David's Blog | Misc ramblings about things in general, work and technical items of interest.

CAT | Tech

Sep/04

30

RSS Feeds

Seems a recent rage on the net has been RSS feeds. Most blogs and news sites are now providing them. It allows you to integrate/aggregate various sites without having to go visit them. It’s sort of a newer version of the old Pointcast push content from the late 90’s – tell me when there’s something I’m interested in vs make me go and look.
I’ve been aware of it for a while but just never spend a lot of time trying to do anything with the technology. Well someone IMed me last night with a link to the new http://my.yahoo.com which allows you to aggregate RSS feeds. I played with it a bit, but I didn’t want to go and change my home page yet.
I started looking around for other programs/solutions and looked at programs such as Pluck which integrates pretty heavily into IE, a couple stand alone apps like Sharpreader and then a program which integrates into Outlook called Newsgator.
What I like about Newsgator is I’m always in Outlook (home or work) so I don’t need to have another program running that I need to flop back and forth to. It integrates nicely and there’s no new interface I need to learn since it’s like content coming into Outlook like an email comes in and then moved to the specific feed folder. Now granted, I’ve only been playing with it for a day, and a week or two will tell if the thrill lasts, but so far I like it. It’s not free, but not expensive. The only issue I’ve run into so far is that it doesn’t like an Auto Config proxy so I need to switch the proxy settings as I move my notebook between work and home.

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Mar/04

13

Anti Virus Gateways – Stop the auto-responses

Back in the days when a virus you received was from the person sending you the message, having your mail server anti virus gateway software auto notify the sender was useful. Today, it’s not.
I’m sure everyone has received messages like the following:

Our virus detector has just been triggered by a message you sent:-
To: mailbag@infogoal.com
Subject:  Re: Here
Date: Sat Mar 13 09:18:51 2004
Any infected parts of the message (yours.pif) have not been delivered.
This message is simply to warn you that your computer system may have a
virus present and should be checked.

Viruses today typically forge the “from” address. What that means is my address, picked at random from a machine that is truly infected, is made to be the address the mail is from. Now, any replies back from an automated system or from an individual that receives the message, goes to me and not the person that is infected.
Obviously, it’s useless to notify me that someone else is infected and not only is it useless, but it causes double the email traffic for, what is in the first place, a complete waste of an email. A virus email is sent (a waste of an email message) and then an auto-response from an anti-virus scanner sends a notification back to the wrong individual (another waste of an email message).
Articles in trade magazines such as Stop Anti-Virus Gateway Responses help bring this problem to the attention of the masses, but obviously, it’s not working well. I still receive, on almost a daily basis (and very often numerous times through the day when there’s a new virus outbreak), these useless auto-notification messages. I’ve even started to contact the companies that are replying back to me with a form letter indicating the uselessness of their automated responses and the additional burden on their mail servers and those throughout the Internet. Hopefully, at least some of the admins receiving these messages will understand the need to disable this notification and we can all have a little more time in our lives to spend on something other then deleting of spam and useless anti-virus notifications.

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Mar/04

6

Affiliate Store – www.stateposters.us

Was cruising around the net and stumbled on http://www.allposters.com and started thinking about creating a targeted affiliate store. Did a little searching and decided that creating a store concentrating on the 50 US states seemed like a good idea. I could create state specific pages, each focusing on specific state posters and state prints.
Grabbed a domain from GoDaddy for a couple bucks – http://www.stateposters.us – for a couple bucks and had my ISP create a subdomain of http://stateposters.levinecentral.com and started to build the site. If it starts to take off, I’ll just host a true domain with them, but the subdomain was free and I forward to it from GoDaddy.
To build the site I created a simple mySQL table that contains a key, the state abbreviation, the state name, the dynamic store id generated from allposters.com and a description.
I then built dynamic stores for each state. Most are just one page but for states with a lot of posters/prints I created multiple. Each store gets an id that I entered into the mySQL table.
I then wrote 1 page in ASP that generates every state page by reading the relevant record off the mySQL table plugging in the values in various areas of the code. It adds the description to the top to make it more personalized by state.
I created 1 main ASP page which just links to each state page and viola – a quick affiliate site. The longest time was actually on the allposters.com site selecting all the prints in each state category to build the individual dynamic stores.
Check it out at http://www.stateposters.us and buy something. Let me know how it works ;-)

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Feb/04

28

My Own Weather Station

I always liked monitoring the weather though it wasn’t something I obsessed about much. I had been looking around for a while for a weather station that I could setup at home and hook into a computer to transmit data to the Internet.
I decided upon the Lacrosse WS-2315 which I got from Amazon for, at the time, $179. I even had some credit with Amazon so it came to less.
I had to wait for the snow to melt off the roof before I was going to climb up and put the wind sensor up, so I had the temp/humidity sensor running for a while. When I could get up on the roof I mounted a pole and the wind sensor. Ran the telephone wire down to where I wanted to keep all the other components, hooked it up to the temp sensor and then hooked up the rain sensor. It works wireless to the base station which connects via a RS-232 cable to a spare notebook I had which captures the data. It comes with a basic program that you can use to monitor the activity and even upload a graphic to a web site. The updates weren’t as frequent as I liked, so I ran the supplied cable from the temp unit to the location I was going to keep the base station and connected notebook.
After some work, I have a few pages of current weather info up at http://www.levinecentral.com/weather. The data from VWS also updates Weather Underground which can be accessed much like WeatherBug using Weather Exchange where you can point to a local station.

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Feb/04

17

What good web hosting is about!

