free geoip January 2006 - Jayson's Blog -
A conduit to the voices inside my head.

January 2006 - Jayson's Blog

  • Verizon FiOS is Finally Available in Charlotte

    For anyone who hasn’t heard of the FiOS offering from Verizon, it’s their fiber optic internet connection solution (more information here), and it’s finally available in my neck of the woods.  Any readers of this site use this for their internet connection?  Know anyone who does?  I’m seriously considering the switch, but would love to hear some feedback first.  It’s really a no brainer though as it’s only 5 bucks more a month than what I’m paying now on RoadRunner, and it’s 3x as fast downstream/6x as fast upstream as my current connection. 

    The biggest caveat I would face is that I’ve had my current email address for 5+ years, and RR (at least last time I asked them) won’t allow me to just “rent” an email address without also having a full blown RR internet account.  It wouldn’t be a painless change...unless there is some type of service out there that I don’t know about that would facilitate an easier address switch. 

    Regardless, any feedback is welcome.

  • Fixed Width vs Variable Width Websites

    I wanted to get some feedback from you guys on the whole “fixed vs variable width” debate for website design. is (and always has been) a variable width site, and will more than likely continue to be for the foreseeable future, but I’ve seen some pretty good arguments as of late pushing fixed width design as it lends itself to better readability, and works better across different screen resolutions.  I personally prefer variable width mainly due to the fact that since I paid for a monitor capable of 1600x1200, I’d like as much of that real estate to be put to use as possible…but I also just like the whole look and feel of an entire browser window containing content. 

    I do realize that at higher resolutions (like what I use) readability starts becoming a bit of an issue as blocks of text are stretched out (and usability tests have proven that readers prefer shorter lines of text), but the same is true for fixed width sites at higher resolutions…you’re left with a narrow column of content in the middle, with each side basically being left unused.  Not distracting per se, but kind of annoying nonetheless.  At lower resolutions, fixed width sites generally have an edge over variable width from what I’ve seen.  There are always some tradeoffs.

    In a perfect world, web designers would create sites exactly how they want them to look (which in my case is quite true)…but in the real world you have to design for what your users want.  Not that I really care what (all 4 of) you people think, but wanted some feedback regardless ;-).

  • Life Without My Files -- Day 3

    I really hope I can stop posting on this topic soon, but things continue to get more and more interesting (and frustrating).  The recovery tool I mentioned earlier has been put through its paces, and the results are not very promising at all.  Out of 120+ gigs of data I had on the drive, around 40 gigs were recovered, and of those 40 gigs roughly 8.5 gigs (1266 files out of over 6600 that I originally had) are MP3’s, though many of them are corrupted, and none of them have the correct title (only numbers).  The bulk of the rest are plain .txt files; some of them are clearly .cs or .vb code files (which does me absolutely no good whatsoever), some are clearly what’s left of assemblies, and some are complete gibberish.  There are close to 100,000 of them so obviously going through them by hand simply isn’t possible.

    Here’s where it gets interesting (and where I get really confused as I’m by no means a file system expert):  Where the heck are the other 80 gigs worth of files?  If they were overwritten (which I’m pretty sure they weren’t) by other files, wouldn’t those files have been recovered?  If the drive was formatted and/or partitioned by the Vista installation, that information should have been recovered as well by the recovery tool…there simply isn’t any partition information whatsoever, and there should be.  The way I understand it (and someone please correct me if I’m wrong) is that if a drive is accidentally formatted or partitioned, the data is actually still there, only the pointers and indexes are deleted thus marking those sectors as available for new files (much more efficient than actually deleting the physical data on the platter)…so as long as no further writes are made to the disc the data should be fully recoverable (which I verified doing some tests of my own).  There were no writes made to the drive whatsoever after the Vista installation as the drive wouldn’t even mount to the filesytem.  So apparently Vista overwrote 80 gigs of data with absolutely nothing, otherwise whatever the files were overwritten with should have shown up during the recovery process…there’s absolutely nothing there except a gaping 80 gig hole in the drive.  Again (as I’ve mentioned in previous posts) at no point during the installation was the external drive selected for any type of operation, and the previous build of Vista didn’t do this.

    So IMO opinion either:

    • I got some sort of nasty virus immediately after booting Vista after the installation and it chewed up my drive (which I have no way of currently checking as the drive won’t mount, more on this later), or
    • The Vista installation routine did indeed eat 80 gigs of data and overwrote it with blank space (again, if the drive was simply formatted the data should be recoverable).

    I’m leaning towards the latter; I would definitely consider the first bullet, however neither eTrust nor Norton can see the drive to scan it though (but the recovery software sees the drive…is there an A/V program out there capable of seeing a USB drive if it isn’t mounted to the filesystem?).

