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Life ProTip: Converting Unused Gift Cards
news : by Tommy - October 12, 2018, 1:32PM
This week I came across some unused gift card money on some pre-paid Visa giftcards. We're talking scraps - like $2 on one card and $1.63 on another. In total, I had about $15 worth of credit spread across these gift cards.
At first I had the same thought "$1.63 isn't even worth it" - but $15 is, right? Now, I do a lot of buying from Amazon (as do a lot of people), but Amazon does not let you split a charge across different credit/debit cards. Then I discovered a clever way around this problem. Enter Amazon eGift Cards!

Using my prep-paid gift cards, I purchased Amazon eGift Cards and emailed the credit to myself. At first glance it looks like you can only buy in denominations of $25, but there's a box that allows you to specify an amount (so long as it's greater than $1). Again, Amazon doesn't let you spread a purchase across separate payment types. However, it does let you combine Amazon credit and your normal payment method. I was able to apply the $15 to my purchase which was a pleasant surprise when I ended up only paying $1.99 after applying my newly discovered giftcard money.
So, next time you find some left over giftcards or a modest mail-in rebate (which are increasingly coming back to you in the form of these prepaid cards) and you want to cash in on them, remember this handy workaround.

tags: amazon

( Comments : 0 | Full article )

Higher Ed Enrollment Database
news : by Tommy - September 3rd 2013, 11:45PM
This is something I thought today during a meeting...

I recently learned we have had several students not report *all* institutions they've attended before. (Ex: One student "forgot" to mention they had taken courses with Univ of Phoenix for ~70hrs and stopped attending. Univ of Phoenix is holding that student's transcript until they settle up on their bill. [Transcripts are the one thing a school can hold over a student for failure to pay.] It came to light when the student's Financial Aid was processing...)
School's usually require this because prior scholastic work is taken into consideration when placing the student in courses, academic standing, etc. and ensures a students will make good on their financial obligations - like a gentlemen's agreement among institutions. I asked in our Registrar's office what happens if a student doesn't divulge all schools they've attended, "What's the worst that could happen to them?" "It could get them suspended from our school." In the grand scheme of things, so what? They could move down the road to another school and take classes there. It would be a huge headache for the student, but a driven and motivated student could navigate the system and get their degree one way or another from some institution. (especially from certain schools that are willing to do anything to get money and could care less about the other schools down the road...)

So. What's the big deal? The trouble is Financial Aid fraud.
Unscrupulous individuals will solicit the school for financial aid, scholarships, grants, etc. in hopes the grants and loan money comes to them directly and/or any overage in scholarship/grant money gets sent to them directly, all the while never intending to *actually* take classes. Before any financial aid is disbursed, the student will usually sign a short-term loan with the school to cover the courses in the meantime.

Continue reading...

tags: highered college education

( Comments : 0 | Full article )

Neodux Mobile
news : by Tommy - January 13th 2010, 11:49PM
As any of you reading this on a smartphone may have noticed. Neodux now comes in a leaner version: Neodux Mobile.

By examining $_SERVER['HTTP_USER_AGENT'] report for elements that reflect the most common mobile browsers, I can detect (usually) if you're viewing the page from a mobile device. (Blackberry, iPhone, Android, WinCE, PSP, Kindle are all supported.) As of this writing the layout is very spartan and only the main posts are displayed. Users cannot login to leave comments or shouts at the moment, but I hope to add that in the future. For now, it's just the core content of neodux but it loads much faster.

I'd label it alpha for the moment, but it should make reading any posts from a smartphone, Kindle or PSP much easier.

tags: mobile smartphones

( Comments : 4 | Full article )

Texas is Growing (hands off)
news : by Tommy - December 21st 2009, 11:33PM
So the other night I was thinking about the map of our United States of America. I began to ponder just how states' boundaries are defined. Some states are defined by rivers, lakes and other bodies of water. Some states are defined by man-made boundaries (which can lead to some interesting disputes).

Currently, Texas' western boundaries are defined in the Compromise of 1850 as "that which is south of the 33rd parallel, and that which is south of the 36°30' parallel north and east of the 103rd meridian west." The eastern edge of the panhandle lies along the 100th meridian west. To the south, Texas has the natural boundaries: the Rio Grande and the Gulf of Mexico (src: Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo). Along the north, a natural border to Oklahoma exists along the Red River. To the East we have the Sabine River from the Gulf up to the 32nd parallel, then straight north to the Red River (Adams-Onís Treaty). Interesting, but so what? Plate Tectonics.

In the early 20th century, geologists developed a theory that described continental drift. They dubbed it Plate Tectonics. It has been discovered that continents do move, so naturally so does everything on them. Texas, and the vast majority of the United States "lower 48" (plus Alaska) ride on the North American plate. The North American Plate moves at about 1.5cm/yr more or less toward the Southeast. This means that Texas is slowly taking land away from New Mexico while losing land to Oklahoma and Louisiana. Texas will not lose land to Mexico, thanks to the natural boundary, the Rio Grande (which rides on the plate). Astronomical longitude/latitude lines do not move (they are based on the proximity to the poles and prime meridian (which is physically drifting too, but now there exist astronomical definitions to account for this) Because of this, the land that moves under the aforementioned longitude/latitude boundaries become, in essence, Texas.

Because of these findings, I hereby proclaim that at the time of this writing, I become sole owner of unclaimed lands that move into the boundaries of Texas.

