New Computer!!!

Finally! After having pretty much the same computer for 7 years I finally built a new computer. I've been wanting to build one for the last 4 years, and thanks to my severance from leaving CompUSA I've had the means for the last 2 years. I've been doing the responsible thing though and holding on to that money until I had stable income again. Well screw that, I've waited long enough and wanted a new computer.

So first to give you an idea of what I'm upgrading from. My old computer I built right before I left my job at Cinematic Computer. I remember cause I bought the parts from Cinematic Computer, but ended up building it at PC Pro, the place I ended up working shortly after. Here's what I started with

Motherboard: Intel D845GEBV2
Processor: Pentium 4 2.53Ghz
Memory: 512MB DDR333
GPU: ATI All-in-Wonder 8500
Hard Drive: Western Digital 30GB

Over time I got more memory up to 2GB, added a few hard drives finishing at 60GB, 320GB and 500GB, and someone was nice enough to give me a 2.8GHZ which was compatible with my board. I also upgraded the video card to an ATI Radeon 9800 and when that died a few months ago to an ATI Radeon HD 4650.

My main motivation to upgrade was an issue I had with my video card. I upgraded my computer to Windows 7 shortly after it went RTM and let me assure you that after you use 7, you will never want to use any previous version of Windows again. Well turns out that my video card doesn't like 7 for some reason. I was having my computer crash constantly anytime the video card was in use like playing games or watching movies. I went back and forth with the card manufacturer for 2 weeks and they weren't helpful at all. So I decided that this would be a great excuse to just build a new computer.

I did some research and got some feedback from friends online and was able to get a list of parts I was very happy with. Here's the complete order list.

Case: Antec Three Hundred
Powersupply: Antec EarthWatts 650W
Motherboard: Asus P6T Deluxe V2
Processor: Intel i7-920
Video Card: Sapphire Radeon HD 5850
Memory: OCZ 6GB DDR3 2000
Hard Drive: Western Digital VelociRaptor 300GB, Caviar Green 1TB
Optical: Plextor DVD-RW
Operating System: Windows 7 Ultimate (64-bit)
Misc: Antec 120mm Case Fan x3

Quite an upgrade from what I was running. Overall it cost me just under 2000$, but I'm expecting its going to last me for quite a few years, especially when you consider how long I stuck with my last one. One problem I ran into was that the video card I wanted just came out and wasn't in stock anywhere online, or if it was was severely marked up. I had everything sitting on a wishlist on Newegg and waited for the video card to be in-stock before I ordered everything else. They had an ETA for them to restock so I was checking the site all that morning from my phone while I was working with my mom and step-dad. When I refreshed the page and saw that the "Auto-Notify" had been replaced with a "Add to Cart" button I raced out of the apartment we were working in and rushed home to order it. It was a good thing I hurried cause they seemed to have sold out in just a few hours. The next day I ordered the rest of the parts with the exception of the case which I picked up locally since shipping would have been 100$ and it was only 3$ more to pick it up from Best Buy.

So I had my case, and my card showed up last Friday, and my parts arrived at dock on Friday around noon but weren't delivered until the following Tuesday evening which was driving me insane. But all is well cause I now have all the parts and got it all put together.

I went ahead and took some pictures while I was assembling stuff. Not my best cable managing job, but good enough for now, and I'll go through some point soon I'm sure and clean it up.





Update: Woke up this morning and did a much better job with the cabling. Where'd all the cables go!



Net Neutrality 101

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
From Here to Neutrality
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This was on The Daily Show last night. While its a basic explanation it does get the idea across. I think in general there has been little coverage given to this topic in any outlet so its good to see something more mainstream finally bringing it up.

"Soundtrack" is not a genre

For starters, I think the idea of genres is stupid to begin with. If your music is so bland and predictable that you can throw a label on it and group it together with thousands of other artists why are you listening to it. I do like to use genres when I organize my music instead of making playlists. As an example, if I'm in the mood to listen to Pixies, I probably won't mind if you mix in some of The Clash as well. More mellow bands like Iona would more than likely not be welcome in this group.

