Pixelpost Tweaks

I’ve been using Pixelpost to host my Photoblog. Pixelpost is an excellent application and has a ton of excellent features. I found there were some things that I wanted it to do that weren’t there so I tweaked it and some other people’s stuff and came up with some of my own.

Lens

The first tweak is a modification of James Owens’ Most Commented addon. I wanted to show my favorites of my own work on my about page. So I made the My Favorites Addon..
The second tweak is the ability to have a different background color with each post. Check out my Background Color Changer modification for details.
The last tweak is my template for the site. Pixelpost basically is able to be skinned. You can check out the details here.

Since I found Serenity….

I was in Chicago a few weeks back and I stayed at my brother’s while I was there. One morning while Brandon was snoozing away I looked through his DVD collection and found the Firefly TV series DVD. I had heard about the movie Serenity that was to be coming out and knew it was based on a short-lived series called Firefly. The trailer for Serenity looked good, but I wasn’t to sure. So while Brandon slept off our many hours of walking I popped it in and watched the pilot for the series.
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I was hooked. It was good. I wasn’t sure at first, it seemed like it was going to be another Fox goofy sci-fi no-need-to-watch TV show. My wife will confirm that I hate, hate, hate and again hate watching TV shows or movies on TV. I just can’t deal with what I’m watching being broken up by idiotic comercials for junk that I don’t care about. I watch almost no TV and what I do watch is from recordings made using Windows Media Center on a PC in my living room. So when those retarded comercials come on I can hit the fast forward or skip 30 seconds button! Whoo hoo.

Anyways, I proceeded to watch all 14 episodes during the two weeks before Serenity came out and I loved every one of them. There is some stuff they could have left out from a cleanliness (sex, language etc.) standpoint. But overall it’s awesome. Serenity the movie is no exception. Wow! Jaw dropping great effects, good acting, lots of humor and some surprises if you watched the series. My brother-in-law has never seen the series and he loved the show so it does appeal to people who haven’t seen the series. Go see it! ps. If you are curious about the title of the post watch the show and you’ll know what’s up.

Run an application as a NT Service

Have you ever had the problem of an application that needs to be running on a server that accidentally doesn’t get turned on because the server wasn’t logged into a user? We have one such animal.
Every now and then we’d reboot the server and forget to log it back in so that the application would launch. Then it’s Saturday and we get a phone call wondering why such and such isn’t working. So I did a little Googling and found a couple of solutions that will install an application as a NT Service. The one I ended up going with is from Eltima Software. It was super easy to get up and running. There are a few free options out there but they weren’t quite as easy to setup. This one is $79.95 for a single license and they have cheaper prices for more licenses, so the price is reasonable. One note of caution is that the account that is used to run the application is an important setting. It looked as though the application was running, but I wasn’t getting some of the results that I should have been and there were no error messages. After some tinkering and thinking it through I realized that it was using the system account to run the application and then trying to use that application to gain network access to some resources and wasn’t able to. Now if either of us MIS Guys forgets to logon the server, which is actually a security risk anyways, the needed application will still sit there and run faithfully.

Realtek HD Audio crackling

Ok, it’s kinda funny how things go. I wrote the previous post about 6 hours ago, telling you how I really liked the new laptop and no problems so far. 2 hours later I started having problems with my laptop. I have a DVD I’m going to play tommorrow. I’m going to hook the laptop up to a TV and run it through there using the S-Video out function. I found that it’s really easy to turn on the S-Video output on this laptop by using the fn key and the key that has lcd/tv on it. Cool, works great. I planned on running the sound out of the laptops audio output into the TV. Here’s were the problems begin. The laptop has two 1/4″ jacks. One is labeled mic the other s/pdif. I pause for a minute because spdif is Sony Philips digital interface. I want a normal analog output from this, but I figure it probably has a setting to make it analog or digital and I plug it in. Nothing, no sound. I grab some headphones, nothing. Hmm. I grab the drivers cd that came with the laptop and run the audio install. A couple of reboots later I have audio out of it. I pop in the DVD and it’s messed up. There’s popping and it seems like the DVD is running at 1/2 speed or something. Hmmmm. I uninstall the DVD software, it’s called ASUS DVD. Basically it’s a LE version of Cyberlink’s Power DVD. I re-install it and audio is the same. MP3s work fine, DVD not so fine. I install a copy of WinDVD, no audio at all now. Install a regular version of Power DVD 6, popping and crackling. Hmmmm. I do a Google (is that really a verb?) on Realtek and find their site and download their HD Audio driver. A couple of reboots later, pop the DVD back in and voila it’s working. So, if you are having wierd audio problems with a Realtek HD audio soundchip head over to their website and download the latest driver. Why is it that laptop manufacturers are so bad about keeping updated drivers on their sites? My Gateway laptop was the same way. Thank you Realtek for not making me rely on my laptop manufacturer! :)

Laptop choice

Ok, I’ve had my new laptop for 2 weeks now and i really like it, I haven’t had any problems so far! My previous laptop was not bad at all it was just a year and a half old. It was a Pentium M 1.3 ghz. This new laptop is a Pentium M 2.0 and I can tell the difference in speed.

asus laptop

I’m still trying to get used to the resolution though. My old laptop’s resolution was 1280 x 720, my new laptop is 1680 x 1050! Read my previous post for the specs. The physical size is a little bigger than my last laptop with the same size screen, but the weight is actually a little less. I can definetly recomend the Power Pro laptops. They are built on a Asus motherboard which is what I prefer on desktop machines as well. You can check them out at powernotebooks.com. The sales rep was extremely helpful and very knowledgeable. You can generally tell the sales people who sound like they just came from a meeting, spouting lingo and words they really don’t understand. But the guy I talked to knew his stuff.

