren’t integrated together and I’m not sure if that’s in the big picture for MSN Radio. Currently MSN Radio opens up in Media Player, while using Pandora opens the Pandora player in web browser. It’d be nice to see these two things melded together within Media Player and to have Pandora station building with MSN Radio stations. Just a wish… I’ll be content with what they’ve given me so far. Baby steps…Thanks MSN Radio!


What do you use for a system differencing tool?

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It sure is a challenge to find the Windows Server 2003 Resource Kit. Why does Microsoft make it so hard to find? You can download it here (thanks Matt).


I was hoping to find a version of SysDiff on it for Server 2003. No such luck. After getting a version of SysDiff here I attempted to run it on Server 2003 and… it doesn’t work. Microsoft wants you to use Wininstall LE now.


Wininstall doesn’t seem to be all that. I need a tool that I can take system snapshots (before and after an application installation), compare and report the differences. I’d like to track the following changes on Server 2003:



  • Files

  • Folders

  • Registry

  • Users

  • Groups

  • Permissions

  • Wishful thinking: SQL 2000 and 2005 schema changes

I’ve found WinAlysis and it seems promising. What tool do you use?


Testing from the dentist’s office

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This morning I took my son to the dentist for his semi-annual cleaning and my brought my laptop along to get some casual white paper reading done while I waited. After firing the ol’ IBM up, much to my surprise I realized that Smiles Northwest had free wireless access. Sweet! I quickly resumed my normal testing schedule by VPNing in to work, doing a remote desktop connection to my test machine and then started testing away. Gawd I heart technology. Testing from the dentist’s office…Heh.


BTW, for what it’s worth Dr. Montrose and the staff @ Smiles Northwest are GREAT. If you’re in the Portland/Beaverton/Hillsboro area I highly recommend them.


System.Data.SqlClient.SqlException in .NET 1.1 and 2.0

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I recently had the privelege to explore a SQL 2000 to SQL 2005 upgrade for one of our Web applications, and in the same breath an upgrade from the .NET 1.1 framework to .NET 2.0…


I’ll talk about the specifics that I learned during the SQL upgrade another time, but I ran into only one issue during my 1.1 to 2.0 upgrade process. The issue wasn’t even really an .NET framework issue.


Long story short, my lesson learned was essentially establish that the app works before the upgrade. Duh, can you say BASELINE? What threw me for a loop which led me astray is that the .NET 2.0 led me to believe that I had a SQL 2005 configuration issue:


Error With .NET 2.0
Exception=System.Data.SqlClient.SqlException: An error has occurred while establishing a connection to the server.  When connecting to SQL Server 2005, this failure may be caused by the fact that under the default settings SQL Server does not allow remote connections. (provider: Named Pipes Provider, error: 40 – Could not open a connection to SQL Server)


To troubleshoot, I rolled back to .NET 1.1 with SQL 2000 and saw:


Error With .NET 1.1
Exception=System.Data.SqlClient.SqlException: SQL Server does not exist or access denied.


Interesting, so I didn’t have a SQL 2005 OR .NET 2.0 problem. The issue? I learned that the above errors occur when:


1. SQL not started (duh, that wasn’t my problem though)
2. IPSEC configured incorrectly (my problem)

The fix:
1. Start SQL Server
2. Configure IPSEC so that the servers  can be pinged successfully in both directions (Web server to SQL and SQL to Web server)


Why am I telling you all of this? Because I have nothing better to do right now. Err… Or…While Googling on my SQL 2005 error I found some great SQL Server 2005 connection troubleshooting links. If you’re stuck with SQL 2005 connection issues here are three some references to check out:


Troubleshoot Connectivity Issue in SQL Server 2005 – Part I

Troubleshoot Connectivity Issue in SQL Server 2005 – Part II

Troubleshoot Connectivity Issue in SQL Server 2005 – Part III


Even Better, just use this site/search



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