So a huge problem I have is that a very large majority of the music I listen to is soundtracks from video games. Soundtrack is not a genre, its not a musical style. Its the medium that the music was presented in. Now if your only thinking of music you've heard in movies or some of the more epic games, then you probably think all of it sounds the same. I gonna bet that if you're reading my blog, you probably know that it doesn't all sound like that, not by a long shot.

The problem that I run into is that I want to assign genres to music I listen to for organizational purposes but with the exception of a few artists, they all vary their style so much that its difficult to look at an artist and put all their music in one genre. Not only that, but some of the albums have different genres inside the album itself making me wonder if I should go all out and hand pick the genre for each song. A perfect example is Granado Espada which goes between classical and electronic with a few pop and celtic songs in there just to really throw you off. With more normal music I can simply look up on wikipedia or last.fm what genres other people have associated with an artist and its usually in line with other things I have listed in that category. But thanks to "Soundtrack" being considered a legitimate genre, this doesn't work with 80% of my music.

Since we're on the topic of genres, I hate it so much when I ask someone what kind of music they listen to and they name one genre... and then stop. Typically this happens with people who listen to some form of electronic, but no matter what genre you say I think its pretty bad if your taste in music is that limited.

Passwords should be private

I had this issue a while ago with Oceanic and I thought it was resolved, but then something happen the other day that showed that was clearly not the case. Back when I was first playing around with sending mail through Gmail using Road Runner's servers I was calling support and talking to them a lot. At one point they asked me to confirm my password which confused me. I asked them to repeat themselves and they were asking me to tell them my password. It wasn't so that they could try it themselves, but so that the random technician I was talking to could confirm that what I was typing was the same as what he was looking at on the screen. He was able to pull up my password on his account. At the time, this was a big deal for me as I was using 3 passwords and sharing them for various things. This password he had sitting in front of him was used for various other sites and even some things on my computer. Now this is a poor security practice on my end which I have fixed, but its also a horrible policy on their end as well.

I called back later and asked to talk to a supervisor to find out why some random tech is able to pull up my password. It took them a while to get back to me but someone quite nice eventually got back and explained the situation. The tech was able to read off what my password was last time they reset. This would be a random password they generated, and I would have changed it to my personal password after. The tech, she said, would not be able to pull up my current, personal password. So all was well. Or so I thought...

Oceanic's billing site changed a while ago from using a pin to login (4 digit password) to a normal password (alphanumeric). I had forgot I changed my password and failed to login too many times which resulted in my account being locked. So I called them up and asked for them to unlock my account. The asked for some random information to confirm I was me and then asked for my pin. I gave them the wrong pin first, and then she says 'no, that's not we have on file, we have ####'. She just gave me my own pin... but whatever, I had answered a few questions already so I was more than likely me. Then she says 'alright, I've unlocked your account and your password is ###..." I told her to stop. She was reading off what my old password was, she didn't reset, she just pulled it up and was reciting it to me. No at this point I'm using randomly generated passwords for all websites, so this is unique and can't be used for other sites. Still the point is you should not be able to see a users password.

To clarify what the ideal situation is, if a user gets locked out of their account, after you confirm that the users is who they say they are, you unlock their account and if need be reset the password to something randomly generated. This is standard policy on every network that I have ever had to deal with and it amazes me that for starters, any seems to be able to pull up my password in their system and that they don't have this type of reset policy in place. I really wonder what's going on over at Oceanic and am even more amazed that after sending them 3 resumes they never bothered to contact me for an interview.

Internet Pizza!

