Most unreliable console system: Xbox 360

Xbox 360


According to a survey commissioned by the CNET UK, 60% of Xbox 360s have had hardware failures. According to the survey 47% of Xbox 360s have failed within the first year of purchase. I have personally become part of this statistic. I have gone through 3 Xbox’s within 2 years. I was able to return the faulty Xbox to Best Buy under their warranty plan. At some point  I discovered that you could mod the Xbox to read game backups.  After the third Xbox, the BestBuy warranty expired and I thought Microsoft may have fixed the issue so I modded the Xbox.  Well a few months after that, I got the RRoD again. Now I was stuck. No store warranty and no Microsoft warranty since I modded it. After looking online for a fix, I found this long term solution. This worked for a while but I got RROD again. I am considering getting an Xbox 360 Arcade since it is $199 now and has HDMI output. I’m going to give it one more try and then might get a PS3.

Downadup.B

The Conficker worm aka Downadup worm continues to infect non-patched Microsoft computers a year after the initial outbreak. This worm scans your network and finds and infects other computers that are also not patched with the Microsoft MS08-067 critical patch. The worm can effect network performance since it floods the network with traffic while it scans  for other hosts to infect. It’s not in the news anymore since most companies have updated their systems, but just as many have not and are still vulnerable to attack. So get patched and update your anti-virus software.

 

Backup Types


When your hard drive fails, the drive can be replaced, but the data cannot. That’s where backups come in. There are different ways of backing up depending on the amount of data you are backing up.

Online Backup

This method is becoming increasingly popular way of  backing up data over the internet. An article I wrote shows how to be your own online backup provider.
Full backup

A full backup, which Microsoft calls a normal backup, backs up every selected file, regardless of the status of the archive bit. When the backup completes, the backup software turns off the archive bit for every file that was backed up. Note that “full” is a misnomer because a full backup backs up only the files you have selected, which may be as little as one directory or even a single file, so in that sense Microsoft’s terminology is actually more accurate. Given the choice, full backup is the method to use because all files are on one tape, which makes it much easier to retrieve files from tape when necessary. Relative to partial backups, full backups also increase redundancy because all files are on all tapes. That means that if one tape fails, you may still be able to retrieve a given file from another tape.
Differential backup

A differential backup is a partial backup that copies a selected file to tape only if the archive bit for that file is turned on, indicating that it has changed since the last full backup. A differential backup leaves the archive bits unchanged on the files it copies. Accordingly, any differential backup set contains all files that have changed since the last full backup. A differential backup set run soon after a full backup will contain relatively few files. One run soon before the next full backup is due will contain many files, including those contained on all previous differential backup sets since the last full backup. When you use differential backup, a complete backup set comprises only two tapes or tape sets: the tape that contains the last full backup and the tape that contains the most recent differential backup.
Incremental backup

An incremental backup is another form of partial backup. Like differential backups, Incremental Backups copy a selected file to tape only if the archive bit for that file is turned on. Unlike the differential backup, however, the incremental backup clears the archive bits for the files it backs up. An incremental backup set therefore contains only files that have changed since the last full backup or the last incremental backup. If you run an incremental backup daily, files changed on Monday are on the Monday tape, files changed on Tuesday are on the Tuesday tape, and so forth. When you use an incremental backup scheme, a complete backup set comprises the tape that contains the last full backup and all of the tapes that contain every incremental backup done since the last normal backup. The only advantages of incremental backups are that they minimize backup time and keep multiple versions of files that change frequently. The disadvantages are that backed-up files are scattered across multiple tapes, making it difficult to locate any particular file you need to restore, and that there is no redundancy. That is, each file is stored only on one tape.

Backup Media

Another consideration is which media to save you data on. The popular media formats are:

Tape
Optical Drive (DVD, BluRay)
Hard Disk

Hard disk backup seem to becoming more popular because the price of disk is falling and it is the fastest method. Tape has been around for a while and is a durable media and can store a large amount of data. The problem I see with both disk and tape is that they are both subject to magnetic fields. Optical drives such as DVD and BluRay writers don’t store as much data on a single media but in my opinion is the most durable for long term storage. Although the argument can be made that all you need is the last backup to restore the data, but I like to keep a few versions just in case.

Whichever method of backup or whichever media you use, backup often to save yourself a headache.

Mandatory Touch Typing in Schools

typwritter
Today’s generation is immersed in computer technology and will almost undoubtedly need to use a keyboard. So why not make touch typing a mandatory subject in school right up there with reading, writing, and arithmetic. That is being suggested in an article in the Telegraph http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/debates/6139246/Why-arent-children-taught-to-touch-type-at-school.html. There arguments for both for and against this idea. It can be argued that touch typing is as essential in the digital age as reading and writing. On the other hand, you can still get around a keyboard without knowing touch typing. I myself am more of a hunt-and-pecker than a touch typer and I am able to do my system admin job just fine. How essential is touch typing for living? It can be argued that it is a skill as necessary as being able to dress oneself or eat with utensils. Schools do not have mandatory subject in how to eat with a fork and a knife or getting dressed but somehow children learn how to do this. Grade school teachers may assist in some of these essential skills, such as tying shoes and zipping zippers, but skills that are essential for daily life may not need to be mandatory subject.