Continue reading...

tags: plate tectonics texas

( Comments : 1 | Full article )

news : by Tommy - December 12th 2008, 12:13AM
Very interesting and very odd. I'm sitting here writing my last paper of the semester and I get an IM.
The conversation goes as follows:
    CuddlingCoho: Hey.
    GrendelT: hi, who's this?
    CuddlingCoho: I should ask the same. you started the conversation
    GrendelT: did i? when?
    CuddlingCoho: [12:56:07 AM] InstructiveCoho: Hey.
    GrendelT: (11:55:59 PM) CuddlingCoho: Hey.
    GrendelT: so, apparently you're on the East Coast...
    CuddlingCoho: yeah... so do I show up as "CuddlingCoho"?
    GrendelT yeah, and I guess I'm "Instructive"
    CuddlingCoho: you show up as "InstructiveCoho"
From there we exchanged actual screennames. I had assumed we were somehow going through some sort of IM proxy, hence the altered screennames at the recipient's end. A little bit of Googling for "Coho" returned this tidbit of information about TheGreatHatsby.

Apparently this little game has been running around on the net for quite some time, coming and going as interests change. After speaking with "axelstudios", aka CuddlingCoho, we discovered we had both just "dugg" a story on Digg. I'm guessing this phishing bot crawls Digg's live activity page to find users that are currently on, goes to their user profile page and screenscrapes their IM screenname. The trap is set and one IM between two random strangers fires off the lulz.
Quite brilliant in my opinion. I'd like to run it for a little bit just to read some of the IM conversation logs.

( Comments : 0 | Full article )

Stop the Presses
news : by Tommy - November 19th 2008, 10:31AM
I just learned that PC Magazine will be going out of print this January. I understand why: nobody is really buying magazines much anymore. At least, nobody in the tech magazine market.

I got a free 2-year PC Magazine subscription off of a thread at SomethingAwful - or maybe I paid just a couple bucks for it. (It's good bathroom reading.) Before I got it in my mailbox, I would thumb through it occasionally while in line at the grocery store or pharmacy. I'm still guilty of this on other titles such as CPU, Maximum PC and others. I know this kind of behavior is what kills off magazines, but I can't see shelling out $5 every month for every magazine worth reading.

Sadly, another of my favorite magazines is going out of print too. World Radio magazine, a ham radio publication, was bought up by CQ Magazine. CQ will cease print production of World Radio and they claim that it will live on in an online publication. Judging by their eye-bleed websites, I can't see that lasting long at all.

PC Magazine claims they'll continue an online presence and perhaps that will bumble along for a while, but unless they can survive on online advertising alone, they're doomed. Online paid content doesn't have much of a market or future.

( Comments : 1 | Full article )

They're Baaaack
news : by Tommy - July 14th 2008, 11:16AM
Wow. Quite the trip. We didn't experience almost any bad weather the entire trip. It never really rained on us while we were camping. No real vehicular problems. No sickness. All was well.

Almost every night we were camping in the mountains so the air was nice and cool at night. We stayed a week in Flagstaff with Corey and his fiance, Misty, taking countless day trips to the surrounding National Parks and attractions. After we parted ways Jennifer and I continued tent camping all the way back home with the exception of a few nights in hotels when the weather wasn't going to cooperate (too hot, potential storms) or we just plain needed a break and some running water. (Most national parks don't offer showers of any kind.) Our biggest accomplishment, aside from actually surviving the trip without problems, was climbing Guadalupe Peak, it was probably one of the tougher things either of us had done, but it was a great feeling of accomplishment when we finished.
We camped at over 8000ft after climbing 3mi and 3000ft with our 25-30lb packs to the campsite. We climbed the final mile to the summit the next morning before packing up and climbing down.

We also visited Carlsbad Caverns, White Sands, the McDonald Observatory, Big Bend, family in Austin and Baytown, and managed to meet up with my brother before he leaves for Ranger School next week.

We just got back last night, so I'll have some pictures to post this afternoon sometime.

For now, here's our route. We kept a journal of things we did each day, kept a list of wildlife seen along the way, and logged gas mileage. My car did excellent - averaging around 35 mpg. I was pleased, but it's time for another oil change!

Continue reading...

tags: camping road_trip

( Comments : 2 | Full article )

Double Edge Safety Razor pt 3
news : by Tommy - May 15th 2008, 09:31PM
Continuation from "Double Edge Safety Razor" part 1 & part 2.

Well, I'm totally comfortable shaving with the new razor now. I've tried 3 different blades (plenty more to try) and I can't tell a big difference between any of the manufacturers. So far I've tried a Merkur blade that came with the razor, Gillette, and Dorco. I understand that these blades are all some of the best, so maybe that's why I can't see a big difference in them - they're all good. Or maybe I just haven't encountered a "bad" blade.

I have yet to try the $1.52/10 blades from Walmart, but I was shocked to find a 10 pack of Gillette blades at Walgreens for almost $6! Still that's around .50/blade (which lasts me 2 shaves at the very least).

I am able to tell that I get a closer shave on certain spots (cheek, sideburns, mustache) and an average shave around the neck - no better or worse than the old Mach3 shave. It's still smooth as it's always been, so no complaints. Like I said it's fun to shave with, it does take just a little longer than it used to, but not as long as when I first started. I guess at first I was terrified of the blade and must have been being very patient and taking my time with it. Now that I'm comfortable with it, it doesn't take much longer than it used to.

I've also found some good links for vendors of shaving products as well as a very helpful forum all about the art of shaving. (There really is a site for everything on the internets.)

tags: razor shaving

( Comments : 0 | Full article )

Operation Keep Jeff Informed
news : by Tommy - May 12th 2008, 04:07PM
My brother Jeff (Grimlen) is at Basic Training at Ft. Sill, Oklahoma for the summer. He is a cadet with the SFA ROTC and will be serving with the Nacogdoches National Guard until he graduates. After he completes Basic, he will go on to Advanced Individualized Training (AIT) to learn the skills necessary to be a Forward Observer.