    As Bootay mentions in the comments of this post, “If you are doing a beta OS setup on a machine with critical data, any data loss is your own fault” (thank you oh great fountain of knowledge ;-) ), which of course is correct (and it doesn’t matter if it’s MS’s fault as they are very clear in their EULA’s that they aren’t liable for any data loss stemming from their products), but I’m still stunned as none of the previous builds touched the USB drive (to my knowledge), and certainly didn’t render it unusable.  If this is Vista’s fault (still not blaming yet until I have more hard data to look at), then this is an absolute outrage regardless of if I had backups or not (which unfortunately in this case I only have backups for the super critical stuff…I’d really like my 6600 tunes back though).  It’s simply maddening to say the least.

    I haven’t given up.  I was flipping through PC Mag earlier today at my Mom’s (yes, she reads PC Mag for some reason), making sure to skip over Dvorak’s column of course, and came across a short article they did about a data recovery company called OnTrack; they have a great deal going where you pay them a hundred bucks, ship them your drive, they do everything short of voodoo to get all your data back, they then send you a link via email where you can view your folders/files online, and then you decide whether you want to pay another sum to get all the data back (or even just a subset for less money).  So, that’s my last resort at this point…and they also should be able to tell me what the fuck actually happened to the data on the drive (and where the 80 gig hole actually came from).  So I’ll (hopefully) be putting this topic to bed for now and can get on with regular posting.

    Next time I’ll un-plug everything except the damn drive I’m installing to.  What a crappy way to realize this.

  • Obligatory Panthers Post

    We are just minutes away from the opening kickoff in what most would consider to be the most important Panthers games in the franchise’s history.  My pick?  Panthers over Chicago 10–3.  Regardless, it’s going to be an absolute slugfest as Chicago has the number 1 defense and Carolina’s is number 3.  That being said, I think Shannon nailed it in his predictions for 2006:  The Panthers will make it to the Super Bowl, and will indeed lose again.  In any case, we need some revenge against Chicago today, so go cats!
  • ReverseDOS Spam Filter Preliminary Analysis

    I posted earlier about the fantastic ReverseDOS anti-spam filter that I installed on my site to try and cut down on the wasted bandwidth/clock cycles incoming spam attempts were still chewing up; the preliminary results are looking very promising (I haven’t had a single spam comment since I installed it), and my bandwidth usage is down by about 30%.  So, I’m re-enabling trackbacks (which by far and away is where most of the junk was coming from…I’d say a ratio of about 20:1 over comment spam) and we’ll see if it’s really working.  I’ll give it either:

    • Until Friday, or
    • Until I get my first big batch of trackback spam

    And then I’ll post about the results.  Overall at this point I’m extremely impressed with this utility, and haven’t noticed any performance issues on the server it’s installed on.  This thing is a godsend.

  • Apparently Julius Peppers Likes Orange Juice

    I was at the local convenience store (the Circle K on Graham and 10th for any Charlotteans reading this blog) earlier tonight picking up a six pack of beer and some munchies; upon driving in I noticed a Bentley parked right out in front, so immediately I figured “professional athlete” as you really don’t see too many Bentley’s around my neck of the woods (I do live in a decent neighborhood, but a Bentley at the Circle K?  Come on…), though enough professional athletes live in Charlotte to afford one. 

    As I was getting out of my (piece of shit compared to a Bentley) car, a stunning woman hopped out of the passenger door and was heading inside…and I mean supermodel stunning.  I had the pleasure of holding the door open for her, and once inside she asked the clerk where the cooler with the juice was.  Did I mention how gorgeous this woman was? 

    Anyways, after procuring my beer and snacks and heading up to the checkout line, she started asking where a [specific brand] of orange juice was (I don’t remember the exact brand she inquired about), and the clerk said they don’t carry that brand.  Supermodel exits right.  I paid for my goods, walked outside, and noticed the driver side door was open and she was talking to the driver…lo and behold it was Julius Peppers at the wheel.  Any football fan knows who Peppers is; a rare breed of athlete who can pretty much play any position (or any sport for that matter, just read his wiki) that the coach asks him to play.  Defense, offense, special teams…wherever you put him on the line, he delivers.  Tonight I guess he just wanted some damn orange juice.

    It was so incredibly tough to fight off the urge to run over and ask for an autograph (or offer to do whatever it took to get him the brand of OJ he wanted), but I contained myself and proceeded to rubberneck for a couple of seconds…I mean come on, it’s Julius Peppers for christ’s sake!  Too bad he’s injured (but will attempt to play in this week’s conference title game), and even worse he’s a free agent as of the end of the season, though the Panthers would be damn fools not to re-sign him at whatever salary he asks for.  But wow, I saw Julius Peppers at the local convenience store tonight! 

    Did I mention his girlfriend was hot?  His Bentley was un-f’ing-real as well.  I’m sure some people are used to seeing stars on a regular basis, but not this lad :-).

  • Windows Live Messenger Beta Invites

    [Update] One left...who wants it? All gone, should have some more shortly.

