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You Look Like I Need a Drink

**Not Quite Web 2.0**

Al Queda Should Use Colletive X

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

How does a secure (well if by secure you mean 128 SSL encryption) private group network with business oriented goals sound to you? I recently was granted the invitation to give Collective X a try. Although not a totally free service (options much more limited with a free account), I signed up for basic access to see what all the whispers were about. I must say that I was pretty intrigued about the set up, attention to details, layout and functions. I initially thought it might be a good way to set up a ring for pirated apps (I kid, I kid) but found that there were actually quite a lot of decent functions and options allowing one to set up a tightly controlled and secured way of plotting information and sharing one's calendar of events with an invite only group.
Because none of my actual friends (I can count them with the fingers on one hand) would be remotely interested in joining this group, the following screencaps and review will be based on admin access to the account with no actual basic user testing (sorry folks) outside of the admin set up.
Tabbing the options at the top of the screen allows you to quickly access the main features of Collective X (which will herefore be dubbed CX for a shorter abbreviation).
Because I wanted to try out the calendar function, I quickly picked a site to bash on and jotted down a few random notes to see how they would turn out. The calendar description was basic but necessary and the timestamp was as easy to set as, well a VCR blinking 12:00. OK, bad analogy but in essence, I had the correct time and date set in a flash.
CX also allows access to a forum which would be great for Project Mayhem (yes, that was Fight Club reference) with the added option of mass emailing everyone in the group. But because I was the only one in the group, I was unable to test out the forums and email blast. At this point, I need to mention that although I was unable to test some functions that require other members, I still found no bugs and no problems while logged on. Everything worked, and there was no lag in between jumping from option to option.
When I got to the email blast, I was disappointed that in order to use this function, I would have to sign up for the upgraded paid plan. Well I guess a good service is not always open source or freeware.
I also found (unfortunately again) that I was unable to upload a file without a paid subscription. I personally thought the folks at CX should have at least had a 1 gig restriction or maybe even a 512MB max upload but with what they put into the product, I am sure they want people to upgrade their plans so I cannot fault them for that. Still I would have liked to have tested the upload speed.
Finally, a contact settings control panel had a number of key features (check the screenshot, I will not list them all).
Overall, I have to say that Collective X offered a fair amount of core features that any group would be happy to use on a regular basis. I, on the other hand have had it up to my neck with .xls and .doc files from my previous job and no longer want a work related site I must view from my home computer, but for those with higher aspirations than me (or better work ethic), CX could just possibly be the next office related killer app. That, or a good way for terrorists to plan and coordinate their evil plans.

*Collective X is still not readily available to the general public but leave your email addy and your name and they will notify you when your request has been accepted.


posted by aL, 10:08 PM | link | 0 comments |

Small Kine Down Time (bandwidth exceeded)

This site was not completely taken down due to traffic viewing the previous post on the KKK Toothbrush Holder but since I image link my banner and a few other images from my decrepit, all but outdated and rarely used geocities site (you can find it if you dig a little), some image loads on chalkline were failing to load yesterday and parts of today. My blame is squarely aimed at the direction of geocities, as being owned by yahoo, I thought that I would never have that dreaded 'bandwidth exceeded' message. Oh well, maybe I will throw the images on my google pages site and see if that helps the next time.

*I am currently doing a review of ColletiveX and if all goes well, it will be posted later tonight.


posted by aL, 9:44 PM | link | 0 comments |

KKK Toothbrush Holder

Sunday, March 26, 2006

*First off I need to mention that I do not condone or concur with racial bigotry, hate related crimes or agree with any forms of genocide or racial slurs. This project and post was based purely on random ideas colliding around in my cranium. Not that it is a legitimate reason, but I also happen to be Chinese. Okay, now with that out of the way, let's move onto my KKK toothbrush holder project.

The other day I was at Safeway an noticed some cone shaped toothbrush holders. After the thought process had reached my synapses a few minutes later, in the middle of isle 14 I inadvertently blurted out 'Klansman toothbrush holders!' Gaining a few strange looks, I went back and purchased them for three dollars.