As many of you know, while you're at basic no cell phones, computers or TVs are allowed - only mail. This will remove Jeff from being able to view neodux or catch up on any news. So I'm hereby establishing a summer project called "Keep Jeff Informed" where the neodux community will post news summaries, image macros and other bits of information he needs to stay "up" on while away at Ft. Sill, OK.

I will, from time to time, copy/paste new posts from this thread to a Word document that I will print off and send to him. At Basic, sometimes recruits are required to read their mail from home to the other recruits aloud while in formation, so the more bizarre/insane it is, the better. Try to reduce the size of large macros so that I can squeeze text around it to conserve space. (Army-related macros get priority)

One again, this is the thread to post in, not the comments of this post.

( Comments : 1 | Full article )

Double Edge Safety Razor pt 2
news : by Tommy - May 4th 2008, 02:20PM
Continuation from "Double Edge Safety Razor" part 1 and continued on part 3.

I survived my initial shaving with the new Merkur Heavy Classic razor. The Merkur HD really is a fun shave (sounds goofy I know) but there's something fun about vintage shaving. I got the hang of the "shaving angle" in short time and was able to shave "upside down" before I finished.

It did take me about twice as long to shave with this style razor, but part of that was me being careful and getting used to the new technique. These blades are also not meant to be fast, but to make a clean cut with several successive passes. The learning curve isn't steep at all. I just had to remember not to press down and to hold the blade at the proper angle. The "safety razor" prevents you from cutting yourself if the angle is too steep, as you might do with a straight razor. All of this, of course, is helped if you have a proper lather with good shaving soap.

I'm sure I'll get quicker with the shave as I get more practice. The shave does seem to be closer in spots, I missed a few of the "tricky" spots - they're just not as smooth. For now I'm happy I didn't have any knicks or cuts.

More to come after my next shave...

tags: razor shaving

( Comments : 1 | Full article )

Double Edged Safety Razor
news : by Tommy - April 29th 2008, 12:54AM
That's it. I've had all I can stand. Gillette Mach3 blades are to the point where they're losing me as a customer. The package at the store tonight said "Now in 5 pack!". Why are they giving me a 5th blade? Because they've raised the price to $11.25. (That over $2 per blade!)

Granted, I was totally out of blades at the moment so I bought them. I'm hoping they'll be my last for a long time because tonight I bit the bullet and shelled out $50 for a new "old-fashioned" safety razor (blades for this one are around $0.15 per blade).

Years ago Araolath told me he was wanting an old-fashioned razor and that I should check them out. So I've been partly interested in them off and on for quite a while now. I've just never had much reason to switch. Now I do.

They say it takes a while to get used to the new way of shaving and to just take it slow at first. Well, with summer upon us, I will have time to hide my soon-to-be-butchered face while I relearn shaving. My uneven "missed a spot" shaving pattern will also be worthy of staying home for. So what better time to start than summer?

I've been watching videos by this guy on YouTube, mantic, that has a good collection of shaving videos. He recommended a few different models of razors, various blades and techniques that are echoed on other howto sites. So if you're interested, yourself, check out some of his stuff for a good starting point.

Continued at "Double Edge Safety Razor" part 2 & part 3.

tags: razor shaving

( Comments : 9 | Full article )

Freedom of Information
news : by Greg - February 18th 2008, 08:15AM
So I was talking to Kim the other day and she mentions that what would be really nice is a non biased listing of all major religions and what they stand for and believe.

Most people affiliate with a particular church because it's how they grew up, i.e. that's where mom and dad choose to take you. But a much better way to choose would be to see the different denominations and choose one that most closely fits your personal faith.

At this point I mentioned that there's probably a website out there to facilitate that, but I haven't a clue what it is.

This also brought up the issue of having a stances guide for presidential candidates. There's Vote Smart and some other sites to give out bio stats but nobody lays out a unbiased look at each candidates stance on major issues, or what each candidate considers major issues. A lot of that has to do with candidates not wanting to be painted into a corner or having their stances be oversimplified, but thats not impossible to work around.

It seems like we have hundreds or thousands of data tools to use online if it's in the interest of helping us consume, but finding really useful information in a helpful format on things like religion or politics is a huge pain in the butt. Why can't getting information about denomination choices or presidential choices be as easy as getting facts about video card choices?

If you need me I'll be out defending our system of consumerism, hoo-ah!

( Comments : 5 | Full article )

Starbury Shoes
news : by Tommy - January 21st 2008, 06:34PM
I was looking around on reddit one day and found a story about Stephon Marbury's line of shoes called Starbury. Basically, this line of shoes is targeted for low-income urban youth - they're all priced at $15 each.
He claims they're just as good as higher priced shoes (i.e. Jordans and the like), and there's some debate on the issue.

As you probably know, I'm no baller. I just wanted some cheap kicks and I thought a $15 shoe line was a great gimmick that I must support. I got some low top sneakers that really resemble some New Balance shoes. The best part was, while we were at a Steve & Barry's in Houston, they were having a clearance sale so my shoes were actually $9.

It also happened that Grimlen and Araolath were home the same weekend that I was, and got some shoes of their own. (Araolath got some gaudy baller shoes, grimlen got some sk8er shoes.)

Anywho, if you're in need of some decent, really cheap shoes, check out Starbury shoes.

( Comments : 0 | Full article )

news : by Tommy - December 17th 2007, 07:26PM
It's probably a bit too late to order one as a Christmas gift, but it's still a cool idea nonetheless. The website is OneShare.com and they sell single shares of a stock along with the certificate of ownership (something that you usually must pay extra for after you purchase the stock.)

Granted, you can't choose from just any stock (i.e. GOOG, AMD - which is a bargain right now), but there's a healthy selection of some of the more popular brand-names available. It's a neat idea, especially for someone that may be a big fan of a company. If I had thought of it sooner there are a couple of people I would have considering a certificate for.

