Jon's 2009 Christmas List

As a guy, I'm stereotypically hard to shop for. As such, I've put together this list (which I'll update as more things come to mind) for the convenience of those who would like to get me a gift. I did my research and found what I thought to be the best value/fit for me of each of the gift types - that Arcan Jack looks like it will outlast the car I'd like to use it on. All in all, I appreciate time with family and friends more than anything during the Christmas season - but gifts are always welcome distractions :)

Arcan Quick Lift Service Jack - 3.5 Ton, Model# XL35 - $149.99 @ Northern Tool
http://www.northerntool.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/product_6970_200345429_200345429

Torin Double Locking Jack Stands — 3-Ton Capacity, Model# T43002A - $24.99 @ Northern Tool
http://www.northerntool.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/product_6970_200305225_200305225

Kobalt (Lowe's) or Craftsmen (Sears) Sockets, Ratchets (six point sockets only)

HDHomeRun - 148.99 @ NewEgg
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16815327005&cm_re=hdhomerun-_-15-327-005-_-Product

The next few books in the Ender's game series (I've got Ender's Game): Speaker for the Dead, Xenocide, Children of the Mind - cheap @ Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_ss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=ender%27s+game&x=0&y=0

Mobil 1 Oil Cap for LS1 - 9.95 @ Afterthoughts Auto or YearOne:
http://www.afterthoughtsauto.com/mobil1-oilcap.html
http://www.yearone.com/serverfiles/part.asp?pid=5685N&hid=G12AA60505&cat=G&trk=22

HP J9077A 10/100/1000Mbps ProCurve Switch - $69.98 @ NewEgg. I'd like 2 of these...
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16833316076

BestBuy Gift Card for January puchase of a video game

Dockers Dress Socks - 3 pack (I need Black) - $12 @ Sears

Konnet Charge and Sync Cable for Charging and syncing iPhone, iPhone 3G/S and iPod (Two-in-One Pack) - $14.99 @ Amazon
http://www.amazon.com/Konnet-Charge-Charging-syncing-iPhone/dp/B002DEMCVG/ref=pd_sim_cps_4

ZZ Top CD (Rancho Texicano: The Very Best of ZZ Top) - as low as $6.97 used on Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/Rancho-Texicano-Very-Best-Top/dp/B0001ZXM54/ref=sr_1_5?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1257900243&sr=8-5

Red Hot Chili Peppers CD (Stadium Arcadium) - $16.99 on Amazon:
http://www.amazon.com/Stadium-Arcadium-Red-Chili-Peppers/dp/B000EMGAOY/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1259597712&sr=8-1

This is definitely a /wish/ item: Dell Vostro V13 - > $500 @ Dell:
Engadget's story

IE8 Standards Mode and MOSS

Using IE8 Standards Mode with MOSS has been fairly trouble-free so far. However, the richhtmlfield editor throws javascript errors when the page is in IE8 Standards mode. Without switching to the Telerik control or defaulting all of my pages to IE7 mode - there is a simpler fix!

Enable IE7 compatability mode only on your edit pages. My master page had the IE8 meta tag:

<meta equiv="X-UA-Compatible" content="IE=8">

right under the head element. To force your edit pages into IE7 mode, use the PublishingWebControls:EditModePanel to conditionally display it. Directly under the head element should now look like:

<publishingwebcontrols:editmodepanel id="EditModePanel1" runat="server" suppresstag="true">
<meta equiv="X-UA-Compatible" content="IE=7">
</PublishingWebControls:EditModePanel>
<meta equiv="X-UA-Compatible" content="IE=8">

Yay.

Fixing a noisy toilet

I've had to replace the flappers in all of my toilets in the 2 years I've been in my house. I thought that installing the higher quality flapper would be the last toilet fixes I'd be doing...I was wrong.

First, here's what the inside of most toilet tanks look like:

Last night the toilet in the master bath started sounding like somebody was filling the tank with a high pressure water hose. Checking the tank revealed that water was shooting out of the top of the fill valve instead of going through the fill tube. I happened upon an article on Reader's Digest's website that broke down the different parts of the toilet tank and led me to believe that most likely my fill valve could use some cleaning. It also noted that fill valves are cheap and easy to replace. Sounded great to me!

