Monthly Archives: November 2005

Globalization and GM

This guy raises a good point, but I still think there will always be a demand for good old american made products. I would buy more if they made more

used stuff sucks

I had to get up at around 5:30 this morning to spend until 8am scrubbing the inside of the refrigerator in my new apartment with a crappy sponge that pretended to be a brillo pad and a spray bottle of “formula 409” which might actually have just been water with a shitty scent. Used stuff sucks. So does cleaning….and waking up.

 

However the new commute to work is awesome. It takes me around 10 minutes in traffic to get to work, and it used to take over an hour. 

The devices along the highways in MA

A while back, i wrote about all the wierd camera like devices evenly spaced along route 3, along with sporadically placed along 495, 95, and 93. After getting a look at the side of one of them with a pair of bincolulars. They say “EIS” on the side of them, and a quick search on google showed that they are called “Elevated Imaging Systems” they are part of a suite of products for monitoring traffic, either through camera surveillance or microwave. The majority of the devices along the highway are called RTMS’s (Remote Traffic Microwave Sensor). Route 3, since it was recently remodeled, had them all hardwired into the road system, and have use what appears to be this sensor:

RTMS
It detects the presence of traffic and measures specific parameters in multiple independent lanes. It looks like Route 3 might be using this whole Freeway Traffic Management System, but from my rough measurements, all the sensors are spaced a little over 2 miles apart, and these claim they need to be 300-500 meters apart, but they might be diagonally spaced on each side of the freeway instead. Route 3 also uses video surveillance, however given the height and angle of the cameras, it looks like it is just to view the traffic, although The Traffic Group, Inc. claims it can scan license plates in high volumes, but according to their  website, they seem to only be doing that as a pilot program on I-83 for traffic studies

The other roads, (495, 93, and 95) all being much older, have these temporary installs instead:

Remote Traffic Counting Package

These are pretty much the same deal as the hardwired ones, but they are made to be put anywhere and can store data to be retrieved at a later date, along with being solar powered.

Get better gas mileage and performance while still being able to use your car

It seems every day I come across some article on some random site that says “How to save money at the pump” or “How to get better gas mileage” yet once you go to read the waste of time advice, most of the tips are things like:

  1. Consolidate trips and errands
  2. Ride a bike
  3. don’t go over the speed limit
  4. sit in the car with the windows up and the A/C off.
  5. push your car

How is that good advise? you were reading the article to get better gas mileage. Not driving is not better gas mileage, it’s worse gas mileage. 0 miles to the gallon is not good. So instead, I am going to make my own list of ways to “save at the pump”.

1. Put Acetone in the gas tank
I’ve read a bunch of sites on this one, and people claim to get up to 30% better fuel economy, along with the engine running better, slightly cleaner emissions, and can also use lower grades of gas without the engine pinging. Supposedly the acetone doesn’t damage any engine parts, and this one guy claims to have soaked various engine parts in containers of acetone for months to see if they deteriorate at all and he reported no damages. You have to be careful about spilling the acetone on any painted surface though, because it will eat right through the paint. Also, you have to put the right quantity in your gas tank. Too much or too little doesn’t help.

Check out this article, and then go look around on google if you want more proof

2. Create an ozone in the distributor.
I am not sure I buy this one, but a bunch of people are doing it. It pretty much involves drilling a hole in the top of the distributor cap and splicing one of the engines vacuum lines into the new hole in the distributor. Since most new cars have pointless ignitions (no distributor), this might be harder to accomplish. This article goes into a lot more detail

3. Make sure the tires are properly inflated
It sounds stupid, but it does make a differance. Supposedly if your tires are even as little as 5 pounds underinflated, you could see a 10% decrease in fuel economy. Also, a lot of people are filling their tires with nitrogen instead of regular air now. A bunch of automotive service centers are offering this, and it costs something like $5 a tire for the changeover, but there are a lot of benefits, like more stable, consistent tire pressure, cooler running tires, improved fuel economy, longer tread life, less oxidation of tire components and reduced rim and wheel corrosion. Nitrogen molecules are bigger than air molecules so a significantly smaller amount of nitrogen leaks out of the tires than when you have them filled with regular air.