It's a neat idea and thought I'd pass it along. If you know of any similar websites (preferably ones that are maybe more flexible in their stock offerings) please share.

update: Oh yeah, there's also GiveAShare.com which does have Google stock for sale, but it's rediculously priced.

( Comments : 1 | Full article )

Call of Duty 4
news : by Greg - November 13th 2007, 02:37PM
Ok, so I broke down and got a copy of CoD4, I wasn't sure about it given the BF franchise and how they did modern warfare. Well so far I've been really impressed with the game, it's a modern setting but the mechanics and feel of the game are very similar to the CoD we've all played before, in a good way. So far I've only had time for a couple of the single player missions but I plan to jump into the multiplayer laster this week. The graphics are amazing and I'm sure they'd look even better with a high end vid card. I think I've finally found a modern era shooter I enjoy.

( Comments : 4 | Full article )

The Big Ten
news : by Tommy - October 18th 2007, 12:18PM
I've seen this spring up on several different internet sites like Digg and Reddit. They've been listed and shouted down by droves of discontents, they're the "Big Ten", the "Media Mafia", the 10 leading news outlets that control 95% of "big media". You're familiar with most of them, I'm sure. They control the vast majority of print media, movie, music and television. You know, "the media".

This list got me thinking. Ten isn't all that bad of a number of competitors in a US marketplace. I can't list 10 leading PC manufacturers, 10 leading US auto manufacturers, 10 US telecom companies or even 10 leading gunmakers. Ten's not that bad of a number.

Sure there should be more diversity in the drive-by journalism outlets, but what about all of the other markets in the US. Why isn't anyone speaking out against the few companies that control the vast majority of the secret recipes behind the junk food we shovel into our faces. Why aren't the few main telecom companies controlling long distance and the internet at fault? Are just 10 really all that bad - how many competitors should there be?

( Comments : 0 | Full article )

Kiva Microloans
news : by Tommy - October 10th 2007, 04:46PM
Kiva.org is a website that allows lenders to connect with those seeking loans to get their fledgling businesses up and running in developing countries. The mission of Kiva is to empower the motivated entrepreneurs in foreign countries as well as helping fellow man. It's mostly humanitarian with a business focus.

Lenders, like you and me, can donate as little as $25 to Kiva to be loaned out to those seeking funds to help grow their businesses. Kiva has field agents overseas to ensure the parties involved are honestly in need of the money, are good for the money and have some for of collateral. The business end is handled by Kiva agents and they seem to be doing their homework when it comes to loaning money - 100% of the money loaned out through Kiva has been repaid with no one defaulting on their loan.

The people seeking the loans benefit from Kiva's generosity by having a 0% interest loan. A huge blessing when you consider local loan sharks might charge as much as 300%! So, for me to part with $25 for a few months is no hard task - especially when I'm almost guaranteed to get the money back into my PayPal account, at which point I can turn around and re-loan the money to another person or wire the money back into my bank account.

If you're interested, check out Kiva.org for more info. There's also this informational video done by PBS' Frontline showing how Kiva works both at home and abroad. Others are talking about Kiva as well, which are all linked from Kiva's press page.

( Comments : 0 | Full article )

Comcast Email Woes
news : by Tommy - October 2nd 2007, 07:37PM
Well, it's official (in my eyes at least) Comcast sucks. Time Warner Houston recently sold their internet operations (aka RoadRunner) to Comcast. In doing so they migrated user email accounts to a @comcast.net address, rather than the long @houston.rr.com. Cool, it's shorter, easier for newbs to remember, etc.

I migrated my family (me, jenn, parents) over to Comcast a few weeks ago, problem is, there's no easy web interface to manager user accounts. There very well could be some awesome, ground breaking webapp to do just this, but Comcast doesn't make it easy to find - not like RoadRunner used to. So now, everyone's converted over, but I can't set/change my parents' email passwd so they're more or less locked out of their email until they (or I) call Comcast. Ok, fine. I can call sometime, no problem. For me it's no problem migrating over. I just changed the MX redirect on my neodux.com email address and the mail is routed appropriately - for a while. You see, Comcast has this thing called a blacklist. Lots of people are unhappy with Comcast's blacklist. If your mail server isn't AOL, MSN or some other commercial service, chances are you'll get blacklisted. Guess what happened to mail from neodux.com?

I called Comcast and was on the phone with 2 different technicians for about 45 minutes (not including hold time) trying to A) convey to them the problem and B) how it's their problem and not my "internet security settings". I even had one technician tell me repeatedly and in a condescending tone that there is absolutely no blacklist and that my emails are bouncing due to my mail server. (No way buddy, not when the header tells me your mail server is rejecting it!)

Long story short: Neodux email is now hosted on Dreamhost who, despite my problems with them in the past, is 110,000% better at not screwing up stuff for no reason.

Continue reading...

( Comments : 5 | Full article )

Kaito Solar/Hand-crank Radio
news : by Tommy - May 23rd 2007, 12:49PM
I just received my newest toy. I got a solar and dynamo powered radio that I bought online. It is the Kaito KA007. It receives AM/FM/TV/SW/VHF, which allows me to receive Air traffic, 2m FM ham radio, National Weather Service and general VHF usage traffic (wrecker, sheriff, highway patrol, etc). Here's a look at the back of the radio.

Right out of the box I gave it about 5 or 6 turns on the hand crank and was able to tune in local FM stations and an AM station while in the basement of the student center. KC9AIC and I then took it outside in the sun to check out the solar capabilities which is when I tested out the world band reception. I was able to hear World Harvest Radio loud and clear under solar power. However, I did notice a bit of drifting as I tuned in world band signals. I've also noticed very little selectivity in FM broadcast reception.