My first web hosting was way back with my dial-up ISP. It was included. Not a lot of features, but it hosted static pages fine.
When broadband became available to me, web hosting wasn’t included. I needed to find a good hosting provider with ASP support as I like developing in ASP. I bounced around with a couple, each seeming fine at the start but having terrible problems in the end. It was if they just didn’t care. Technical problems will occur, but customer support is key. None of these providers had that.
When I needed to switch hosting providers again, I found http://www.hostek.net. I don’t even remember now how I initially found them. I probably asked them 20+ questions on various topics before I signed up with them. They responded to every question, and not in days, but typically in minutes. Every answer told me they understood the question and not only had a quick answer, but details and suggestions on alternatives. They were truly tremendous in the pre-sales portion – now to see if they handled the implementation and on-going hosting.
Switching was a breeze (my old provider was down and out I think at this time) and they got everything up and running within minutes. Once the DNS changes propagated, I was back in business. A+ on implementation.

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Feb/04

14

iPod for Valentine’s Day

My wife love’s music and so do my kids. She has a lot of CDs and listens to music all the time. (I listen to news back and forth to work). She’s been using iTunes for a while and making her own CDs. She gets lost in iTunes listening to music for hours.
So for Valentine’s Day, I got her a 20GB iPod and the Belkin Tunecast II FM Transmitter and Car Adapter for it. She LOVED it!!
I had to get a firewire card too since the Dell she uses didn’t have one. I got a $19.95 one from CompUSA and it works fine. XP recognized it and it worked on the 1st reboot.
Setup was easy and everything I bought allows the iPod to charge in the dock or in the car. The 1st time it recognizes the iPod there’s some initialization and registration and then it syncs her iTunes right to the iPod. Every time she makes a change, it syncs it up. It’s done very, very well. Nce job Apple!! The only comment is the touchpad is sensitive and though I’m used to a touchpad on my notebook, my wife isn’t so it took some getting used to.
All in all, a VERY successful Valentine’s Day!

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Feb/04

12

Testing out Vonage

Decided to see what all the hype is around VOIP. Though I’ve played with it a bit I never felt like it was ready for prime time. But on Monday I ordered Vonage and it arrived on Thursday. Hooked it up through the Linksys and it’s working fine.
Made a few inbound and outbound calls and things seem fine. I certainly can’t tell it’s any different then a plain POTS line. Of course with OOL cable modem service I get 8500 down and 900 up so what’s a little 90k for a VOIP call.
I’ll probably keep it for 2 months and then decide if it’s worth keep and dropping the unlimited Verizon long distance plan and using Vonage for outbound LD calls. I’m still not comfortable eliminating Verizon completely for home phone service. Being dependent on OOL, Vonage and the general Internet for calls seems a tad to risky to me.
Here goes the trial…

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Feb/04

3

A new project? Mail Header Analysis

For myself and various people both at work and when helping others in general, analyzing mail headers to determine what occurred, where delays might have been, etc comes up from time to time. What I looked for is a site or program that I can use to paste in mail headers and for it to analyze them and let me know how long it took to go from server to server. I can’t find anything like that.
So, maybe I’ll write it. Need to parse the headers for the Received lines, get the from/to servers and times, normalize the times and display some results. I started looking for some ASP or PHP routines that might help me along quicker, especially with the parsing, but I haven’t come across anything yet. There’s a PERL routine that might do it, but I don’t really want to work with PERL. I’ll see how things go on my own and then fall back to PERL if it gets too hairy.
We’ll see how it goes.

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Feb/04

1

My First mySQL

Hostek, my ISP, has mySQL available. I had always used Access just because it was easy enough. I asked them to create a mySQL database for me, which they did in minutes, and I decided to test it out with my 404 page which logs 404 errors.
My 404 page displays the home page and logs errors to Access. It also emails me an error. I decided to create the 1st mySQL table as a duplicate of the 404 Access table and write the same record to it.
Connecting to the table from ASP was easy since my ISP gave me the sample connection string. Getting the SQL valid was the next hurdle.
Seems you need to us the ` character and not the ‘ character when referencing table names and column names. Once that was done, the SQL was syntactically correct, but not doing exactly what I wanted. The date wasn’t properly populating. Seems the date needs to be in the format: yyyy-mm-dd hh:mm:ss
So, using ASP code I got the date in the proper mySQL date format and viola – success.
Here’s the code snippet to format the current date/time properly, in ASP, for a mySQL datetime field:
mysql_date = DatePart(“yyyy”, now()) & “-” & DatePart(“m”, now()) & “-” & DatePart(“d”, now())
mysql_date = mysql_date & ” ” & DatePart(“h”, now()) & “:” & DatePart(“n”, now()) & “:” & DatePart(“s”, now())

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Feb/04

1

Slow XP Boot

Well, it seemed the Dell desktop we have was starting to boot very slow. Took around 2 mins for XP to start. It would just sit at a dark screen after the Windows XP Home banner screen was displayed and prior to the desktop being displayed.
I did searching and found about BootVis which is a MS program that monitors the boot process and shows some pretty graphical details of how long various components took. I found where to download it – http://www.softpedia.com/public/cat/12/2/12-2-1.shtml – and installed it (default was to C:\Program Files\Microsoft Bootvis) and instructed the program to run and log the boot-up process including drivers.
The program rebooted, it took the 2 mins or so to boot and after it booted it launched and loaded the BootVis results. I could see 2 things that weren’t right. One was the Registry showed as taking a long time and usbstor.sys took the same amount of time.
Now, a few days ago, I noticed the printer light that is normally on wasn’t on. I asked my wife and she thought it wasn’t ever on except when it was printing. Since it’s the only USB device connected, I powered it off. I rebooted and the computer was up in 30 secs. Viola!! I powered the printer back on and the green light I thought was always there returned. Rebooted just to double check and it still boots in 30 secs.
Whew!!!

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