    I have 5 Live Messenger beta invites to dole out…first come first serve (leave a comment with some way for me to get in touch with you), come get ‘em while they’re hot.
  • Life Without My Files -- Day Two

    Today marks day 2 since my re-partitioning fiasco; the recovery software mentioned in that post was total bumkis and was a waste of the 10+ hours it took to scan the drive.  So after doing some research I found this recovery software (and promptly cracked it courtesy of our friends at Astalavista), and like I should have done previously I tested it on a USB key by formatting it first; sure enough it recovered all of the files and folder structure.  It also appears to be moving much quicker, which is good because I need my goddamn data back!

    The absolute first thing I’m gonna do when I get the cash for it is run out and buy a NAS block for backing my data up.  I used to be really good about keeping up with backups, but over the years as various drives have failed, I’ve failed to replace them.  I have definitely learned my lesson (though I do keep super critical stuff like VS projects/websites/databases backed up to the kind folks over at XDrive).  Anywho, fingers are crossed this go round.

  • What Happened to Dual Sided DVD's?

    I’ve mentioned before that I don’t really like renting movies; DVD’s are pretty cheap these days so I usually just end up buying whatever I want to watch.  One of the gifts I received this year was a gift card to Blockbuster (a thoughtful gift as I’m a movie buff)…so recently I went to the local store to spend it.  Every single goddamn title I wanted to buy was offered in one format only:  Widescreen.  Ok, so I’ll rent this go round.  Nope, all of those were in widescreen as well.  Bye bye Blockbuster.

    Before I purchased my hi-def TV, this wouldn’t have been a problem as Sony DVD players (and probably others) have a setting where you can kind of “stretch” the image vertically if it’s widescreen format to make better utilization of the screen real-estate…it looks a little weird, but is better than having 5+ inches of black space above and below the image IMO.  When I moved to hi-def (and component cable hookups), this is no longer an option, so the widescreen format (although beautiful at 480p or 720i) looks like crap on my 36” 4:3 ratio set.  I paid for the full 36”, and by golly I’d like to put it all of those pixels to good use.

    My point is this:  What happened to the dual side DVD format?  When I purchased my first DVD player (‘99 if memory serves), some DVD’s came with both formats on the same disc; one side was standard format, and the other side was widescreen.  I don’t know when they stopped manufacturing discs like this, but I haven’t seen one in quite a while.  It really was a no brainer though and I can’t figure out why they would move away from this.  Perhaps manufacturing costs were too high (though I’d be willing to pay extra to have both formats because at some point in the future I will no doubt purchase a widescreen TV and it’d be great not to have to go out and re-purchase all my DVD’s)?  Who knows, but the other gripe here is why is it so hard to find DVD’s in the standard aspect ratio?  I did notice that Amazon usually sells DVD’s in both formats, so kudos to them…but I still miss my dual sided DVD’s.  I don’t think Blockbuster will be getting much business from me in the future.

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  • Would You Like to Buy Some Anus Laptops?

    My buddy Brendan from across the pond sent me an email the other day which is closely related to my previous post about trying to sell high dollar items over on eBay.  In my case, the “buyer” was more than willing to have his “company” pay for the shipment of the items before actually paying for the items.  In his email he linked to a site where one guy had finally had enough and decided to turn the tables against the would be scammers by basically conning them into paying quite a bit of money for shipping a giant load of junk, and even better he got the same guy 3 separate times for many thousands of dollars:

    • Round one, where our boy “Wilson Tarbuckles” sells the scammer Cole a steaming pile of Anus laptops (which of course are junk, but Cole ends up paying for the shipping).  It’s a long read, but literally had me peeing myself about halfway through it…he really got this guy good.  He ends up getting many “dead” threats from Cole, which are absolutely priceless grammatically speaking.
    • Round two, where our boy “Randall” (the same guy acting as a different character) baits “John” (Cole from above) with yet another round of Anus laptops…except this time it’s a garbage can plastered with pictures of Cole garnished from the previous bait.  Once again he wins out and scams Cole out of quite a bit of money.  This thread is a bit longer, but very much worth the read…absolutely f’ing hilarious.  Lots more dead threats, audio, pictures, etc.
    • Round three, this time he rebadges himself as Butch Driveshaft (but is very much the same person as the baits above), he cons a different guy (Barry) into yet another round of Anus laptops…but Barry messes up and signs an email as Cole; and turns out to be the same guy baited above.  Butch ends up selling the guy an entire used washing machine filled to the brim with crap, and the shipping cost that Cole ended up paying is enormous.  This thread is tremendously long (it caught the eyes of AR15 which apparently is a very popular weapons site…not exactly my cup of tea but apparently they found this quite amusing); just scroll through and read the posts from theFAILURE (aka Butch).

    Each of the threads above is complete with audio, pictures, and email exchanges with the would be scammer, and I really have to tip my hat to theFAILURE for getting this guy not once, not twice, but three separate times.  It truly is some of the funniest stuff I’ve ever seen on the web, block off a couple of hours one night and read through the threads…absolutely priceless.  It’s nice to see someone sticking it to the scammers for once.  I wish I had that kind of patience/time on my hands.

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