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Posts tagged with: Computers

Domain Renewal Scam

Few things upset me more than greedy companies taking advantage of consumer ignorance. I own about 30 domain names, and therefore I get a lot of domain name spam– both emails and letters in the mail. Some of the letters in the mail attempt to pass themselves off as bills from the company that owns your domain. The wording makes it appear as if your domain is registered through them and will expire unless you pay them a fee (usually something like $30 for a 1 year renewal, which makes it even more ridiculous because the typical rate is around $10 per year). They make the letter look as official as possible, and while it does say in the (very) fine print that it isn’t really an invoice, a lot of gullible consumers aren’t going notice that, especially because they send these letters out a month or so before your domain is actually about to expire. (Publicly accessible whois records allow anyone to obtain the owner name and address, expiration date, and registrar of any public domain name.)

Now, when I receive these types of letters, I just rip them apart and toss them in the trash. However, I can imagine non-tech savvy people falling for this. My mom, for example, recently received one such letter but thankfully was smart enough to call me about it. I don’t remember exactly which company it was from, but if you google “domain renewal scam” you’ll come across a bunch of reported cases involving companies such as Domain Registry of America and Liberty Names of America.

Firefox 3, userchrome.css, and #bookmarks-menu

I finally got around to installing Firefox 3 on my laptop just now, and have spent the last several minutes trying to figure out why my userchrome wasn’t working like it did in 2.x. I’m used to having all buttons, menus, and the address bar on a single line at the top of the window, so that I have more vertical space to display content. See the screenshot below.

Firefox with modified userchrome
That means I need to cut out unnecessary menu items like the Help, View, Edit, History, and Bookmarks. (I use the collapsible All-in-One Sidebar add-on for all that functionality.) Anyway, after installing FF3, the Bookmarks menu came back. I checked my userchrome.css file and it was the same as before. Then I had to google for a good 10 minutes before I found a user comment that mentioned FF3 had changed the CSS name for the Bookmarks menu from #bookmarks-menu to #bookmarksMenu. Ugh, why?

Hooking up a Laptop with no Hard Drive or Ethernet Port to a CentOS Server

A friend of mine was getting rid of a really old laptop (ten year old Celeron 333 with no working hard drive or ethernet port), so I picked it up, figuring it would work as a dedicated console for my CentOS server.  Here are the steps I took to hook it up through a serial interface to my CentOS server.

First, you need to setup the serial console on the CentOS box (basically the same as RHEL or RedHat). There’s a nice tutorial online, the gist of which is:

1. Check serial ports:

[root@navi root]# dmesg | grep tty
ttyS0 at 0×03f8 (irq = 4) is a 16550A
ttyS1 at 0×02f8 (irq = 3) is a 16550A

[root@navi root]# setserial -g /dev/ttyS[01]
/dev/ttyS0, UART: 16550A, Port: 0×03f8, IRQ: 4
/dev/ttyS1, UART: 16550A, Port: 0×02f8, IRQ: 3

2. Configure agetty in /etc/inittab:

# Run agetty on COM1/ttyS0 and COM2/ttyS1
s0:2345:respawn:/sbin/agetty -L -f /etc/issueserial 9600 ttyS0 vt100
s1:2345:respawn:/sbin/agetty -L -f /etc/issueserial 38400 ttyS1 vt100
#s1:2345:respawn:/sbin/agetty -L -i 38400 ttyS1 vt100

3. Create the /etc/issueserial file to be used by agetty (more info):

Welcome to \n.\o
Connected on \l at \b bps

4. Reload inittab with the following command:

[root@navi root]# init q

5. Check to make sure agetty is running. You should see two agetty processes running, one on ttyS0 and one on ttyS1, with the command:

[root@navi root]# ps -ef | grep agetty

6. Finally, if you want to allow root to login through the serial console, you need to modify /etc/securetty to include the serial devices after the “console” line:


That takes care of setting up the CentOS server to allow serial console logins. Now we need to setup the laptop.