You should always do your research before making a purchase (especially ones that could cause property damage...like plumbing items). Lowes has integrated customer reviews into their website - and perusing the fill valve items I found their highest rated (and almost least expensive) Korky QuietFill Fill Valve. I've used the Korky flappers and liked them, so this was a fine choice.

Went to Lowes and also found something I'd never seen before - an in-tank toilet bowl cleaning system that advertises that it only treats the bowl and won't affect the tank parts. I suspect that I've had to replace previous flappers because I like to use the little chlorine circles that you put in the tank to keep the bowl fresh. I figured I'd already be in the tank, so I'd try this too. I got the "Flush 'n Sprarkle" made by Fluidmaster. Their website is terrible or I'd provide a link...

Combining these two was a breeze. Make sure to follow the directions on the fill valve or you'll have a very wet bathroom. Overall - this was an easy home fixit job that anybody can do.

Windows 7 x64 Ultimate - Taking the plunge

I'm just about finished backing everything up off of my main machine (Windows 7 32-bit Ultimate). I've heard alot of good things about Windows 7 (read quite a bit too) - and even decent things about the install process. What's tying me to Windows is Fallout 3 and the random Windows-only game...sorry Ubuntu, I love ya' but we just can't go steady yet.

I'll update this post as I install and use this new OS. It feels like getting a new computer!

Update 2:41pm
I started the install at 2:20 and am typing this from the same machine with Windows 7 now. Checking the device manager, I've got only 1 device (my ATI TV tuner...don't buy one of these) not recognized. Next up - Video drivers, TV Tuner drivers, and some apps.

Update 3:16pm
It looks like my ATI TV tuner doesn't have a listed driver available for Windows 7. Some searching revealed that some had success with using the Vista 64 bit driver from the ATI downloads page. I installed this driver, but the device manager still showed the unknown device. Choosing to "Update driver", I pointed the wizard to the location that the ATI installer had unpacked all the files to (C:\ATI). Windows picked up the driver and it's now listed as "ATI Unified AVStream Driver". I'm still configuring Windows Media Center, so I'm not sure if this will all work out - but the driver installed fine.

Update 3:50
TV Tuner works fine. Getting signal out here in the stix is another matter :)

Update 5:47
Got some of my apps installed. Restored Fallout 3 from the backup I created back into Steam - only to have to do the Games for Windows Live dance (don't update through the game, go get the standalone client). Oh - and doing a steam backup of the game doesn't capture any downloadable content you've acquired through GFWL. Bummer... at my current internet speed rate - I should be able to play Fallout 3 sometime next week.

Overall at this point I'm liking Windows 7. The real test comes tonight when I reshare my printer to another Windows XP box in the house. Vista was terrible with this...I had to restart the print spooler and open the printers window every time that machine needed to print. Here's hoping it's gotten better in 7.

Update 10/25/2009
It's been a good while since I installed and I haven't longed for XP or Vista at all. Printer sharing worked fantastic! No more restarting the print spooler. Fallout 3 finished installing and it ran the hardware check to auto-set my video settings. It auto-set higher settings than my Vista install did - now I can see NPCs faces :) Good times.

HostGator Rocks

I switched my church's website over to HostGator prior to going live with the new site design recently. I switched from GoDaddy due to terrible performance with our php/mysql CMS and even poorer support...they told me it wasn't my site causing the issue and that there was a problem on the server. I asked if they knew when they would fix the problem, and they told me it wasn't a high enough priority to make a ticket. I then asked if they could notify me when the issue was fixed so that I could retest performance, and they told me that without a ticket they couldn't notify anybody. To this, my response was: "So you're telling me you know there's a problem that's not my fault, you know which server is having the problem, and you have no eta on when or if the problem will be fixed?" They told me very politely "Yes Sir"....

So I found HostGator. They're a Houston-based web hosting company that utilizes typical cpanel in their Linux-based hosting. I signed up for the business plan (and found a $2 coupon!) thinking that if they were as bad as GoDaddy I could drive downtown and find them myself. Well - I am overjoyed to report that my experience with them thus far has been phenomenal. I've needed help a few times now and all but one incident was solved straight through their online chat support (within 10 minutes each time). The one time I had to email support, everything was fixed up within 3 hours (and it's way after hours!). Their technicians are knowledgeable and respectful. I couldn't be happier.