4. Get a tune up.
Make sure your spark plug wires, spark plugs, and distributer parts are all clean and in good shape. Gunked up spark plugs can’t create as good a spark, which leaves more unburnt fuel in the engine cylinders. Same goes for if the spark plug wires have cracks, or if the rotor in the distributor, or the distributor cap are rusted or covered in any form of buildup. Replace the air filter if it looks real dirty, or better yet, replace it with a high air flow filter, like the ones made by K&N. K&N claims to make up to a 20% difference in fuel economy, but unless your old filter is nothing but a pile of dirt, I would say the fuel savings is more like 7%. To a lesser extent replace things like the PCV valve and the fuel filter periodically. Replacing the PCV valve is a 10 minute job you can do in your driveway for like $5 in parts.

5. Adjust the settings in your cars computer.
Like changing the transmissions shift points. If you have an older car, get a shift kit from a automotive parts store, or if you have a newer car, you can buy a programmer for your cars computer that will reprogram the shift points in seconds. It doesn’t harm the engine or the transmission at all (actually it is better for the transmission) and you will get better performance and gas mileage. The factory sets the shift points more prolonged, which gives you a smoother ride, but effiency and performance suffer. These reprogrammers/modified chips are pretty pricy, but there are many performance gains, along with fuel economy gains depending on the modifications you choose.

Some manufacturers are

6. Install a velocity stack/vortec generator on the air intake.
This sounds a lot more complex than it actually is, but supposedly you can get up to a 31% increase in fuel economy, as well as up to 35 more horsepower. These are sold in most automotive stores and online. Two of the more popular brands are Turbonator and SpiralMax Its a little cylinder shaped baffle that you drop in behind the air filter. In most cars this would be right in front of the throttle body. It takes a couple minutes to install, but the one downside is that they cost between $60-$100.

Photos of flight paths

This site is pretty interesting. This guy decided to take FAA data, along with other sources to make sort of mathematical based artwork. They fed the data into Adobe AfterEffects, and then add some fancy filters to make all sorts of cool alien like and surreal images. They are planning on touring various planetariums accross the world to display all their images.

This is the main site:  http://www.cmlab.com/

But also check out this one:  http://www.aaronkoblin.com/work/faa/index.html

 

when did beta become cool?

Why is it that the new rage is to produce a service, either for free or for profit, release it to the public, and then call it “beta” for years to come?

 

I think Google pioneered this stupid idea, since every service they provide prominently displays its “beta” status, yet GMail has existed for how long now? same with Google Groups, and Froogle. Flickr is next in line as well, and they have no excuse. In my opinion, you’re product is no longer in “beta” as soon as you start requesting people pay for your product.

 And then the herd follows and now everything is beta. Microsoft does it now with their Anti-Anti-Spyware package, and I am sure any day good ‘ol innovative Steve Jobs is going to release his new “iBeta” program, which will do nothing except redraw your screen white and put a gay little pressure sensitive rotary dial on your screen.

This site is beta too. Which is why I still don’t have a spell checker on here 

The Venga Bus is coming

Friday night was the big Bustonian party bus trip with John, Janelle, Cheryl, Stephanie, her boyfriend, and like 15-20 of his crazy rowdy friends.

When we got to Cheryls, we found out someone broke into the bus and stole the kick-ass stereo system it had, so…in a pinch, the driver brought like a $40 boom box to hold us over. It sucked so bad it had to be passed around the bus periodically so everyone could hear music. But, everyone in good cheer, and being WELL STOCKED with beer, we made the best of it and partied on. So while drinking it up, we headed on to the Harp, which as I may have mentioned before, is a fun place. The Zoo was playing there again, and like every time I have gone to the Harp, I ran into “Katie the bartender” again (see previous posts) and am supposed to call her (again), apparantly this time I am supposed to leave a number for her to call me back at if she doesn’t answer. What ever happened to caller ID?
I would say up until this point, I drank at least 2 beers (and 1/8 a bottle of Disarrano) on the bus, plus a beer, a jack and coke, and a shot (which Cheryl kindly bought me).

Anyway, after drinking more, we left, and drank more on the bus, and headed off to club #2…The Big Easy. This is when stuff starts to get hazy. From what I remember..
I got myself another jack and coke, gulped that down, and then decided that the coke part was trying to ruin my night and then asked for just a glass of jack. The hero of a bartender gave me basically a full glass (with ice in it) of straight jack, and then the fun really began. This was my first time in The Big Easy, and the place reminds me of a fancy southern ballroom (even though I have never been to one, or probably seen one) and there are parts along the dance floor where the floor steps up a level, like where the bar is, and the entrances and bathroom and such. By now I was quite drunk, and I would say I fell on those frigging steps a good 10 times. Right into people, I am suprised I didn’t get killed.

