Category Archives: Geeking

Geek things I like to ramble about.

Hosts file updating

This morning, I found a list of domains that the nice people at FProt posted which are likely to be bringing bad things, and their names have to do with swine flu.  So I set out to add them to my hosts file, to avoid any problems from them.

Darned if my hosts file wasn’t completely empty — just the stuff that Windows brought with it. 

So I looked around and found a few more robust hosts files, downloaded them, sorted them, and then merged them, culling out the duplicates.  I did all this quickly and easily with some standard command line applications under Cygwin (sort, comm, and grep — my first time with grep — and a perl one-liner I snagged from someplace). 

Now, there are places where you can get updated hosts files with frequent updates, and I won’t be updating this file all that soon, but, in case somebody wants to try it out, you can check it out here.  Copy and paste that onto the end of your hosts file, and you’ll be a lot less vulnerable to ad servers and nasty things on different websites. 

For some guidance about how to do this under Vista, this article is quite useful — especially the comment half-way down about setting up a short-cut to allow you to do it quite easily.  And, for those who don’t know what I’ve been talking about all this time, a hosts file is a list of domain names and ip addresses.  When you try to access a domain name, your system will look to see if that domain name is on that list, and, if it is, will use the ip address listed for it in the place of that domain name.  The hosts file I’m talking about here lists domain names of domains that serve up ads, malware, and bad things, and gives as the ip address for all of them. is the address for the local system (aka “localhost”), and, by pointing all those domain names at it, none of the files on those nasty domains will be loaded on your computer, because it will look for them on itself, and they aren’t there — all requests will time-out instead. 

If you find that something you want to do is blocked by this, just edit the file and remove the name of the domain you want to reach.  Not complicated.

AVG-free and FF fighting under Vista.

So, about a week ago, I got notice from AVG-free that I needed to upgrade to their newer version, and I did.  I made a few other changes at the same time, and, shortly thereafter, FF started losing access to the http stream every couple of hours of operation.  It would operate fine, but would time-out when trying to access any page on the web.  Email came through fine, and the chat client worked fine, so it wasn’t the whole internet feed.  But it would sometimes delete the sound and network icons on my status bar as well.  Adding to the annoyance was that it would not respond to restarting FF, nor even logging out of my session — the only solution was a full reboot. 

So, tonight, I hit that point again.  Just for giggles, I turned off AVG-free, and FF recovered, and is now working just fine.  Not coincidentally, probably, I got notice that AVG-free wanted to upgrade again yesterday, but the download had problems, and I didn’t bother.  Perhaps that upgrade will fix this problem — AVG-free doesn’t usually do full upgrades after a week.  But I’m kinda wondering what the point is. 

I’ve been running AVG-free for a year now, and doing the same things I’ve always done, and I still have yet to get a virus.  I did this because all the people who talk like they know what they’re talking about said it’s irresponsible to be on the internet without a currently updated anti-virus program, but I think that, in my case, it’s a lot of bother that accomplishes nothing.  I’ve been using computers communicating with other computers for twenty years this summer without a single virus infection.  I think my computing habits are safe, and using an anti-virus program for me is a bit like wearing a condom when you’re celibate. 

I’m going to keep running my firewall and anti-malware programs, because they’re not all that annoying.  And I might do AVG-free again sometime. 

Done with Minefield

I enjoyed it, sort of.  It was kinda like the first time I tried Opera, because things were kinda like I liked, only better.  Except that some things weren’t better.  There were certain kinds of objects that I couldn’t select, even with all of the javascript things enabled that were essential to some of the sites I use.  And it took some major tweaking of my Firefox settings every time I loaded my older stable copy of Firefox and then back.  I was loading Safari to do some things, and I wanted my Firefox features there. 

And then it would crash, and fail to shut down completely, and suck up resources until the system slowed to a crawl and it took five minutes to load task manager and kill it. 

So I just wiped it off.  I was going to leave it on, but stop using it, but some settings got set to where it was loading as default browser, and that was a pain.  I’m looking forward to some of the things it brings to the table when the get stable, and I’m thinking about going to FF3 finally, but, for now, I’m happy with my old stable FF2.

Oh, and I’m on Facebook now.  It’s weird. 

Vacuum Pockets

This made me laugh a lot. 

Reminds me of my experience getting my Enhanced Drivers License a few weeks ago.  The standards for the EDL are (I believe) based on the standards for a passport, since it has to satisfy Federal requirements for border crossing.  So you have to not only prove citizenship, you have to prove residence.  Proof of citizenship was easy — my folded-up certified birth certificate did the job just fine.  But proof of residence was tough. 

A drivers license will not do.  A utility bill will, but it has to be within the last 60 days.  I went to email billing for my power bill and phone bill.  A listing in the phone book will do, but I have a VoIP phone and they don’t get listed.  Cell phone bills won’t do.  An insurance policy will work, but not an insurance bill.  A voter registration card can be one of two proofs (utility bills will do on their own), but an unopened ballot won’t.  Also confusing the issue is the mail v physical address problem that results from living two blocks from a “rural” post office.

