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Archive for March, 2007


openSUSE, says me.

openSUSE has become my Linux distro of the day. It seems to run very well out of the box on my ThinkPad R52. Although I had the best luck using the DVD form of distribution because it included the firmware for my Intel Pro 2915abg wireless card. The CDs will require you to install it yourself or let YAST provide the update. Either is fine as long as you have an ethernet connection.

I’m impressed with the refinement that Novel and the SuSE community has brought to the table with this latest version. KDE has been tweaked and massaged very nicely into a corporate desktop with everything at your fingertips and not a lot of extra junk to get in your way. But linux power users (no, I don’t fall into that category yet) will find familiar customizations just under the surface.

I did cheat a little and installed VMWare workstation with an XP machine available – just in case I got stuck and needed to be available for work. But so far, I’m rolling quite nicely.. I’ve even found that my battery life has actually improved.


Dacal USB cd library, version 2

I received a Dacal CD Library as a Christmas present a few years ago. I was really excited to be able to finally clear off the three spindles of CDs and DVDs that had collected on my desk. Until…

I installed the software… and experienced what had to be the worst experience I’ve had with a user interface since programming COBOL. Not a single GUI rule was followed, not user interface best practice was even hinted at – just this festering pile of nastyness which was known as CD Library.

Sure, I could still use the library – manually. Just run a different database on my computer. But that just wasn’t the same as selecting a DVD on the screen and having the library come alive and roll out the disc.

Today, just for fun, I decided to find an alternative to this piss poor software. But first I wanted to see if anything had become of Dacal’s web site… well, that’s giving them a lot of free credit – it was more of a web page with some clickable links.

When I got to Dacal – I noticed I was redirected to a different URL – Perhaps a corporate refresh or a buyout – I don’t really care… did they update the damned software?!

It appears they have! But it requires .NET 2.0… which I’m in the process of installing now. On a side note, this is also a good indication that a Linux version won’t be out any time soon, and that sucks. If it’s one box that could sit in a closet for years controlling a stack of these things without a hiccup it wouldn’t be a windows machine.

But wait, it appears that this is only a 30 day trial. The software was actually developed by “American Made Systems, LLC.” It looks like the only website they maintain is their product site: and they want $25 for it. Dacal should provide me a free upgrade just for having used that previous crap they sent me.

So I continue on with the trial. After clicking next a few times, I find a new icon on my desktop. An icon of four stacked CDs – seems intuitive enough for most people.

After launching, I find a pretty slick user interface. It’s styled after Office 2007 and has a ribbon along the top with tabs and large options, many with icons that actually make sense.

The library software allows you to setup users and allow users to check out discs and set reminders. I can’t tell you how useful that would be in a busy I.T. department!

The software also does a fair job at thumb nailing images on CDs and indexing content from file backups or music CDs. Screen shots are available on Itechcd’s website for a better view.

Overall, I’m impressed with this software… but not enough to justify spending $25 on it yet. Maybe further on through the trial I’ll find that I just can’t live without it.


Inside the PayPal Security Key

This week I received my PayPal Security Key. Curious about the internal workings and origins of this device got the better of me, so I thought I’d share my findings with anyone interested while I ripped it apart and found out what made it tick. And then I went on to see just how secure this method actually is.


A few months ago I was perusing the news sites and ran across an article that described how PayPal and eBay were going to offer a new authentication method that was immune to phishing scams, brute force attacks, and general end user gullibility tactics. They were going to start offering a security fob that generates six digit codes that you use as part of your password to log into the websites.


After asking PayPal when they’d be offering, they said that they would make them available to customers with business accounts by the end of January for a one time fee of $5 (US). When it became available, I used my paypal account to order one.
This week my fob arrived via USPS First Class mail in a cardboard envelope that was slightly bulging in the middle. The exterior of the envelope had the PayPal logo on both sides and a sticker which I later found contained my fob’s part number and serial number in both bar code and alphanumeric characters.

The envelope contained an instruction manual, a list of ten security tips, a printed packing list, a wallet card with instructions (not shown), and a white cardboard box which contained the fob.

After removing the fob from the box, I was able to get an idea of initial quality of the design. I wasn’t overly impressed and don’t think this device would hold up attached to my keychain. But I wanted to get a better look inside before I made my final decision on that.
Key Front
The second thing I found that was odd was that the display was blank and only activated when you press the rubberized gray triangle button on the left side of the display. My only other experiences with token based security devices has been with RSA’s SecurID product that is always showing a code and a time bar that shows how soon before the code changes.
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powered by Ubuntu stickers

Powered By Ubuntu Free powered by Ubuntu stickers. If you’re in the United States you can send a self addressed stamped envelope to:

System76, Inc. (Free Sticker)
1582 S. Parker Rd. Ste. 310
Denver, Colorado 80231

Or follow this link for international addresses!


SanDisk: 32GB Solid State Drive

SanDisk is first to market with Solid State Disks in 2.5″ cases. This is huge, people!Solid State Drive

It may seem like very little storage for a hard drive in the news – but there is one very large advantage: it’s all flash storage! No moving platters, clacking drive heads, or spinning bearings… just the silence and security of flash ram.

Companies like IBM and Apple have had to include special hardware to detect the tilt and acceleration of their laptops so that the computer could stop the hard drive before it hit something hard and caused the drive heads to scrape the platters.

iPods and laptops with hard drives are taken with pilots above altitudes of 15k feet – only to find out their hard drives have failed for lack of air density. Another weakness in the hard drive design, it requires a certain amount of air to cause the drive heads to hover over the spinning platters. When you get in thinner altitudes, the drive heads crash into the platters ruining the drive beyond repair.

Oh, and did I mention power?
Your laptop probably pretty power hungry – my ThinkPad R52 in a “power saving” mode chews on about 21 watts of power. With a little tweaking and disabling wireless, and back lite I can get it to about 15 watts. Well, this SSD will shave off another watt of power usage – 7% longer charger.

SanDisk SSD UATA 5000 achieves a sustained read rate of 62-megabyte (MB)*/sec and a random read rate of 7000 inputs/outputs per second (IOPS) for a 512-byte transfer – more than 100 times faster than any hard disk drive.

These performance figures boost system performance. For instance, SanDisk SSD UATA 5000 can boot Microsoft Windows® Vista™ Enterprise on a laptop in as little as 35 seconds. SanDisk SSD achieves an average file access rate of 0.12 milliseconds.

But who needs more time, when you have a drive that is 100 times faster? The speed increases alone make it worthy of putting into server production for caching database and web content.

The result of this new use of old technology is only going to get faster, smaller, and cheaper. You may not see a new Powerbook or ThinkPad rolling off the production lines with 32GB SS drives, but it won’t be very long for SanDisk or a competitor to double or quadruple this storage space in the next year or two.

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