A few things I wish the radio had would be a digital display of the frequency, I wish the AC adapter was built-in so I wouldn't have to worry about keeping up another wall wart (although with solar capabilities, it's not that big of a deal), I also wish there was an external antenna input port for hooking in a better antenna. None of these are really vital, but they'd be nice. These features are found on newer models, but they don't offer wide VHF reception, only weather. So it's all a big tradeoff, which is why I opted for this model.

( Comments : 6 | Full article )

HD-DVD Key Fiasco
news : by Tommy - May 1st 2007, 09:02PM
As I write this, weird things are afoot over at Digg.
It all started with a post about the key the HD-DVD encoding. One of the guys over at the Doom9 forums found the key, and so, like the DeCSS number, it spread quickly. People were plastering it everywhere. It made it to digg and was dugg up to the front page.

The MPAA requested that the number be taken down and digg complied. Some users were not happy about this and re-posted the story, which got dugg to the front page once more. Again, the MPAA asked them to remove the post and Digg complied. Here's a story on Slashdot about the fiasco.

Well, now that Digg has pulled the 2nd post, a swarm of users from around the web banded together and filled Digg's queue with posts about the HD-DVD hex key and dugg all of the stories to the front page. Currently the front page of digg is nothing but posts about HD-DVD.

The question was raised by coandco: Is this whole thing a deliberate move on Digg's part to help disseminate the key? If you remember the whole buzz around DeCSS, the powers-that-be tried to squash the story and prevent it from spreading, which only made it much more fun to spread (funny thing about human behavior), so DeCSS got plastered everywhere. Now, the same thing is happening with HD-DVD but it is accelerated by the number of blogs and social-networking sites linking them. Slashdot and Reddit both have HD-DVD keys posted and they aren't scared (yet) of any legal backlash, so has Digg been the first to fold? Is it deliberate or not? It'll be neat to see it play out.

And for what it's worth, here's my little rebellion:
09 F9 11 02 9D 74 E3 5B D8 41 56 C5 63 56 88 C0

update: It appears to have played out.

Continue reading...

( Comments : 5 | Full article )

Do you have the time?
news : by Tommy - February 18th 2007, 12:58PM
I found this article over at PhysOrg.com talking about this year's change in Daylight Savings Time. Normally, DST occurs on the first weekend in April, but this year we'll begin on the 2nd weekend in March. We'll also end differently too. Rather than "fall back" on the last weekend in October, we'll end on the first Sunday in November.

Why are we changing? Well, it goes back to the Energy Policy Act of 2005 where we decided to conserve energy by time-shifting our days. Which isn't much different at all from the original reason we adopted DST in the first place. From what I remember from some long-past history lesson, we adopted DST to conserve energy sometime back around the Great Depression (although that link might not be proven, it's just what I remember). The whole notion of getting up earlier to get the day over with one hour earlier would have reduced energy consumption at night for all those who stayed up late. According to wikipedia, in 1976 the US Dept. of Transportation concluded that DST saves the US 1% of the national energy consumption. (It doesn't sound like much, but I'm sure it's a substantial dollar amount.) On the otherhand, I'm pretty sure we've become more of a 24/7 global society than we were back when we started DST, so it's quite possible that the savings aren't nearly as high. history>
The article highlights some issues with the time change. Remember this is a US policy change, not global, so when we "spring forward" there will only be a 4-hour difference between GMT and EST instead of the 5-hour difference normally. Confusing enough? Think about any consumer devices that aren't linked to the national clock or some time setting service.

Continue reading...

( Comments : 5 | Full article )

Lee College : DONE
news : by Tommy - February 6th 2007, 3:56PM
Today I received my diploma from Lee College. I realized at the end of last semester that I had completed my Associate of Computer Science degree by completing the one class that I don't think they've ever offered at Lee: Data Structures. If they did, it was never as hard as it was here at LeTourneau. I'm tempted to go on a rant here about sub-par "higher education", but I'll hold that for another time.

It was kinda funny in completing it. It was almost by accident that I remembered this class would finish it. You see, when I was just about done at Lee, they told me that class wasn't being offered that year - not semester, year. They said if I took some other classes that it might be offered the following year, if there was enough interest. What? Wait a year, and then there might be a class?! (remember this was pretty much the only class I needed to finish...)

I quickly packed my bags and headed to SFA to go ahead and "get on with life". I figured if I could take the class at SFA, I would, and continue working towards my Bachelor's in the meantime.
Things didn't quite work out that easily and I lost some ground in transferring, so I was back to square one when I got to SFA. About the time I was to do Data Structures, I was offered a position at AMD. The next time I had a chance, was the summer of the wedding. No problem, I'll take the class at LeTourneau.
Again, I was set back by the differences in curriculum, so it wasn't until just last year that I could take Data Structures. (Maybe if I was still at Lee, I'd still be waiting?)

At any rate, no matter what happens, I can always fall back on this to seperate me from being a total failure.

Continue reading...

( Comments : 2 | Full article )

01:02:03 04/05/06
news : by Corey - April 4th 2006, 07:11PM
Where will you be at 01:02:03 on 04/05/06? Though I could stay up until 1AM my old man complex I've recently developed puts me to bed well before that. I'll be up for the second one, though!

Grendel sez: That's 01:02:03pm for our more dense readers.

( Comments : 11 | Full article )

Oliver North
news : by Tommy - March 2nd 2006, 08:47PM
This evening Col. Oliver North came to LeTourneau University to speak on behalf of East Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse. (I hadn't heard of them either) Tickets to the event were $40 per person! (Free if you're a LeTourneau student)

Colonel North spoke of the misrepresentation of the current state of Iraq in the mainstream media and other misrepresentations put on by the highly sensational media. He shared some of his experiences as an embedded reporter in Iraq, his thoughts on the current state of affairs here in the US, the importance of the military and the honor our troops deserve. He joked about his employment with Fox News, made sly references to CNN and the liberal press, as well as gave candid wisdom gathered from his experiences. The talk was entertaining and enlightening. Plus I got a picture with him!