Step one was to use my dremel to make a desired effect of an offical Klansman hood. I tried a variant here I dub the 'Batman Klansman' based on the cut of the mask revealing the mouth but was unable to find any images of actual Klansman with the same cut. For the second hood, I was highly considering using resin to fill in the smiley mouth but decided that timewise and volume would not be worthwhile. I used the cheaper (more Chinese route) of filling the mouth with spackling paste (for the more traditional KKK member look).

The next step was to sand down the spackling paste to erase any traces of a smiling mouth. Mind you, I didn't have the right sandpaper to make make the project flawless of bumps but I spent a few minutes smoothing out the large lumps (once again resin would have been choice number one).

Finally, I applied three coats of 'blossom white satin' spray paint to each of the gaudy colored toothbrush holders. The dried effect almost screams Aryan Nation (btw guys at the Aryan Nations site, tables are dead and a surplus of animated GIFs reminds me of old geocities sites). Not too shabby. Maybe next time I will pick on the Black Panthers.


posted by aL, 12:56 AM | link | 26 comments |

Google Page Creator (at a glance)

Friday, March 24, 2006

Amidst all the excitement of Google's newly released Page Creator, I missed the initial launch and had to submit an email to queue for an account. Of course like some absent minded professor, when the account request was accepted, I simply read it and instantly forgot about it until one night at 2AM I randomly arose from a lucid nightmare, sitting straight up in bed and with the dawning realization, recalled that I now could have my very own Google page to pet and feed and love and call cutesy names. The very next day I logged on to take a peek.
As I soon came to find out, Google's page creator was geared towards those with limited technological skills, a short attention span, a quick homepage set up, grandparents, or for anyone too intimidated to see HMTL. That however is not always a bad thing. Highly integrating WYSIWYG with drag and drop functions, I was able to (if I wanted to) set up a page uber quick. As the screenshot above shows, a simple picture upload combined with drag and drop ability allows images to be placed (almost) anywhere.

The side toolbar had a few options that allowed the size of font and style to be changed on the go as well as the usual functions of bold, italics, bullet points, links and images. Overall, Google Page Creator was very simplified but lacked innovation. I had hoped for more features and perhaps an 'advanced' tab for those somewhat familiar for editing pages. However, if Page Creator is to separate itself from the pack, the folks at Google had better up the ante.


posted by aL, 11:35 PM | link | 70 comments |

Graying out (not 'gaying out') GrayBit v0.5

Monday, March 20, 2006

GrayBit launched earlier this month offering the ability to transform (some) sites to grayscale. I had to give it a try to my own site and then got curious and decided to see the effect on other sites. Below is a screenshot of my pals over at dreamlogic.net.

Interesting. Well I thought next it would be amusing to see if GrayBit could render its own page gray.

Slightly amused I began to ponder deep thoughts on why anyone would use this service on a regular basis. GrayBit claims:
'Relying on colors to determine page visibility and contrast can be misleading. Converting the colors to their grayscale equivalents is a more reliable method. By removing color’s influence, you’ll better find true visual contrast… GrayBit makes it possible.'

I personally think it is a crock of shit. Here are two reasons I came up with on why anyone would use this service regularly.

*The user is already fully colorblind and wants poorly rendered pages that does not work with JavaScript
*The user is so fucking goth that all they see anyway is shades of gray.

So much for me being polite.


posted by aL, 10:07 PM | link | 3 comments |

Never Hand the Devil the Keys to Your Car

Sunday, March 19, 2006

The 'bomber' feature for textmessage.cc is no longer active. This simply means it will be featured on another site that I am not going to bother researching. The original post is here. Feeling slightly guilty for any trouble I may have caused, I sent the admin of the site this email. Sometimes I am so polite it kills me.

I just got a reply from the admin so here is the cut and paste text.
'I was getting complaints long before you put that up, you just put it over the edge. No sweat off my balls, I didnt use it anyway. Plus, there is still a secret bomber on the site, just not for the general "public".