It is my opinion however that touch typing is inefficient. The QWERTY keyboard that we have become accustomed to was created when old fashioned typewriters were used. all been using for decades was developed to actually slow you down.

“The QWERTY keyboard layout was devised and created in the early 1870s by Christopher Sholes, a newspaper editor and printer who lived in Milwaukee.

With the assistance of his friends Carlos Glidden and Samuel W. Soule he built an early writing machine for which a patent application was filed in October 1867. His “Type Writer” had its printing point located beneath the paper carriage, invisible to the operator. Consequently, the tendency of the typebars to clash and jam if struck in rapid succession was especially serious, because the typist could only discover the mishap by raising the carriage to inspect what he had typed.
Sholes struggled for the next six years to perfect his invention, making many trial-and-error rearrangements of the original machine’s alphabetical key arrangement in an effort to reduce the frequency of typebar clashes. Eventually he arrived at a four-row, upper case keyboard approaching the modern QWERTY standard.” (Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/QWERTY)

I’m waiting for someone to come up with a better layout that won’t cause carpal tunnel syndrome and will allow for even more words per minute than with the QWERTY keyboard layout.
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Worst McDonald’s Happy Meal Toy EVER

Worst Happy Meal Toy EVER

I found this McDonald’s Happy Meal toy when I was clean up my son’s room and I was like WTF! I think it is supposed to be the jellyfish from the Finding Nemo movie but something is very very wrong about this toy. I can’t decide which is worse the face or the very falic shape. Didn’t someone at McDonald’s have to approve this?

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Be Your Own Online Backup Service

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Many people already know the importance of backup. Your data can become corrupted; your hard drive could crash; you could have accidentally deleted a file. If you’re not, start doing it before it’s too late.   There are many ways to backup your data such as burning to DVD or copying files to a USB external drive.  These methods are fine but they have a few disadvantages. First of all these methods rely on  physical hardware, which typically reside near the computer being backed up. This hardware can fail as well.  If for instance your house were to catch fire then your data and the backups are in jeopardy. You could leave a copy of your backups at a friend’s house or a safety deposit box and at least you would have secured the backup media in case of a disaster. But that still requires you to physically bring the media to another location.

Enter the online backups. Companies like Mozy and Carbonite provide online backups over the internet. The tutorial here will help you setup your own online backup to another server over the internet so your data will be easily recoverable in the event of a disaster.

You need a:

  • FTP Server ( Filezilla Server for Windows Users)
  • Server or workstation with internet access
  • Enough storage to hold your data
  • Areca Backup ( Open Source backup software)
  • Domain or DynDNS address
  • Reasonably fast Internet Connection (Cable / DSL / FiOS)

Set up:

Install the FTP server:
FTP is a cross platform application that is easy to setup and manage and is a standard protocol used heavily on the internet for transferring data.
Create directory where you want to backup your data to on a large enough hard drive on a server or workstation.

  • Run the Filezilla Server setup
  • Create an FTP user account / Password

ftp1

Set a password for the user

ftp2

Add a home directory. This will be where the data backup are stored.

ftp3

Verify FTP works by using an FTP client to connect to the FTP server using the account that was just setup to confirm that FTP and the user account is working properly.

Setup Port forwarding:

  • DynDNS
  • Router Port forward 21
  • Test Connectivity from remote
  • Verify FTP works

Get a dynamic DNS Name if you don’t have a static IP.

  1. Now to get to your computer you can use the IP the ISP has assigned you. Problem: Your ISP will more than likely use DHCP to assign you an IP so at any given time you may not know your current IP. Solution: Dynamic DNS! Go to http://dyndns.org or http://tzo.com or http://deerfield.com or any other dynamic DNS site. In this example, I use DynDNS.org.
  2. Sign up for an account (free) and create a host name that you will use to reference you computer. Ex. homepc.homeip.net (one of the several subnets available).Create a new host entry under Host Services. The site will automatically detect the IP that you are currently accessing the site from so sign in from the place you want to connect to. I.e. your house.

DynDNS

This will maintain your current IP info as a global internet address. When every your IP changes you will need to login into DynDNS and update the IP registed. Newer routers have a Dynamic DNS feature which will let you automatically update DynDNS whenever your IP changes. The other option is to use a DNS Update client that automatically updates your register IP from your PC. These clients are available on the DynDNS site.

EXTERN_0001

Set up your firewall

For this example I am using a Linksys router. If you are using a software firewall like Zone Alarm or anther hardware firewall / router please consult your user manual.