( Comments : 9 | Full article )

Random Links
news : by Tommy - November 17th 2005, 11:20AM
I just learned about Digg from Slashdot. It has a whole list of great links with a short description - a lots of 'em!

So, here I'll link you to the more promising finds: 'Black Friday' Ads for 2005, Best Buy computer hacks, howto for a Wifi biquad dish antenna, Running Apache, Perl/PHP, Mysql on Windows, Getting started with Ruby, 10 Best AJAX hacks, Build a radio, Telnet with your browser, Flash-based VNC, Learn PHP, History of GNU/Linux, What's SNOBOL?, and finally a Hack-a-Day like site: DIY Live.

Hope you find something interesting!

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news : by Tommy - October 8th 2005, 12:37PM
It's that time again, that time when I remind you (or tell you for the first time) about Folding@Home. What dat is?, you say.
Folding@Home is a distributed computing project managed by Stanford University, the client program runs on your computer (most major OS's supported) and uses your "spare" computing time to help calculate complex mathmateical formulas. When you're not using your computer at 100%, this client will throttle itslf to use the leftover computing power.

Protein sythesis is a predicable system in which proteins are made by folding upon itself, thereby changing it's shape, and thus it's funciton. Each protein serves some purpose and the shape of the protein determines that purpose. By using a complex mathematical formula, biologists can find out how proteins are made. The problem is that this math formula takes a great deal of computing power. By combining our computing efforts, the aggregate power produced is able to accomplish this feat very quickly and is much cheaper for Standford, and thus the medical community.
Why do I care? It's a great way to show off computing power, or show off team-assembled computing power. I am a member of the SAGoons team, in which my personal computations are also counted in the team overall score to demonstrate how many computations SomethingAwful members have contributed, and to see how your team stacks up against other teams.

More info can be found at folding.stanford.edu. Enter a unique username, and join the SAGoons (Team 150). It's fun to watch your own progress.

( Comments : 5 | Full article )

Hurricane pwn4g3
news : by Tommy - September 20th 2005, 10:28AM
With my hometown about to get pwn3d by Hurricane Rita, I was just thinking yesterday that R is getting close to the end of the alphabet that is used by the National Hurricane Center to name hurricanes and tropical storms. Over at LiveScience there is an article about what happens when we run out of hurricane names for a given season.

From the article I learned that the letters Q, U, X, Y, and Z are not used for selecting names, with no explanation of why. It is interesting to note that the most active storm season to date has produced 21 storms, which is exactly how many names are selected for use in a given season - and we're getting close to the threshhold.

Meanwhile, some are trying to make the tie between an active storm season and the hot weather. Some aren't buying it. Just yesterday AW had a football game and I can't remember the last time I felt that hot - it may have also been the fact that almost our entire team was playing both offense and defense, but I digress. Is it global warming? El Niño (which is spanish for 'the niño')? Or something more sinister?

update: Storm names still left on the list: Stan, Tammy, Vince, & Wilma.

( Comments : 12 | Full article )

news : by Tommy - April 27th 2005, 10:22PM
I just learned of Freecycling today. No, it has nothing to do with bicycling. It's a play on the word "recycle". You know that old TV set in your garage? or that old ratty golf bag your dad gave you when you were 12? Get rid of it finally! You know you can't ebay it.

Rather than throw it away, which you hate to do, give it to someone who wants it. You post your items that you have up for grabs on the Freecycle group near you, and people call dibs or email you about how to get it from you.
Tim, KD5ING, had an old, crusty bicycle at the office. A lady was to come by and pick it up, because she wanted a bike, but not enough to shell out the cash for it. He needed it out of his garage and, rather than let it go to waste, was happy to give it to her. "One man's trash is another man's treasure."
Check it out, you might find something you've been wanting for free! (Pack rats steer clear.)

( Comments : 1 | Full article )

Lokitorrent.com scandal a hoax
news : by Paul - February 24th 2005, 09:10PM
Shamelessly ripped from the pages of Slashdot...

The following link was posted with some pretty damning evidence (or lack thereof) that Lokitorrent.com was really sued by the MPAA. Apparently, the guy that owned the domain paid off the MPAA with some trifling settlement, then ran with the money donated to his "legal fund"... weird, wild stuff.

Read more on the story, here.

( Comments : 7 | Full article )

Portable Firefox
news : by Tommy - January 24th 2005, 06:52PM
"Grendel, WTF? I told you about this months ago..."

Yeah, well, I didnt get around to trying it out until today. Usually, between classes I go to the computer labs to check email and websites. This morning while in the lab, I realized that Firefox was not installed. I didnt want to have to install it, since the systems get wiped clean every night or so. Then I remembered Portable Firefox, a version of the popular Firefox browser optimized for running from USB thumb drives. So, I reached in my backpack, pulled out my thumbdrive, put Firefox on it and it's great!

Portable Firefox is in no way crippled or lacking features - it even plays nice with all your favorite plugins!

So far I have Adblock, All-In-One Gestures, Tabbrowser Preferences and SuperDragAndGo - what plugins are your favorites?

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Coolest. Toy. Evar.
news : by Paul - December 9th 2004, 11:44AM
Well I wish I could say it ran Linux, but it's still cool nonetheless. Check out Futaba's new 14-channel goliath of an R/C radio: The 14MZ. This thing is way cool, even for people that aren't into R/C. Fly RC has a sneak-peek review. For you ham guys, I imagine this piques some interest because of the programmable frequency generator...what could a ham do with this thing?