Later man


Well shit, now I don't feel so bad.


posted by aL, 10:42 AM | link | 2 comments |

Sick of It All @ Rams Head Live (and misc week info)

Thursday, March 16, 2006

*I had originally planned to get more entries out this week but my schedule has been kicking my arse so this post will be a conglomerated entry of going to a show last night in Baltimore at the Rams Head Live, as well as some info on what I have been up to this week.

Liz and I managed to get up to Baltimore last night at around 9pm to catch Sick of it All open up for Dropkick Murphys for a little pre St.Patrick's Day celebration. We of course started with some Jameson's shots. We would later find out that the shots were necessary as we were on stage right in the front row next to a bunch of goddamn cheerleaders gone wannabe punk. But all things aside, I droned out their idle chatter as I watched Pete run circles all while playing the guitar. The pinnacle of their short 35(ish) minute set was when they burst into 'America' and really got the crowd moving. There was mixture of older folks (by older I mean pre-Green Day) but the kids by far populated the sweat fueled crowd. The crowd gave a tepid response as most of them were there to see Dropkick Murphys. Lou spoke to the crowd a few times and for some sad reason, I realized that their history had been lost on the young crowd and that some kids would think that they were simply emulating From Autumn to Ashes. As such, in-between sets a Stiff Little Fingers song (Alternative Ulster) was played and I saw one measly fist in the air which threw me into a drunken rant. Bitching aside, I was quite pleased to see them perform and although Liz was not totally thrilled to see them, I had at least managed to catch them as we had already missed the Horropops (wasn't dying to see them anyway), and the Tossers (damn, how the fuck did we miss them?). Dropkick opened shortly after and put on a great show (although I am more of a Flogging Molly fan). I must say that Dropkick had great stage presence and unfortunatley we were not able to stay for the whole set.

*Changing gears onto research for chalkline.
I have been looking up some articles on OS fingerprinting and have an application I want to review and maybe tweak but that project is turning into a lot more work than expected so I may not have anything posted regarding that topic in the near future.

*Computer Security Related
I will be working tomorrow night (St. Patrick's Day--green beer anyone?) with a client on migrating data from one box to another and then going back and cleaning out backdoors and shutting off remote services on the compromised box. I have to plan a toolkit to bring and off the top of my head, here is the short list.
-Blank CD-Rs
-Blank DVD-Rs
-Knoppix STD (running Fluxbox as I think the KDE version lags too much)
-a LG External Super Multi DVD/CD Rewriter
Anything else I am sure I will think of when it is too damn late. Oh well. Happy St.Pattys Day to all.


posted by aL, 9:31 PM | link | 2 comments |

PixOMFG (pixoh review)

Saturday, March 11, 2006

I may very well be spoiled being an avid Photoshop CS2 user, and the thought of editing pictures online on a box other than my own (that doesn't have Photoshop) intrigued me. When I came across Pixoh, I decided I had to give it a try being that I might have the urge to moblog and not have access to a photo editor and panic like a pedophile at an all girl's teen sex recovery meeting. What I immediately liked was the function to go directly to a picture via URL or by uploading a picture from a hard drive. I graced my stored pictures and decided that a picture of some friends (Mike and Liz) would be appropriate to edit as size, cropping and lighting were rather shitty. I uploaded the picture and pixoh responded with a minor lag time.

Cropping the picture was easy as a basic frame was dragged around the screen. Everything outside of the lighted box was cropped and I was ready to move onto resizing.

Resizing was also a drag function which seemed to distort my picture terribly. Reading the note on the editor, I was told that a simple 'holding the shift key' function would resize my picture without the distortion. That was a no go so I left it at the regular unedited size. However, when it was time to save the picture, I was offered more formats than expected. I had still wanted to work with shading, color contrasts and a few other things but that was not available.