Then the dancing began. Apparantly Cheryl really likes to grind, and me being really drunk, figured what the hell, I know how to do that! Fun Fun times. Then later I need to go to the bathroom, and probably in a real slurred voice, told John to not only hold my drink for me, but to also “make sure noone takes it” you know how those greedy drink stealing bastards are!

He tastes it to see what the hell I was drinking, realizes its straight whisky, and decides its time to cut me off, and at least half my drink out, then hands it to me. Of course I had no clue, so I finished that off, and it was time to go.

Now things are really getting hazy.

We go outside, and are in the little Alley type thing The Big Easy is along, and we decide to get pizza from some pizza place that was apparantly there. I devoured 1 slice, then got Cheryl one since she didn’t have any money on her. From what I heard, she dropped it on the ground, we both dove for it, and proceeded to basically wrestle over it on the cold, wet, dirty, snow covered ground. It wasn’t even a whole slice, she had already almost finished it. I have a vague memory though of at least getting a bite out of it. So then Cheryl and I set out to try to find where the damn bus was. It was was like drizzling out, and was pretty damn cold, but we ventured on down the street to find it, We never did, Cheryl was freezing, and soaked, and was crying (from what I remember) so I let her wear the long sleeve dress shirt type thing I had on. Which meant I was now in just a t-shirt. I don’t remember being cold or anything, but apparantly people where saying I must be really wasted, because I looked like a happy camper.

While we were trying to find this bus, apparantly a bunch (or all) of Stephs boyfriends friends got in a big fight (with who? I don’t know. It might have been each other) and the police came, and broke it up, but apparantly noone was arrested, then we found the bus driver, who apparantly was actually in the bar (thats a scary thought) and back on the bus we go.

Now I am really drunk, which usually leads to sleepy time for Mike, and that I did. Apparantly I feel asleep with my legs way out in the aisle, and John woke me up and told me if I am going to sleep, i need to go lay down on the seat on the back of the bus, so I go back there, fall back asleep, and shortly after, apparantly the bus went over a big bump, and according to John, I flew up in the air, still laying down and asleep with my shirt as a pillow, landed on the ground, still in the same position, and continued to sleep.

The ground was soaking wet, in water, beer, and who knows what else (later on, piss too apparantly, but that was after I was awake).

By now, the bus driver hated us all, some of the people on the bus were yelling out the window, one kid pulled his pants down, shoved his dick out the window, and pissed down the street as the bus was driving. Another one tossed a glass bottle out the window at a car, which then followed us, made the bus pull over, got on the bus, and wanted to fight everyone.
These were all from Stephs boyfriends winner group of friends (not all of them sucked though)

The bus driver apparantly really wanted to make his nights worth of money, since he is payed by the hour, and basically refused to drive us home until the time was up, despite the fact that Steph kept trying to make him just bring us home.

Although I don’t remember a bit of this, this girl I met for the first time at Cheryls halloween party, who had also been on the bus, came back and was talking to us, and was all angry claiming none of us liked her, and was mad at me because I didnt remember who she was (from my halloween pictures you can see in the halloween post in october)

For the record. I thought she was one of the coolest people at the halloween party. She was drinking from a metal goblet! nothing is better than that. She is hot too, and she had been talking to me. Its a winning combination. Hell, if she didn’t have a boyfriend, I would be asking her out (another rejection is always fun).

I went up to the front of the bus to talk to her (probably because I was yelled at) and somehow ended up holding that crappy boom box. This shithead sitting across from me, one of Stephs boyfriends friends. Said something to me. I wish I remebered what the hell it was, but apparantly it was fighting words (at least in my book) I think he was starting shit and saying something about how I better not put the boom box down or something. Whatever it was, I was pissed. I walked away to the back of the bus, go over to John, and just keep saying, I was being the bigger man, I just walked away….I just walked away. John looks over to see what I am talking about, and the shithead is laughing and pointing at me to his friend. I think they were planning something. So at that point, John, being the good friend that he is. walks up to them and starts yelling at them. A fight almost breaks out, the bus pulls over again, and the bus driver tells us that if one more person stands up or does anything, he is dropping us all off right there.