The laptop was given to me by a friend, so I can’t really complain about its specs:

  • 333 MHz Celeron
  • 18-bit color 800×600 screen (important to note later on)
  • NM2160, 2 MB video card
  • 96 MB RAM
  • No hard drive (it used to have a 4GB HDD, but that died, and I have no replacement)

Given these specs, I decided to use DSL (Damn Small Linux), since it can run off a CD and is very lightweight. Because the native screen specs are a bit unconventional, you can’t just simply boot up DSL, otherwise you’ll get a faded green screen with blurry, illegible text. Instead, at the boot screen you need to set the correct video mode with:

> dsl 2 vga=788

Once you’re at the shell prompt, run microcom to connect to the server (more info):

root@tty1[/]# microcom -D/dev/ttyS0

If all is well, you should get a login prompt for your server. We’re now able to use a ten year old laptop with no hard drive or ethernet port to manage a CentOS server.

Never Underestimate the Importance of a Good Power Supply

That’s the lesson I’ve learned over the past several weeks. This is my story.

Last month, my computer starts going nuts on me by randomly restarting every couple days for some unknown reason. At first I suspect there might be something wrong with the OS or drivers, but then the restarts begin occurring even during bootup, so that throws the OS out of the picture and leaves me with the job of finding which piece of hardware is causing the problem.

Natural instinct tells me it’s my CPU overheating, so I take off the heat sink, clean it with some isopropyl alcohol, reapply thermal paste, and stick it back on the CPU. The temps read around 40 C, which is good. However, after a few hours of uptime, the restart problem comes back, even though the temps hadn’t go up at all.

So, I begin systematically taking out components and testing the uptime with various configurations. At first, the network card becomes the prime suspect, because my computer appears stable when I take it out– but that turns out to just be coincidence. Then one of my memory sticks appears to be the problem, but again it’s just coincidence. I unplug various HDDs and, with my still-suspicious network card and memory stick still out of the picture, my computer appears stable– until one morning I wake up to find my computer in a continuous reboot cycle. Oh the pain!

Eventually, the problem becomes so bad that the video doesn’t even come on during bootup. At this point I can only imagine that the problem must be a faulty power supply with unstable voltages. So, I replace my 430 Watt Antec TruePower (true power my ass) with an Enermax 600 Watt NoiseTaker, and now my computer has been up and running for the past 3 days with EVERYTHING plugged in. And, surprisingly enough, everything still works, despite all the restart cycles that occurred. I can finally let out a sigh of relief and sing hallelujah.

Organizing Classical Music on a Computer

I’m in the process of backing up my entire CD collection as well as organizing all the media on my server at home. I use simple directory structures and a homebrew database driven catalog program to manage my collections. For example, I have a directory called “Broadway” where I keep all my Broadway related media, with each album in its own folder, such as:

Broadway/(Les Miserables) London Cast/03. One Day More.flac

Pretty simple and straightforward. However, unnerving complications arise when I get to my classical albums, which more often than not feature works from multiple composers and sometimes performances from multiple artists. How does one go about arranging these in a simple directory structure? I am NOT going to create path names like:

Classical/(Saint-Saens, Tchaikovsky, Faure, Bruch) [Han-na Chang, Rostropovich, LSO] – Cello Concerto No.1, Variations on a Rocco Theme, Elegie op.24, Kol Nidrei op.47/10. Cello Concerto No.1 [I. Allegro non troppo].flac

Talk about ridiculous!

At one point in time I tried sorting solely based on composer, requiring me to dissect apart most of my CD albums. This provided a nice, consistent naming scheme, along the lines of

Classical/Sibelius/(Midori) – Violin Concerto Op.47 [I. Allegro].flac

and the like. However, as time went on, having tracks that used to be in the same CD location now in different folder locations became too confusing. Plus it was messy dealing with identical pieces performed by the same artist in different venues. So I eventually scrapped that idea.

There is the option of ditching the dependence on directory names altogether and relying solely on my database application to arrange, sort, and find albums and tracks, but that creates a layer of abstraction that basically leaves me totally dependent on the application, an idea with which I am not comfortable.

So, here I am trying to figure out a decent way to organize my classical music files, but with very little progress. Anyone out there who has faced this problem before care to share their solutions?