I've always been pissed off that you can't order pizza online here. Any time I visit one of the websites they always say online ordering isn't available. They won't even give a menu since Hawaii has some insane prices. Well it turns out I've been wrong... you can order pizza online, they just have a different website. So I was very happy that I could see the prices of things I was ordering before I actually ordered it. Even better was that I could see all the deals they had and figure out which one I wanted. This resulted in the following conversation with a friend online.
me: i found how to order pizza online
friend: nice
[talking about Saw movies for a bit]
me: anyways, pizza, online, i must order it
friend: okie
me: you're in school, figure this out
friend: what? look it up?
me: what's the area of a 12" pizza, minus the area of a 14" pizza
friend: woah
me: how do you get the area of a circle?
friend: idk geometry man D:
im learning it now
me: :/
so you don't know about circles?
friend: not really...
me: lame
i'll ask google
area = pi * radius ^ 2
so the radius of a 12" pizza would be 6
friend: yep yep
ik radius :D
me: 113.09 = 12" pizza area
153.93 = 14" pizza area
friend: woah. mk
me: so in percentage, how much bigger is 14" pizza?
friend: why are you trying to figure this out?
oh
uhmmmmmmmmmmm
me: to see if large pizza is worth the increased price
we're doing math to order pizza
friend: wow, nice
idk how to figure this out tho D:
me: ok, so 14" pizza is 36% bigger than 12" pizza
its actually easy
friend: thats worth it then
me: 14"/12"
friend: sry, im looking at game trailers
me: well no, we gotta look at price now
friend: oh okay...
me: so 14" pizza is 21.99, and 12" pizza is 17.99
which means 14" pizza costs 22% more than 12" pizza, but provides 36% more pizza
so, large pizza is a better deal
yay math!
friend: hooray
me: this is why you need geometry and algebra
other maths, not so much
friend: haha
me: now to figure out how many to buy...
cause first pizza is regular price, but after that is 6$
this is not so much a math problem, but a how much do i want to spent vs how much my fridge can handle
... and how long do i wanna eat pizza
friend: lol
me: 2 is probably good
hmm... i found other sales
friend: haha
me: this is why i want to order pizza online
you do this over the phone and they hang up
friend: haha
me: i find the awesome sale! 20$ off!
friend: NICE!


So pizza shows up and I share my excitement with the delivery guy that I can order pizza online. He says 'Oh yeah? I've tried to do it before but it always says its not available', I then share with him the alternate website. Taking my pizza inside I discover the web address in nice big text on the front of the box... whatever, I have my pizza ^^

Why I won't be playing Aion

For the last few months many people have been telling me how great and wonderful Aion is. Typical new MMO hype. I didn't know anything about the game until it had gone into closed beta and by that time I had no chance to get in anymore. So with the game being released in the US later this month, an open beta is scheduled. I was planning on trying out the game during that time to see if it was something I'd enjoy.

Using the NCsoft Launcher I was able to download and patch the game so I'd be ready when the servers went online to play. When I tried to launch it, it went and started installing GameGuard. My virus scanner starts freaking out, saying that an application is trying to install in a stealth manner and asking if it should be allowed. I go ahead and allow it and then get a few more warnings about suspicious drivers and services being installed. When all was done, Aion ended up not starting because of an error from GameGuard.

So I spent a few days trying to figure out what the problem was and traced it back to my security software probably causing problems (even though I was still letting GameGuard do whatever it wanted to my system). So I went to uninstall it and reinstall with my security software disabled, but the folder wouldn't delete. Taking a look at what files were in use, GameGuard had attached itself to every single process on my computer. It was impossible for me to just delete. I renamed the DLL it was using to hook to processes and then rebooted and was able to delete it. So I disabled my security software completely and trying launching Aion again which began reinstalling GameGuard. After all that I still got the same error and the game wouldn't launch. So I decided it wasn't worth it and took of Aion and GameGuard and re-enabled my system security.

I understand the need to prevent people from cheating in online games but I honestly think that GameGuard goes too far.

Poor Security

Its amazing really. I have an insane amount of free time and yet my blog hasn't been updated in months. Well I finally found something to write about so lets see how this goes.

So I've using Gmail for quite a while now. I've got it configured to pick up mail from my Hotmail, Live, MSN, and two Road Runner email addresses. Its essentially a web-based email client at this point. I made one Road Runner address specifically to use when contacting potential employers since people doing searches for 'ddaydj' might not give a good first impression. The problem I've run into is when you send mail through Gmail using a 3rd party email address, it uses their servers and so its possible for the person on the other end to see my Gmail address.