So now angry Mike comes out. He hasn’t been around in a while. But he was out and pissed. I had my mothers digital camera on me, which I didn’t want to break, so I started taking out all my belongings and handing the to Janelle. I had it all planned out. The second we got off the bus, this kid is dead. I was down to my t-shirt, and my empty pants. and I sat there for a good 20 minutes (it might have been 5 for all I remember) with the look of death on my face staring at this kid. Stephs boyfriend came over a couple times to get me to chill out, and so did some other kid, but for some reason I was real unhappy. Oddly enough, I have NO IDEA at all what the kid had even said to me. Noone does. The bus finally gets to Cheryls house, and I am ready for go time. But the kids got off the bus and quickly walked away to Cheryls house, and we just headed home. Luckily John stopped drinking hours earlier, or else I would be sleeping with those kids.

All and all it was a fun time. And for those of you that just came for the pictures (too bad I got drunk too fast to keep taking pictures) I purposely put them at the end of this post so that you would have to go through all of my ramblings. Sucks to be you huh?

Here they are: The Party Bus Pictures

how to run a dedicated server on the cheap

Since I don’t have much spare money, and my site, along with the other sites I host don’t generate much income. Here is a guide on how to get your own dedicated server, reliable mail delivery, and reliable DNS service.

Getting the server:
There are a million differant server hosting companies out there, and a bunch of differant setups.

  1. Virtual Servers: These are the cheapest, but have many disadvantages. You really don’t have your own server. You basically get an account on one big server that is sectioned off into a bunch of smaller servers. Each user has full control over their own section, but there are still plenty of ways where one users could inadvertantly effect the performance/reliability of your little server
  2. Co-Located Servers: This gives you the most amount of control out of all the options. In this setup, you build/buy/steal your own server, and mail or deliver it to the hosting provider. They then attach it to their network, charge you a monthly fee, and then leave you alone.
  3. Dedicated Servers: This is what I have, and in my opinion is the best bet for your average poor person, like me. This is basically like leasing a car. It’s your for as long as you want to pay for it, but as soon as you decide you don’t want it anymore, you’re left with no server to claim as your own. But other than that, a Co-Located and a Dedicated server are both the same.
  4. Guerilla Hosting: This is where you take whatever computer you can find, and hide it somewhere in your works office or data center, and leach off of their network. This is the cheapest option, but it has its obvious implications

Where to install the server:

So now that you have your method of hosting your server picked out, now you have to find a place to put it. If you go to google and type in: dedicated server hosting (or whatever hosting choice you decided on) you will see there are hundreds of companies to choose from. All of the companies have their own advantages or disadvantages, but in my opinion at least, the biggest factors are

  • price
  • network perfomance
  • specs on the server they give you,

So really who you choose is all up to you, but out of my latest search since I moved to my current provider, I looked through 30 or so differant companies, and settled on this on place that is based out of Germany. 1paket.com They are a real simple company. They do one thing, which is rent out dedicated servers, they have been extremely responsive about any problems I have had, and they had my new server up and running in less than a day.

Also, they only charge $75/month, which is pretty cheap.

Now on to the good stuff. Saving your ass

So now you have your server hosted somewhere, and you started setting it up. This brings up to the next 2 important things.

DNS: Unless you just want your server to only be accessible by its IP address, you’re going to need a reliable DNS setup. The first thing you need to decide on is who to make your primary name server.

  1. Do it yourself – You can just install BIND on your new server and call it a day, but this has 2 big disadvantages. It is another service running on the same machine, which in the end is just another point of failure. If the machine goes down, any backup mail setup or anything like that goes out the window, you’re gone until you get everything back up. The second downside is that your introducing another hole for someone to sneak through and break into your system. Since there are other options available, it seems like that isn’t a decent trade off.
  2. Pay for DNS – who wants to do that? on the other hand, you’re paying them to make sure their DNS setup always works, which might work out good
  3. Use a web based DNS provider – Most of the dirt cheap domain name registrys these days offer DNS for free. Sometimes you don’t even need to buy a domain from them, but if you still need to buy one, it might not be a bad idea to get free hosting. I know mydomain.com does this, but I have had some problems with the reliability of their network, and the procedures they use to transfer domains. The site I currently use is XName. They offer completely free primary and backup DNS service, you can manage as many domains as you want, and they provide you with a company of the BIND config that you use, which makes restoring lost changes or even moving your DNS server elsewhere extremely easy, and as I said, they are free. However they will happily accept PayPal donations, and I strongly recommend taking that option. Their setup is better than most of the web based services I have seen, including ones that you pay for. Then get secondary DNS hosting somewhere else. This way, even if XName goes down, your domains will still resolve because your secondary DNS provider is still up and running somewhere else. RollerNet is another great company. They offer mail and backup DNS services for completely free, and if you send them $30, they give you a bunch of extra features as well.