  1. Login to your router (usually http://192.168.1.1). Click on Applications & Gaming under the Port Range Forward.

On older an older Linksys it would be under Advanced tab then the Forwarding tab. You will see a similar page.

Router_setup

  1. In the application box put FTP. Put 21 in both the Start and End box. Choose Both for the protocol. For the IP address enter the IP of the computer that you will be using for the FTP Server.
  2. To check if the port is now open go to go to http://www.grc.com and click on the Shields Up link or click https://grc.com/x/ne.dll?bh0bkyd2 . This will let you scan your router/firewall port from an external source.
  3. When you get to the Shields Up page, enter 21 in the box and click “User Specified Custom Port Probe. You will also see some other options such as Scan Common Ports and All Service Ports feel free to experiment.

GRC

If the ports show up as Stealth then either you mis-configured your router or your ISP is blocking these ports. In most cases, you will see the ports listed as Closed.

If you see ports listed as OPEN this means some service / application responded to the port probe request! You will see how this work later.

grc2

Areca Backup Setup

Areca is an open source backup program for windows and linux that allows to easily backup and restore your data. The reason I choose Areca is because it provides the ability to not only backup to local networks but over FTP. Install this software on the computer you want to backup.

  • Install Areca Backup

1. Edit – New Group

arc1

2. Edit.. New Target…

In the Main section, enter a target name. Choose FTP / FTPS Repository. Leave all other options default. Then click the Select button next to the FTP / FTPS Repository

arc2

3. Enter the DynDSN name you choose earlier in this article and enter it in the Remote Host field. Leave the port 21. Enter a backlash (/) for the Remote directory, unless you want the backups to be stored in another directory.
Note: If your ISP blocks incoming port 21 you may need to change the port.

arc3

4. Under the Source tab, choose the Directory button

arc4

Test Backup

arc6

Final Notes:

The reason I used Areca is because it can be configured to use FTP.  FTP is well known, and you can setup a folder structure to organize different backups.  It can also be setup to use FTPS for secure connection. Using the concepts outlined, you could setup another software to backup over the internet.
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Windows 7 Upgrade Release Date Moved Up



Microsoft’s newest operating system, Windows 7, is scheduled to be released on October 22, 2009. However there are rumors that the product will begin shipping before that date. It’s not often that Microsoft releases a product early. Then again, in my opinion, Windows 7 is Vista with a face lift and a few service packs installed. If you are like many of us that hate don’t care for Vista, you can pre-order your copy now at a discount.

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Game Streaming and Subscription Model

gamestream

Update: OnLive has shut down in 2015. It was a good idea that I hope gets resurrected in some form

 

If you have purchased a graphics intensive PC game recently, such as Cryisis, you realize that your computer runs the game like a choppy YouTube video. In order to get a better gaming experience, you need to get the latest hardware, so a $60 game may end up costing you hundreds in hardware upgrades.

Years ago when computing power was extraordinarily expensive, you had a server like a mainframe do all the number crunching serve out results to “dumb” terminals.  What if the graphics and physics calculations of today’s games were subcontracted to servers that did the heavy lifting. As computer power reaches pennies per Ghz and unlimited internet bandwidth increases steadily, the next evolution in gaming is in game streaming and subscription.

Imagine subscribing to the latest graphically intensive game that just came out over the internet. With the streaming model, a video is streamed to your desktop while the game is running on a remote server at high resolution and with high game details on. That means your PC doesn’t have to run the latest hardware to play the game the way it was meant to be played. A recent article has revealed the OnLive will attempt to do just that.

Of course, this would only work if you have the bandwidth to support it. The internet backbones are currently being upgraded, but higher internet speeds will likely cost you more as well. Another roadblock would be the ISP’s proposed cap on your monthly bandwidth. If the unlimited internet bandwidth model changes, the entire business built on internet communications will suffer, including the upcoming game streaming.

Mozilla Labs Chromatabs

I was on the Mozilla Labs site and I found the Chomatabs project that I thought was interesting. The Firefox extension ColorfulTabs allows you to color your Firefox tabs to more easily identify the sites you are visiting. If you are like me and have at least 10 tabs open at any given time, you can see where this would be handy. There is actually a theory behind this that I found the most interesting.
In the graphic below, first find all the red letters. That was easy right!? Now find all the M’s. No so easy.
The way our visual system processes the colors versus the shapes makes finding the colors easier. The Chomatabs project was trying to take this idea further by automatically coloring tabs based on the site you visited. For instance, websites of a technical nature may be assigned a shade of green, while a commercial business site might show up as a blue tab. The concept is interesting though and one day may be use to make the organization of information a little easier. Unfortunately the project has been discontinued and is no longer under development.

https://labs.mozilla.com/projects/chromatabs/

chromotab

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