Here is the final picture. Not great but hopefully the people at pixoh will address these shortcomings and more features will be added in the future.


posted by aL, 11:28 PM | link | 0 comments |

Computer Security Consulting (Will H4X0R for Food)

Thursday, March 09, 2006

I am now enjoying a nice Chipotle burrito and thought I would share the nice night I had rummaging through an (almost) complete stranger's computer to see if it was compromised by a crazy estranged husband. The client was worried that her online activity was being monitored by her husband who also happens to be a software engineer (so not exactly dealing with a regular knob of a computer user). Worried that a software monitoring app like Spectorsoft was at play, a keystroke logger was used or maybe a backdoor telnet was in use I immediately checked the startup to see if any strange apps were launched. Luckily none were. But as it turns out, the husband had already set up remote access and allowed the hard drive sharing properties so none were needed. I poked around a little and managed to find a few digital footprints of online sports gambling sites, a person searcher site, and a few other things he had not managed (or didn't bother to) delete. I didn't even check the .dat files, dive into the registry or root the account (that may be for a later date).
As is, because the client was through a friend of a friend, I was not exactly going to ask for payment. A simple 'will hack for food' would have been fine but the client refused. So next week I will be spending some time migrating data to a new box and cleaning out the old one. Seems like I am always working out someone's mess, other than my own.

*I am taking Friday off so no new posts, but I have some planned posts that should be up this weekend.


posted by aL, 8:32 PM | link | 255 comments |

Chandler Calendar (Partial Review)

Monday, March 06, 2006

Blogger is still not letting me upload pictures so to the hell with the screenshots. As is, this is going to be the blog part for the day and if you came only for the app review, feel free to skip this part.

My afternoon started to suck as soon as I got a call from Liz who was near tears. Deciding to call my parents in Hawaii as I still have nothing to listen to in the car (as the deck fuse has still not been replaced), my mom told me she was doing okay but felt bad because she accosted my brother about possibly taking a HazMat job. I told her I would give my brother a call and shortly thereafter got in touch with him. He told me he was not going to take the HazMat job because my mother was being a complete bitch and called him stupid and threatened to kick him out if he did. So back to my mother, I reported that my bro was mad at her but was not going to accept the job. Flash forward to Liz's house. Now I come from a Chinese household and thought my parents were crazy. Liz's family is more chaotic and hyped up than a bunch of fruit bats on meth. We're not talking about taking the 'cake' here. We're talking about taking the whole FUCKING bakery. I got yelled at just for being there and attempting to help out but eventually things got settled down. On top of this all, I have a potential client who needs some security consulting because her estranged husband might be monitoring her online accounts remotely so I have to get my toolkit ready (which I have not even started). Basically, I could use a lot less drama. OK, onto the application review.

I know that Google is planning a calendar which should be released shortly but I decided to give Chandler a try in the meantime. Not that I have a whole lot planned for my schedule or not (would have been useful while I was employed at UPS), I thought it would at least be fun to try out for a few days. I must say, the options for Chandler were quite staggering. Featuring not only basic calendar functions, it also includes an RSS Aggregator, planner, notes, sharing of data in a workspace and more.

This is as far as I got with screenshots before Blogger decided to not work for me as well. In a nutshell, the RSS Aggregator works fine and pulls up text right into the Chandler browser allowing you to view your feeds without having to open another browser. However, if the feed is image heavy, then prepare to wait. On the whole, Chandler is rather sluggish and is pretty time intensive on loading. Even just to open the app, I had to sit as long as launching Photoshop CS2. There are a ton of options and choices that go far beyond the calendar ability but the lack of speed when using Chandler was a major turn off. I didn't get a chance to test the mail or Pop3 functions but they do seem intact. I will most likely wait until Google comes out with their calendar before I attempt another calendar application again.


posted by aL, 10:15 PM | link | 0 comments |

Books I Got For Free

Today at work, amongst the usual clutter of nameless objects sat an old mysterious cardboard box. Curious, I poked my nose into it and saw that they were donated books for anyone to take. Here is what I chose.

*Dante's Inferno
*Beowulf (or as Liz says 'BearWuf.')
*Psychotic Reactions
*High Fidelity

not too freakin bad for free.