Mail: Just like everything else, there are plenty of web based providers, but most of them cost money, and most of them don’t offer the large range of features that I need. So in my opinion the best setup is to host all your mail services locally, using Postfix or something similar, and then setup a backup MX record that points to a provider that will hold the mail until your server comes back up in the event of a crash or network outage. For this you should go back to the company I mentioned earlier…RollerNet. They offer a ton of mail serving features, including store and forward, which lets you make them your primary and backup mail host, and they deliver the mail to whatever mail server you tell them to, making your real mail server hidden from the public. Spam control, DNSBL, SPF, along with a ton of other features.

So, you should go check out:

1paket.com – extra cheap and reliably server hosting

RollerNet – reliable free mail and free DNS hosting

XName – reliable free DNS hosting

Is MS Windows ready for the desktop?

Read this:

Is Microsoft Windows ready for the desktop?

This is a real funny article. Looking past all the sarcasm and humor, sadly it’s all true. Especially the part about “Non-Voluntary Contributions” or “NVC” for short.

whois and traceroute suck. WhoB, and LFT are where the party is

Last night I was trying to track down why all these odd HTTP requests were going to a server I am working on. It looked like the server got listed on some web proxy list or something, because basically every request that came in was in the form of

GET http://randomsitename.com

What was even more weird was that every once of those crazy requests was for either a random little search engine, or a bunch of popular 3rd party ad servers.

Either way, the end result was that I had about 280 IP addresses that all these requests were from, and I was trying to find some kind of link to why all these IP’s were sending requests to this one random server that hasn’t even been put into production yet.

looking at whois output gets real boring after a while, plus most whois clients don’t handle bulk processing very well, and I wasn’t really interested in sitting around and either manually running whois queries on 280 IP’s or staring at the output of all those whois records going by.

Then I found this little tool called WhoB. WhoB is a really handy little command line whois client that is designed to product all its output on 1 pipe delimited line, which makes it really easy to use with grep or awk. Also, WhoB uses a variety of sources to get its data. It primarily looks up information derived from the global internet routing table, as opposed to the standard whois client, which sucks unless you specify which whois database to use (and you need to know its address), which makes things really inconvenient if the addresses you are researching are scattered internationally.

You can look WhoB manual on how to use it, by just typing this line:

for ii in `cat fulllist`; do whob -o $ii;sleep 10; done|tee ./whoisoutput

I was able to save all the output of the file, watch the results scroll by in the meantime, and have some nice easily grepable output, which after it has finished, told me that all the requests were from 2 very large networks in China. Also, in case you were wondering, I added the “sleep 10” line because the ARIN database apparently cut me off because I was querying it at least once a second, and apparently they don’t like that.

Here is a sample of the output:

222.79.29.118 | origin-as 4134 (222.76.0.0/14) | CHINANET fujian province network

The -o option tells WhoB to display the organization name on file at whatever registrar for who owns that IP.

Also, WhoB comes in the same package as another really useful tool that I found last night as well called LFT. LFT is …

short for Layer Four Traceroute, is a sort of ‘traceroute’ that often works much faster (than the commonly-used Van Jacobson method) and goes through many configurations of packet-filter based firewalls. More importantly, LFT implements numerous other features including AS number lookups through several reliable sources, loose source routing, netblock name lookups, et al. What makes LFT unique? Rather than launching UDP probes in an attempt to elicit ICMP “TTL exceeded” from hosts in the path, LFT accomplishes substantively the same effect using TCP SYN or FIN probes. Then, LFT listens for “TTL exceeded” messages, TCP RST (reset), and various other interesting heuristics from firewalls or other gateways in the path. LFT also distinguishes between TCP-based protocols (source and destination), which make its statistics slightly more realistic, and gives a savvy user the ability to trace protocol routes, not just layer-3 (IP) hops.

LFT it a lot more useful than the normal traceroute command, I won’t say it actually ran any faster though.

Also, LFT/WhoB is available as a package in debian. If you’re using Ubuntu, you need to tell the package manager to use the “universe” package database, otherwise you will have to go to the LFT/WhoB website and download the debian package from there.