Essential Firefox Extensions


One of the great things about Firefox is the ability to add extensions. Themes are cool and I love tabbed browsing and the stability and consistency at which it works is awesome as well. The extensions are what really sets it apart from Internet Explorer. I’ve tried Opera, but not long enough to know if it supports plug-ins/extensions in this manner. Here are the extensions I always install.
1. Download manager tweak – this one I like to tweak so that my downloads show up in the side bar.
2. PDF Download – I like PDF files, but I don’t like PDF files when they try and load inside the browser. This makes it easy to download the PDF or go ahead and view it in the browser.
3. Adblock – Easily block ads and images from whole domains.
4. IEView – There are still websites that just don’t work right in any other browser but IE with this you can easily right click and open the current page in IE.
5. Stumble Upon – Basically it’s channel surfing for the internet. You can only find so much stuff through Google or other search engines. With this you give it topics and it randomly gives you sites others have recommended.
6. Opanda IExif – With this you can right click images and view the Exif data stored in the image. Many images have the exif data totally removed from them, but on those that still have it intact you can get interesting info about the image.

There are tons of extensions out there and you have to be careful about installing some of them. Some have caused Firefox to crash or have long wierd pauses before loading pages. But if you have trouble uninstall the extension and you are back to happy browsing. You can find all of the above extensions and more at
Mozilla Update.

Laptop decision

I finally made a choice. I scoured laptop review sites, manufacturer sites and forums. I visited the local resellers. I looked at Gateway, Toshiba, Sony, Sager and others and decided I liked the PowerPro A 2:21.
I won’t get it for a week or so, I’ll have to let you know if it was a good or bad choice! Reasons I went with it: 15″ widescreen 1650 x 1050 resolution, DVD writer bay doubles as extra battery or extra hard drive bay, 128mb dedicated video memory with nVidia chipset (would prefer ATI, but nVidia is good too), 2ghz Intel Pentium M, Intel 915pm chipset and the other normal laptop stuff (wireless, DVD writer, lots of USB ports and svideo out.) It’s hard to know even if you check a model out at a retail store how it will work for you. My Gateway m505 has been a good laptop, my favorite out of the models I’ve had. My only complaint about it is the end and home keys are on the same keys as the page up and page down. You have to hit the fn key to use them. It drives me crazy! :) The other problem has to do with the colors of the screen. Everything tends to be washed out and not quite right. I’ve played with every setting you can think of and just can’t get it right. So, it makes it difficult to do photo editing because they don’t end up looking right on other computers. Stay tuned for a detailed review of the laptop when I get it!

Laptop buyer

The next time I buy a house I am going to know pretty much all of the right questions to ask. I’m going to know most of the right places to check for problems. I’ve bought 2 houses now and am understanding the quirks and such of the process much better. I’m on my 4th or 5th laptop.
I’m in the market to get a new one again. It’s a tough decision and I’m a picky person. I have a Gateway right now and it’s been a very good laptop. It can be downright maddening getting just the right laptop with just the right specs that I want. Little things like keyboard layout are tough to get right before plunking down the money. I’ve got a couple of brands in mind that I’m leaning towards and a couple that I tend to lean away from. I know the specs I want and the price range, I guess I’m just waiting for that light from heaven and the angels choir singing Hallelujah over the right one before I’ll make a choice. I’ll let you know how my research and decision play out. Anyone have any opinions they’d care to share?

Server 2003 Active Directory replication problems

We just replaced one of our domain controllers with a brand spankin new rack mounted IBM eServer. We were like kids at Christmas time opening the huge box and gawlking at the beautifull insides. Installation went well, for the most part.

The server we replaced had Microsoft Exchange running on it, DNS and IIS hosting a website. The Exchange database had some corruption to it and had to be repaired but it went well. Once we got it up and running and made it a domain controller, installed Exchange, restored the Exchange database, got the website up and running and a couple of other applications it needed it purred away and was right at home. Then a couple of days later we added the first user to our domain since the upgrade and for some reason we couldn’t log on with it. After some looking and checking out the event viewer we noticed errors with the Active directory replication service. Apparently the two domain controllers were not on speaking terms with one another. Research was pointing to DNS as the cause and how Windows Server 2003 handles active directory replication following an unsuccessful DNS lookup.

From Microsoft’s support site it appears that Server 2003 with Service Pack 1 (which I thought was on both boxes) handles this much better. So after I figured out that one of the servers didn’t have Service Pack 1 I installed it rebooted and the two Servers decided they were on speaking terms after all. I think we need to do some diving into the workings of the DNS problem but for now it’s working!

Traffic trouble

Here’s a lesson we learned the hard way. We have a remote site that has a PIX 501 installed using VPN to connect back to our main site to a PIX 506. It worked great for about a month and then we began having problems.
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For some reason random computers behind the PIX 501 would stop communicating to the internet. We beat our heads against the wall, went to the remote site and just couldn’t get it figured out. We would reboot the PIX and things seemed to start working only to randomly quit hours later. For some strange reason checking the log on the PIX had slipped my mind. When I did finally type ‘show log’. The light came on and the angels sang ‘Halleluiah’. Hidden between the ‘Built inbound TCP connection…’ and ‘Teardown TCP connection…’ lines was the magic info that we desperately needed. ‘host blocked…license limit exceeded.’ As soon as I saw that I realized what was going on. The PIX 501 has a 10 user limit. My thought on it was that the limit was on 10 VPN connections either outbound or inbound. The limit is actually 10 hosts communicating through the PIX. So, we called our favorite hardware and software vendor overnighted a license upgrade to increase the limit from 10 to 50. We’ve gone a full day with no phone calls so far! Kind of a wierd problem and something we should have picked up on on earlier but, that’s the way things go in the tech world sometimes!