Way to go guys! I'd almost given up on shared hosting.

Webcams and Vista...

So in Windows XP, you plug in your webcam and under "My Computer" you get the webcam icon and can take pictures. Simple, easy, and free. Surely this basic functionality would make it into Vista? No. There is no way to take a quick picture with your webcam unless you "install the manufacturer's software". This is rediculous.

Luckily, there are some free software apps that will fix you right up. One I used today is called AvaCam (link). I was able to take a quick photo, and the software shows options to record video as well. The only downside is it saves the photos inside of its install directory. This, I believe, is a small annoyance for a capability much needed in all operating systems.

Does anyone running Windows 7 RC know if it has the functionality?

Fixing a jumpy cusor/pointer on your optical/laser mouse

Minutes ago, I started to use my Microsoft Wireless Laser Mouse 6000 (v2.0)...and the pointer was jumpy...kinda jittery...whenever I moved it left to right. Up and down was fine though. I resynced the mouse, replace the batteries, and even restarted...still it was jumpy. I've long since lost the receipt to this mouse (which I really like...would hate to replace it) - so did some searching for others who may have had this issue. Found this great post: http://www.pluralsight.com/community/blogs/keith/archive/2008/03/05/50374.aspx . Basically - the little diode under the mouse can get dust or hair on it and cause this problem. Don't throw away your mouse, just blow some air on the diode! Fixed mine right up...

And here I was dreading going to Best Buy...

Installing Flash Player...for Firefox Portable

Portable applications are a wonderful thing. Firefox portable is my favorite - with one downside - it doesn't come with the flash plugin installed. Here's how you fix that:
  • Download the Flash installer .exe from Adobe's site (http://get.adobe.com/flashplayer/)
  • Use an unzipping program (like 7-zip portable) to open this executable (Within 7-zip the option once you've selected the file is "Open Inside" available if you right-click the file)
  • Extract the .dll and the .xpt files to your Plugins folder (Drive:\FirefoxDir\App\Firefox\Plugins)
  • Enjoy flash.
It's really that simple - and didn't even require a browser restart. Woot!

Ronald Reagan's thoughts on universal healthcare

I heard this on the radio the other day and it felt like President Reagan was in the here and now - speaking to the heart of what is planned for our country by the current lot of politicians in office (both sides of the fence...if the fence still exists at all). I grew up hearing of Reagan but wasn't old enough to care or pay attention - speeches like this are going to have me listening to old recordings for a while to come.

Enjoy!

Google AdSense Privacy Settings

I recieved an email today from Google AdSense indicating that I needed to review the privacy settings of my site(s) for which Google Ads are served (this one included). By default, they have enabled ads that use your browsing history to put you into user categories. I don't particularly like that idea - so I turned it off. Same ol' Google Ads here!

Do not show ads based on user interest categories. Visitation information from my sites will not be used to help create interest categories.

Wall Street Fighter 4

For some reason, this seems like it would be awesome to play. Definitely puts some fun back into watching the markets :)

Jon can cook...

Sushi!

Tonight I tried my hand at making one of my favorite eat-out foods. This is my second try...the first ended up in the trash can. And which roll did I make? The classic Americanized sushi - the California Roll.

Where did I get my inspiration? Youtube videos. Search for "how to sushi rice" and "how to california roll" and enough instructions will appear that even the slowest of cooks...ahem...can figure it out. I must say that the sushi I made tonight, while not tip-top restaurant quality...was really close to it. For the amount of sushi I can make for $5...I'll be eating at home for a while :)

Onto the pics!


First you put your sushi rice onto half of a nori sheet. Add sesame seeds if desired.
From Sushi


Next - flip it over and add your avacado, crab, and cucumber in the middle.
From Sushi


Roll!
From Sushi


Use the sushi mat to compress into this:
From Sushi


Cut off the ends:
From Sushi


Slice:
From Sushi


Sushi!
From Sushi


Tastes great. The most important parts (from my experience) are thus:
  • Find a recipe for sushi rice and follow it to the letter...
  • When working with sushi rice, keep your hands wet.
  • Better to have less filling than not be able to roll your sushi.
  • When cutting the roll, keep the knife sharp and wet.
I'm happy, full, and have lunch for tomorrow. Who knew I could make something so good?