So I went to the power company to see if they could print me a bill.  They could and did, and I took it back.  They couldn’t just accept it because (wait for it) it wasn’t mailed to me.  So they had to call the power company, have me verify that I was me to the power people, and then they could confirm the address information on my account. 

Bureaucracy — making the reasonable impossible for 7000 years.

Every so often an AC hits one over the fence.

This comment came in the middle of a /. discussion about a plan by record labels to distributed music in DRM-free 300ish kbps MP3 on microSD cards (not a bad plan, but not showing a significant advantage over the Amazon MP3 Download store I was talking about recently):

In the age of the internet, they have conceived of a method of using physical media to transport bits.  And they’ll still charge $15 for an album.

You know, watching these guys over the last decade has been like watching a retarded child learning to go poo in the toilet.  They’re six years old when they finally get it right, and then they look at you like they’ve just won the Olympics.

No disrespect to retarded children intended.

Chat Client again.

For those who haven’t been paying attention, you might not know that I use different chat client systems, but hate, loathe, detest every OEM chat client I’ve seen — too much bloat, “features” I don’t want, flashy moving things of any kind, etc.  I quit using those a long time ago, when I moved to jabber clients and servers that let me use those systems without using those clients.

When I moved to Kubuntu, I tried out Kopete, which natively runs on all the networks I want without requiring my registration a jabber server — some of those gateways weren’t all that reliable, due, in part, to shenanigans on the part of the networks who would tweak the protocols without notice just to break third-party access.  Kopete has worked well under KDE.  Under Windows, I’ve been using Pidgin, which has worked pretty well as well.

So, then, showed me Digsby, and I’ve been trying it out, primarily for it’s support of Twitter.  Twitter’s support of im via jabber has been broken for months now, but Digsby, a few days in, is working just fine.  I’ve moved over my MSN account and it’s working just fine too afaict. 

Now, I’m considering moving my other accounts over as well.  I like having just one client, but I also don’t like moving from a client that’s doing what I want.  We’ll see how things turn out.

Starting to like Dolphin

And I’m not talking Flipper here (Flipper was my friend when I was quite young, however).  Kubuntu made Dolphin their default file manager over Konqueror with Gutsy, and I wasn’t hugely impressed initially.  It doesn’t have a delete menu item (it has “move to trash” which annoys me — to get a real delete you have to select and then do shift-del from the keyboard.

But it has a feature that I love.  Xandros File Manager let you create symlinks with a dialogue box, which is easier than doing them from the command line, which was cool.  But, in Dolphin, when you drag and drop files, it gives you the option to move, copy or link.  This is so, so cool, and it was really handy when I integrated my 500gb hd into my file system, moved all my media files to it, and then made a symlink back to the same location that all of my scripts look at. 

I also got Samba working and ssh/putty, so I can work on my linux machine from my laptop.  Networking is fun when it works, and this wasn’t all that tough.

My letter to Marvel Comics

This is in response to an attempted letter-writing campaign to Marvel Comics opposing their collaboration with Orson Scott Card due to his statements against same-sex marriage:

You may be getting a flurry of emails opposing your publication of Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game.  Or, you might not — I’m not certain that the individual who’s trying to generate that flurry has as much influence as he might wish.  However, I want to rise in opposition to that flurry, attempted though it might be.

I am very familiar with Scott’s work.  I’ve read almost every word he’s published in every genre he’s written in, including his columns.  I’ve read and listened to not a few interviews with him.  I attended EnderCon, where I got to attend the Q&A session, and then attended the writing class he offered over the next few days, where my son and I got to meet him.  My former room-mate had dinner in his parents’ home.  I’ve participated in live chat sessions he used to hold on his own areas in AOL.  And I’ve talked to a number of people who have known him for many years.  Just for background — I know Scott and what he has to say.

He is not a homophobe, nor is he hateful.  He has written gay characters and been very respectful to them.  He has stated that he didn’t see how gay marriage could be as damaging to families as heterosexual divorce is.  While he is opposed to same-sex marriage, and does not wish to see homosexual behavior normalized, he does not advocate mistreatment of gay people. 

His largest alleged “sin” is that he disagrees with the militant side of the GLBT movement, and he is both blunt and eloquent in doing so.  Hardly mortal sins.

All of which is irrelevant to the choice you folks have made to publish Ender’s Game.  There isn’t a moment in the Ender’s Game world which is harmful to gay people in any way, and I encourage you to continue with the project.  It will produce a great title for you, and will tie you in with what is anticipated to be a brilliantly executed film. 

These folks are trying to hit Scott in the pocket book to punish him for not agreeing with them.  I encourage you to not participate in this punishment.  It makes no sense.