*Blogger is not letting me upload pics currently so my application review will be put off until tomorrow.


posted by aL, 10:06 PM | link | 2 comments |

Death By Silence (and then some)

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Maybe it is karma for laughing at Liz's car CD player that plays a veritable 1.5 songs worth of tracks from a CD before shitting out, but my Toyota Tacoma's deck decided to rear its ugly head as well and blow a fuse (if that is indeed the problem). The good news is that the car still works fine and the internal lights are still functioning. The downside is that my display will not turn on, which means no music from my iPod. Call it griping but I will be damned to the hot depths of Hades if I have to drive to Arlington and back to Southern Maryland every damn day this week sitting in total silence. I have already told kpR that in order to remain sane on my morning commute, I will call him bright and early at 6:30AM (which in California would make it roughly 3:30AM) every morning until my car stereo is fixed. Talk about burning bridges. I guess I had better call and get my truck serviced.

*On a sidenote, shout outs to Gina at Lifehacker for sending me an invite to be a commenter.
*And as I write, I am currently testing and reviewing another application that will hopefully be posted late tomorrow (if I don't repeatedly bash my forehead into the windshield in a desperate attempt to break the silence in the car and wind up in some filthy 12 car pile up in NW on the way home).


posted by aL, 9:38 PM | link | 3 comments |

The End is Nigh (New York Ave, DC)

Saturday, March 04, 2006

On my way home from Arlington after helping a friend move, I decided to go on route 50 (New York Ave) as seeing that it was a Saturday afternoon and traffic would hopefully be light. As I waited at a stoplight in view of the XM Satellite building, much to my disbelief, I did not see the usual roadside vender selling flowers. Two older black gentlemen were weaving around the stopped cars, holding high an unopened club (see the picture above). If that isn't a sign of the apocalypse, I don't know what is. How does this one act reflect upon our Nation's Capital and what message does it bring to the hordes of tourists that flock to DC each summer in high hopes of seeing a big shiny gem, or a chance at viewing that heavily secured white building where that dude who everyone hates lives?
I think I will continue to reside in PG County where getting shot at is to be expected and the only thing roadside venders sell is flowers, bottled spring water, and maybe sexual favors in return for money to buy crack. We all know, the latter is a given.


posted by aL, 2:40 PM | link | 4 comments |

Integrate Netjaxer into Qliner Hotkeys

Thursday, March 02, 2006

I have done a few short reviews on both Netjaxer and qliner Hotkeys over the last few days and thought it would be a wonderful idea to combine the two in order to hotkey frequent websites with just one click on the keyboard. Unfortunately, when I initially dragged a site icon from my quicklaunch to Hotkeys, it merely launched Netjaxer and didn't take me to the desired site. So after a little deliberation, I decided to do a wee bit of tinkering to see if I could get a nice site icon (favicon- the little icon on the left of the http://) on my Hotkeys, that would allow me to launch and browse from site to site in mere seconds. Well, with a lot less pain than expected, it was done. If you look at the screenshot above, the number keys on my keyboard are set to a few random sites. Here's what I did.

First in order to do this you need to run both lightweight apps NetJaxer and qliner Hotkeys. First, create a folder where you can store the sites you want to assign to your hotkeys. Visit the site and holding the left mouse key on the site icon (once again the icon on the left of http://) and drag it to your folder of sites you just created. It will look pretty generic at this point until you change the icon to the proper one.

Now open NetJaxer and click 'add.' On the right of 'icon,' there will be a paper icon that says 'download site icon' when hovered over. Enter the correct web address and click it and save the icon.
Now, go back to your new folder with the stored sites and right click the site shortcut, go to 'properties,' and 'change icon.' If you did a default install of NetJaxer, you will go to C:\Program Files\NetJaxer\Icons and will find your nice little site icon sitting there waiting to be assigned to the right site.
For the last part, open the websites folder you assigned the icons to and hold down the 'Windows' key on your keyboard until the virtual keyboard for qliner pops up. Drag and drop your websites to your blackened heart's content.
Incidentally, if you use NetJaxer and set the sites to open on your system set browser, it should jump from site to site without relaunching another browser.


posted by aL, 10:12 PM | link | 0 comments |