Thankfully, Google recently fixed this by allowing you to specify an SMTP server for outgoing mail on each address allowing you to hide your Gmail address. I was able to configure my Microsoft accounts just fine since they all use the same server. I have been unable to get my Road Runner accounts to send mail though. When trying to configure Gmail to use their SMTP servers, I get an authentication error suggesting my user name or password is incorrect. After playing around with everything I could think of I came to the conclusion that there was something going on with Road Runner's servers. I gave them a call and ended up chatting with the national help desk who was of little help at all. Yesterday, I went ahead and tried to do a live chat and see how that went. Here's the log from that.

user ddaydj has entered room
analyst JimmyW has entered room
JimmyW> Hello! Thank you for choosing Road Runner Internet technical Chat. My name is Jimmy W. How may I help you today?
ddaydj> i wanted to know if its possible for me to access your smtp servers from outside your network?
JimmyW> Yes, it is possible.
JimmyW> Be assured, I am here to assist you.
JimmyW> I will definitely look into this. To get us started, I will need to verify some security information and then we can move on to understanding your setup. We will need to perform some troubleshooting steps together, and I'll be running some tests on my end. Feel free to ask questions along the way. Before we begin, please provide the following three pieces of information for security check and to verify your account: 1. The account holder's 10 digit telephone number. (xxx-xxx-xxxx) 2. The account holder's Full Name. (First and Last) 3. Please tell us your name.
ddaydj> [censored], [censored], <<> Thank you for the valuable information.
JimmyW> [censored], I understand that you want to know that if you can use Road Runner outgoing server when you are not at home. Am I correct?
ddaydj> well, actually i used a web-based email client, so the connection to use the smtp server would be from their servers, and not my home computer
JimmyW> Yes.
JimmyW> Which program/software are you using to access your e-mails? (Road Runner Web Mail, Outlook or Outlook Express).
ddaydj> i'm using a web-based email client, not road runner web mail
JimmyW> What is the name of that Web-based client?
ddaydj> gmail
JimmyW> I am sorry but in this case you will have to use the server settings provided by Gmail.
ddaydj> why is that?
JimmyW> Which e-mail address are you using with Gmail?
ddaydj>i have two @hawaii.rr.com addresses that i use
ddaydj> the first is ddaydj, the second is [censored]
JimmyW> Okay, is it Outlook that you are using?
ddaydj> no, i'm using gmail
JimmyW> Do you mean that you are using Road Runner e-mail address for login to Gmail?
ddaydj> no, i have configured gmail to send and receive mail to and from roadrunner. currently it is able to pull mail from your pop server, but i get an error when it tries to send mail using your smtp server. i do not have this issue with the 3 other accounts that i have configured in the same way.
JimmyW> Where you have setup the accounts in Outlook or Outlook Express?
ddaydj> gmail
JimmyW> How do you open Gmail to access your Road Runner e-mail?
ddaydj> just a second
JimmyW> I do not want to rush you but I am awaiting your response.
ddaydj> [censored] that is a picture of my accounts in gmail. as you can see i am able to receive mail without problems. i have also configured my other email accounts to use their respective smtp servers
ddaydj> are you able to view that image?
JimmyW> Yes, I can see that,.
JimmyW> I am sorry but you will have to contact Gmail and get this issue resolved as we do not have tools to get this issue resolved.
JimmyW> I can help you with the server settings of Road Runner.,
ddaydj> alright then, can you tell me what port i should access the smtp servers on? and do they support tls/ssl?
JimmyW> Incoming Mail Server (POP3): pop-server.hawaii.rr.com Outgoing Mail Server (SMTP): smtp-server.hawaii.rr.com
JimmyW> Incoming Mail Server port (POP3): 110 Outgoing Mail Server port (SMTP): 25
ddaydj> and does the smtp support encryption with ssl or tls?
JimmyW> No.
JimmyW> You have to give authentication to outgoing server.
JimmyW> And you will have to use the complete e-mail address in the username field if you are using the authentication.
JimmyW> For more information about Road Runner products and services, please visit our website http://help.rr.com and check for online FAQs.
JimmyW> Is there anything else I can assist you with regarding Road Runner products and services?
ddaydj> no that was it. but can you confirm for me once more, that if i tried to check my email using say outlook express while connected to a comcast internet connection, i would not have any issues?
JimmyW> You will not have any issues if you will give authentication to the outgoing server.
ddaydj> ok, thank you.
JimmyW> And if you will use the above provided settings.
JimmyW> My pleasure!
JimmyW> Thank you for contacting Road Runner technical support, again my name is Jimmy W, we value you as a customer.
JimmyW> God bless you!
Obviously, this guy was not very helpful. Later on I tried to setup a Road Runner account on my phone which is connecting through T-Mobile's network. Accessing the POP server worked without issues but again I got an authentication error with the SMTP server. As I mentioned to the tech, I believe that Road Runner only lets people inside their network access their SMTP servers, meaning you'd have to be on one of their lines to send email.