( Comments : 4 | Full article )

Bugger Off
news : by Dustin - October 20th 2004, 11:37PM
Tired of wanting to check something out and have to put in your email, credit card, or not register at all? Well, there is hope.

Mailinator lets you create a fake inbox for a few hours. The beauty of it comes when asked for an email; just go to Mailinator and let them hook you up.

The second one is cool but you have to be a Citibank card holder. Citibank lets their card holders create Virtual Account Numers for online shopping. No longer do you have to put in your credit card to get the shipping info (which, thankfully, is becoming less common).

The last is just too cool. Tired of typing in name, address, and everything else just to read an online newspaper? Then check out BugMeNot.com. Just type in the desired site and you will have a username and password withount entering a thing!

Thanks to these sites you can beat the system.

Grendel sez: BugMeNot is a cool site. Even cooler, for those that use Firefox, is the BugMeNot plugin. All you need to do is just right-click in a field to fill in, and the extension grabs the correct info from BugMeNot, and fills it in for you. Pretty slick.

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GPS + Geocaching
news : by Tommy - October 14th 2004, 09:44PM
I just received my new GPS that I purchased from a guy on SomethingAwful at a nice price. It came in this afternoon, and almost immediately, I visited GeoCaching.com to get the coordinates to the nearest caches to me.

I went looking for 3 of the nearest caches. After some looking, I located my first one. Inside I found a log book to log my visit, a camera to snap a pic, and some goodies. I left a couple of knick-knacks and took one to keep.
I searched for the other 2 for a little bit, but they'll have to wait for another day, since I ran out of daylight.

Update: Found a couple of caches in Nacogdoches over the weekend, left a travel bug in one for the Nac crew to find.

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Greatest Google Search
news : by Tommy - September 13th 2004, 01:20AM
So I'm surfing around the net this evening, digging through some URL's, and I come across a blog with some interesting information on it. Apparently, you can do a Google search for "index of /mp3" or "index of /files" and get all sorts of nice directory listings from some poor sap's personal stash.

In case you need a hyperlink to try it, try clicking here for the results of a search for "index of /mp3".

Also, try all sorts of other interesting filetypes... you'll never know what you might find!
"index of /mov" "index of /movies" "index of /mpg" "index of /files" "index of /warez" "index of /isos"

remember: Lets not forget to make use of our friend wget. (man page)

( Comments : 1 | Full article )

New Defiler Pak
news : by Corey - July 29th 2004, 07:04PM
Defiler has released the latest version of his DefilerPak over at his site, http://hellninjacommando.com/defilerpak/. You can access a direct download of the latest pak by clicking here and you can read the documentation on the project by clicking here.

For those of you unfamiliar with DefilerPak, it is a no-frills-attached package of the most commonly used audio and video codec’s needed to watch or listen just about any media encoded in any current standard. The Pak is updated every time there is a significant release of a codec. I've used DefilerPak since version 1.09 and have never had a problem with a codec. Check it out, the power of waffles compels you!

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Diplomatic Mission
news : by Bill - July 15th 2004, 01:33AM
I know I haven't authored anything for a while, but that is because I am hellalazy. Bite Me. Anyway, I thought I would take this time to announce to the world that tomorrow I will be heading out on my goodwill mission to bring hope, peace (after war), and prosperity to the third world. I will be leaving from Houston Intercontinental Airport today at 6:45pm, and arriving in San Jose, Costa Rica at 11:56pm (after stopping in Miami to slap Shaq and some Cubans). Once I am there, I will take a long needed vacation from not writing rants, as well as all the moving I have done lately into my new apartment in College Station. I have included a list of things I will be doing down in Costa Rica so that you all may feel like you are able to be doing what I am doing, even though you can't.

1. Host Pro-Bush/America rallies.
2. Visit the precious rain forests.
3. Visit the gorgeous beaches.
4. Visit the gorgeous lasses.
5. Learn the spanish language.
6. Hike the mountains.
7. Taste fine coffees.

Yeah, it probably won't happen like that, but it will be lots of fun, and I will be sure to give you all constant updates on the international platform that I will be creating and exploiting. I will return to my duties here Thursday night, August 19, 2004. Until then, I bid you all farewell, and hope to return to you without dying in a plane crash. Piece.

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Just for searching? Hah!
news : by Corey - June 15th 2004, 06:01PM
Shows how much you know. You're probably one of those people who thinks that broccoli has a place in the world, ham radio has something to do with bacon, and that Al "Get The Fudge Out" Sharpton is just a nice guy trying to make a point.

Google, boys and girls. That glorious all-encompassing bastion of webbish goodness. Most people, except for maybe Tr0z (and only then because he has that silly integer in his name), know that Google is the source to search for something on the Internet. There is no other because there needs to be no other. But, dear reader, do you know about the dark side?

And by dark I mean development, of course. There are a host of services that have been rolled out including Froogle, Google Image Search, Google Newsgroup Search, Google News, and AdSense. All of these are great tools for just about any purpose in which you need information.

Newly announced, however, is the ZOMG HUGE Gmail service, boasting one gigabyte of storage space with an encouragement to archive e-mail, instead of deleting it. I sense some Google-ploy™ in how they're handing out user accounts. They're free, but you have to be "invited." If it were me, and I wish that it were, it would be an excellent way for me to count my affect on users. Moreover, since my free accounts were selling for $80 or more a few weeks ago (which are now down to $5 or so, incidentally), I'd know that I've got a good thing going.

And finally, ladies and germs, GoogleGroups. This is not to be confused with the aforementioned groups.google.com, but is an entirely different service. GoogleGroups offers listserves and group management ala Yahoogroups but sans suck.

Continue reading...

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The end of an era.
news : by Corey - May 12th 2004, 05:15PM
Today marks the last day that Señor Grendel and I will be working together. I graduated from college today, and will be moving on. It has been an honor, sir.

