Monthly Archives: February 2006 - Page 2


Subnetting is the art of dividing one network into many by use of a subnet mask. In my experience one of the most difficult things for networking students to master is subnetting. When they need some kind of new viewpoint on the subject I usually send them to This site has been around for several years now and offers free mini-lectures on this important topic. All told there are several hours of video there and you may need to refer to some of the sections multiple times to gain a full understanding of subnetting but it is one of the better sites out there for this.

Deploying Windows XP

Backin August, 2004 I mentioned the XPCREATE utility which can be used to slipstream service packs and hotfixes into Windows XP installation CDs. With Windows XP continuing to age and hotfixes still accumulating there are even better tools availible to ease the installation process. The most widely recognized tool today is nLite. This program has a clean and easy to use interface that allows you to create deployment CDs for Windows XP that include all of the latest hostfixes plus craft an unattended installation disc or one with custom default settings. Previously creating discs such as these was only possible with a deep understanding of how Microsoft install CDs worked and writing a lot of INF files by hand. Even for simply getting patches onto your install CD nLite is a great option.

Flaky ISP

I just got off the phone with my internet service provider, Time Warner Cable/RoadRunner. For the past 38 hours I’ve had extremely poor internet access speeds. After doing some checking I’m seeing intermittant periods of extreme packet loss. The customer serivce agent I spoke with attributed this to the “cold weather” and said ti should get better by Monday when things are supposed to warm up. I might have bought this argument if I lived in Florida but I live in Minnesota. It got cold, so what? It gets cold every year. Since Thursday night we’ve had a low of -13 degrees Farenheit and a high of 8 degrees Farenheit but mostly it’s been hovering right around zero degrees Farenheit. Sure it’s cold but it gets this cold for a few days every year and this is not out of line. I can’t quite understand where the problem lies. The transmission lines themselves should actually improve in cold weather so the only thing would be equipment in the equipment cabinents but surely those are heated, this is Minnesota after all. It sounds to me like the customer service agent is trying to pass off this outage on the cold weather because they either don’t know what’s going on or they’re to embarassed to admit it’s some kind of routing problem.

Calendar Server

WebCalendar is a highly configurable PHP/database based calendar package. You can set it up for use by either a single user or a group of users. It also operates a calendar server than can be viewed by any iCal-compliant application such as Mozilla Sunbird, Apple iCal, GNOME Evolution or RSS enabled applications such as Firefox, Thunderbird, RSSOwl or FeedDemon. Another one of the features I enjoy is tha ability to set email reminders. One of the surest ways of reminding me about something is via an email so this is a fantastic feature for me. If you’re looking for a calendar solution be sure to check out WebCalendar.

Stop Badware

Three powerful institutions have teemed up against so called “malware “spyware” and “badware”. aims to be a clearinghouse for information about badware. Organized by Harvard Oxford and Consumer Reports the site is currently collecting user stories and technical reports in an effort to better understand the problems and programs associated with badware. Part of the problem in dealing with badware is that it’s hard to nail down exactly what qualifies as badware. These researchers hope to answer that question based on user input. Eventually the site will include access to this database of user reports about specific applications and behaviors associated with badware. Many listings of spyware have found themselves on the receiving end of a lawsuit from a listed company but hopes are that with the backing of Harvard Law School and actual reports from end users this site will be able to call out any company supporting badware without much fear.

I’m surprised this hasn’t received more coverage in the “geek” press (Digg, Slashdot, etc.) and expect to become a significant player and information clearinghouse in the anti-badware arena.

A rash of updates

You may have noticed that I’m trying to be a bit more regular with updates to the blog. Instead of posting a glut of entries when I have time I’m writing them all ahead of time and then simply posting one each day unless it’s a date sensitive story. I hope to keep the website more reliable and fresh by having new content each day. I don’t know how long I can keep this up, right now I have a huge stash of topics to do stories on but some are more involved to write up than others so eventually I may not be able to keep up the pace but I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. For the time being you should see regualar updates to the blog.

Microphone Selection for Portable Recorders

For some time I’ve been keeping my eye out for a portable archival-quality audio recording device. This fall I finally purchased the recently released M-Audio Microtrack 24/96 and I’ve been thrilled with all this little recorder can do. I looked at similar products from Marantz and Roland but they didn’t meet my requirements as close as this.

One common accessory to these small recorders is a good microphone. Thanks to the folks at for putting together this great guide to microphones commonly used with small recording devices. As the saying goes “garbage in, garbage out” so a good microphone is key to getting a good recording. Of course this guide was originally written for MiniDisc recorders but the research should be valid for portable digital recorders as well.

As podcasts become more prevalent many people are finding that a good recorder and a good microphone are second only to content when it comes to podcasting to a large audience.

The End of an Era

On January 27, 2006 Western Union officially stopped sending telegrams. The fact that this was a non-event should tell you something about how important the telegram has become in our society but it wasn’t always that way. For many years the telegram was the only fast way to get a message transmitted over long distances. Indeed telegrams contributed much to our culture during the latter ninteenth and early twentieth centuries.

One of the contributions was the widespread use of code phrases and words to shorten a message. Today this may look something like “LOL” or “ROFL” in an instant message window but long before the invention of instant messaging telegraph companies and customers were abbreviating common messages with codes such as Western Union “92” code or “Wood’s 1864 Telegraphic Numerals”.

For more information on the history of the telegraph I suggest looking at “A Brief History of Telegrams” by the folks at You might also enjoy browsing some of the photographs at the British Science and Society Picture Library, which coincidentally has many other interesting historic science photographs, or reading about telegraph workers at the Norwegian Telecom Museum.

Crime may not pay but it sure is fun to watch

You may be surprised to know that I’m a fan of the US TV series “Cops“. After all, it’s not known as the most intellectually stimulating show but I do find it amusing to see what kind of trouble people can talk themselves into. “Really, I just pulled you over for a headlight that was out and in the end you’re going to prison because you told me I could search your car and I found a dozen guns and five pounds of drugs.” It’s also interesting to keep an eye on police tactics and see just how close they themselves can walk the line of illegal activity such as entrapment.

Along the same lines the website has some fun videos you can watch. In case you didn’t know bait cars are cars that police agencies have rigged with video and sound and which usually can be remotely disabled. The departments put them out on the streets in the hopes that someone will steal them and they can get a car thief off the street. Now most of these thieves are not the brightes bulbs on the tree to begin with but how can you not laugh when they’re praying they’re not driving a bait car.

Propaganda is Fun!

Regular readers may note that I’m a big fan of old “Mental Hygiene” and other government propaganda films. These historic films are readily availible through the Prelinger and A/V Geeks film archives as part of the Internet Archive project. I’ve spent countless hours downloading and viewing these classic classroom films.

Following the tradition of such propaganda the Modern Humorist website has created three propaganda posters for the internet age. This is really a fun site and I especially enjoy these spirited pokes at the RIAA and MPAA. Personally I think they’d make great artwork for my walls.