But here's the fun part! I installed Thunderbird on my computer and setup it up to check on of my Road Runner accounts. I then tried to send a message. It went through no problem... but wait... I never gave it my password during setup. That is usually asked for when it first checks mail and I told it to skip that step. Thinking I had maybe typed my password and forgotten about it, I deleted my POP account and disabled authentication on SMTP. Sending an email failed. I turned SMTP authentication back on but gave it a false user name and again did not specify a password. My email went through and on the other end I got a message from FakeUser@hawaii.rr.com.

So from what I can tell, the only security Road Runner is using on their SMTP server is a user name, any user name! There's no real authentication going on, so anyone inside Road Runner's network could use any user name they like, even one typically used by someone else... like other users or even businesses.

Update: I gave Oceanic a call to see what they had to say about it. The customer service guy I spoke to was surprisingly knowledgeable. He confirmed that they do not use any authentication for outgoing mail, but they do check to make sure that your IP address is inside their scope. He stated that this was a common practice with email and was the way things are, citing Hotmail and Gmail doing the same thing.

Well, I went and checked Hotmail and Gmail to see how their services work. Both of them not only require a valid user name and password, but also use an encrypted connection for sending email. While an while encryption might not be as necessary for Road Runner's mail servers since they only allow mail sent from within their network, authentication is used by both those sites. I'm not sure how other ISPs handle their email, so I'm not sure if Gmail and Hotmail are more secure out of necessity or if they are following the trend. I'll see what else I can find out about all of this.

My desk is naked!



After 5 months of having to deal with Assurant Group to get my monitors replaced, I finally got them to send me a check. So I went out shopping today and was able to pick up one of the 3 monitors I was looking for. The thing has so many connections on it I found I didn't have an immediate need for the 2nd and 3rd monitor (I've only had the middle one turned on the last few months to save power). So after I got everything hooked up and moved the old ones to my room, this is all that I was left with. So new monitor is a Samsung T240HD and has all the same inputs I had before plus a dedicated DVI port and a second HDMI. The left and right monitor is going to be a Samsung T240 which is the same monitor but with DVI, VGA, and HDMI connections only. We did a lot of shopping around today but it looks like nowhere on island sells them so I'll be ordering online.

In other tech news, I got a new phone, a G1. It is so awesome~ having internet while I'm out of the house is cool enough but then having seemless access to all of Google's apps is even better. Plus there are some amazing programs available for it. One of them I was using today I was able to search for a product and then it told me what places in the area where selling it or how much I could find it for online. Its actually what led me to the store that ended up having this monitor.

Also, I'm going to be selling my old monitors. I already have a post on craigslist, but if anyone is interested in buying one let me know and I'll have a discounted price.

New Desk Complete!

After more than a year since we started, I've finally finished building my desk! We started out with the solid core door that we put on top of my old desk to make it wide enough. Eventually we did the side which has the computer in it and all the consoles and such went in that. This last Christmas we finished the left side and it all came together. Still have all the same stuff as before, so 360 and Wii are on the left monitor, and PS3 and PS2 are on the right monitor. Pictures aren't as good quality as I would like since all I have now is my phone and the lens isn't as good as it once was.