My, what saucy lads!

Grendel sez: *tear* Good times have been had. "Oh, I Tea," shall cease to be as fun.
update : yes, people, the "Lyfe" is misspelled as part of the joke. Stop telling me it's misspelled. You have missed the humor train - maybe you can catch it on the next stop.
edit version 3.hoe: Every person who didn't understand, "lyfe" should be shot.

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Something Awful
news : by Tommy - March 24th 2004, 12:22AM
Many of you know the site Something Awful. It's just a site with random, funny crap on it. It's amazing how many people are in their Forums. I just signed up today for $9.95. It sounds like a lot just for some stupid forum membership. But, I assure you, it is $10 well-spent.
There is tons of hilarious stuff posted. Almost anything cool, funny or otherwise amusing, gets posted on Something Awful before most people have time to distribute the URLs.
Also included in this bargain buy is the free-stuff forum. Each thread has a new deal, which, after one free magazine subscription... pays for your entire life-long membership. Not to mention the other goodies available for members only.

So, if ya got $10 and want to be part of a friggin' huge online group... check out the Something Awful Forums.
My SA Goon name is GrendelT.

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Ventrilo Voice Chat
news : by Tommy - January 4th 2004, 09:30PM
While playing Battlefield 1942 with the guys, we always use some form of voice chat. We started off with the one that started it all, Roger Wilco. Since it was bought up my GameSpy, it's gone to crap. There's almost no development going on with it, and it's become stagnant. The sound quality is 'good enough', but poor when compared to others.
Next, Havoc had us try out Sidewinder GameVoice a product from Microsoft. Like RW (RogerWilco), it's free. The sound quality of it is much better than RW, but the only problem was that, being a MS product, there is only a Windows server for it. Most other voice chat servers run on Linux, BSD, as well as Windows. So we left it running on Havoc's box (when it was up).
Over Christmas break, my older brother told me about a program that his Dark Age of Camelot guild uses called Ventrilo. He said they use it because it is small, like RW, but has great sound-quality like SW. And it will run on Linux. So I gave it a shot, and it is quite impressive. The sound quality is superb and it uses very little memory compared to the others.

What about TeamSpeak? TeamSpeak sux. I've tried several of their servers but it always either won't start or just crashes out. So I ditched it long ago. Besides, I had heard that SW sounded better, and Ventrilo sounds even better than that. So why bother...

So check out Ventrilo next time you want to use voice-chat. It's free and easy to setup. The server name is neodux.com and cheese.neodux.com.

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Girl Drivers == t3h sux0r
news : by Tommy - November 19th 2003, 03:23AM
So, I'm on my way home from the SFA Observatory Tuesday night/Wednesday morning (whatever 12:20a is), heading south on Highway 59. I'm just inside Nacogdoches city limits, when this stupid breezy pulls out from a side road, blows thru a stop sign, across the highway and into my right lane. I hit the brakes to avoid plowing into the backend of her. The brakes squeal and I start to slide, I counter-steer to try to stay on the road, but going about 60mph its almost useless.
I nail a curb, get airborne for about 10 feet in my lovely little '96 Mazda Protegé. I dig into the ground about 6 inches when I come down, clip a telephone pole, which rips off my front passenger-side wheel, strut and axle.

The airbags came out as soon as I hit the curb, I don't recall ever seeing that pole I hit, and I was not injured (from what I can tell). I get out of my smoke-filled car to see her driving away!
Fortunatly this nice guy, Craig, chased after her to get her license plate. A couple of her friends from down the road came down to say that she had left their house and gave her name and address to the Nacogdoches Police. The police contacted the girl, got her insurance and informed her of what she had done. I am going to file with her insurance and let them know what a stupid, blind moron she is.

Rest in Peace little Protegé, we barely knew ye.

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TCP/IP Over Bongo Drums
news : by Tommy - September 28th 2003, 03:31PM
Almost every computer today is equipped with the TCP/IP networking protocol. (the chief communication standard in the world, due mainly to it being the essential Internet protocol). Basically, networking traffic of any sort is broken down to 1s and 0s, just as all data in a computer is. The 1s and 0s transmitted across the network connection is actually a series of minute high and low pulses of electricity. The recipient then "decodes", or demodulates, these high and low pulses as a 1 or a 0. (high or low).
One professor at Algoma University posed a question to his 4th year Computer Science students, can sound be used as a transmission medium?

The result was TCP/IP over Bongos drums.

    - Ricky Ricardo and Andy Kaufman would be proud.

( Comments : 0 | Full article )

Neodux going Mini-ITX
news : by Tommy - August 19th 2003, 06:13AM
This is my newest toy. It arrived this afternoon. Its quite impressive. Very fast for what it is, and the silence is quite nifty.
Its a fully-functional motherboard made by VIA. It sports a heat-sink for the CPU and chipset (no "loud" fans needed!), on-board video, PC133 memory access, one PCI slot, onboard network and onboard sound - all in 6.75" x 6.75"!!!

So what am I going to do with it? When I go off to school in the next week or so, I want to take Neodux with me, but I don't want to hear it. Enter the solid state reincarnation of neodux! I'm going to use the EPIA P5000 motherboard, my IDE-to-Compact Flash adapter (to boot off a CF card instead of those loud hard drives) and run from 512Mb of PC133 (later 1Gb). So, no moving parts!

update : Talk about quiet! Its almost eerie to not hear this thing in action. I found an awesome distro called SmoothWall. I am completely blown away. It works right from the get-go, quite secure, installs from a 21Mb ISO on CD, and fits nicely onto my 256Mb CF with room left over. Best part is, its all configurable from a web-interface. Really an amazing distro. I can't believe there hasn't been more buzz around it.
for more info on other miniITX projects, visit mini-itx.com.

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