Monthly Archives: September 2006

  • Letter to a Christian Nation

    I got home from school around 8:15pm and I had some school work to do. Letter to a Christian Nation was sitting on my doorstep, so I said screw it. I started reading it immediately and it’s a very short book, so I finished it shortly before 10pm.

    It’s a great book, addressing all of the most common of Christian retorts when confronted with their complete lack of rationality for their beliefs. It doesn’t go deep into issues like The End of Faith did, but then again, it’s a tiny fraction of the size. Excluding the preface, it’s only 91 pages of text to read, and these are tiny pages. It’s a great reader and you can easily read it in under 2 hours.

    It’s really cheap and those links I gave give the Rational Response Squad a tiny fraction of your purchase if you buy it from those links. I suggest everyone buy Letter to a Christian Nation, because it’s very accessible. If you’re really interested in much more in depth coverage of how religion hurts America and the rest of the world, grab The End of Faith, too. It’s much longer, the pages are larger, and the issues are deeper. It will take a little longer to read, but it’s well worth it too.

    Good job, Sam Harris. I look forward to your next book.

  • Sharing Media to the Xbox 360 Using Windows Media Player 11 Beta 2

    I heard about this from DigitalLifeTV. Microsoft now has on their Windows Media Player 11 Beta 2 site the following information:

    Share it New for Beta 2

    The new Media Sharing feature of Windows Media Player 11 lets you enjoy the contents of your Windows Media Player library from anywhere in your home. If you have a home network (wired or wireless), you can use Windows Media Player 11 to stream the contents of your library to networked devices. For example, if you have an Xbox 360 or other digital media receiver (DMR), you can use Windows Media Player to stream music and pictures from your computer to that device. This even works with music that you’ve downloaded from PlaysForSure music stores and services. For more information, see Digital Media at Home.

    This made me really happy since I’ve used Windows Media Connect before. WMC eats memory and CPU likes nobody’s business, so I don’t run it. As a result, I can’t listen to any of my music on my Xbox 360 across the network, even though I’d like to. Microsoft claims to have fixed this with Windows Media Player 11, and lots of people have quoted that little bit of information, but nobody has actually posted information on how to accomplish it. I love and use Windows Media Player 11 and I recently upgraded to Beta 2 with my last Windows reinstall. I read the help and set it up and hopefully this helps someone.

    Step 1First, right click on the title bar (or hit Alt) and go to Tools and then click Options.

    Step 2Then, click the “Configure Sharing” button.

    Steps 3 and 4Click on the “Share my media to:” checkbox. Click on “Settings”.

    Steps 5 and 6Configure the appropriate settings according to what you desire. If you want to allow anyone to view your media that is on your local network, select “Allow new devices and computer automatically (not recommended)”. You may have to do this initially if the Xbox can’t see files on the Windows computer.

    Step 7That’s it! You should be able to go to the Media blade in your Xbox 360 dashboard and select computer. Your windows computer should show up and add itself in the Windows Media Player 11 sharing pane.

    You can view your songs by artist, genre, album, song, and you can also play your playlists that are created in Windows Media Player 11. To reiterate, you can create multiple playlists in WMP, even smart playlists, the ones that automatically pick songs based on criteria, and those will be available for playback on your Xbox automatically. This is all in addition to letting other Windows Media Player 11 instances on the network being able to access the media as well. Sure, iTunes did the media sharing via Rendevouz first, but as usual Microsoft embraced and extended. This is really awesome.

    Please give me feedback if this helps or if it can be improved. I also put together a Flickr photoset with all those pictures in it. Each of the above pictures is a link to the Flickr image and you can zoom to full size on any of them. Yes my living room is messy. Shut up.

  • My Brief Love Affair With Windows Vista

    And by brief, I mean slightly less than one day. I signed up for Windows Vista Beta 2 quite awhile ago, but I never got around to installing it, due to the way my files were arranged on my pc. I’ve since gotten the OS stuff separate from the data and I can do OS installs at will.

    Microsoft invited me to join the pre-RC1 program since I was part of the Beta 2 program, and I got in and downloaded the 2.4GB ISO before the 100,000 download limit mark was reached. However, just before I was going to do the install this weekend, I heard that Microsoft released a full RC1 to its TAP customers. Knowing that my Beta 2 key would work on my pre-RC1, I figured it would work on the full RC1 too. If it didn’t, I didn’t have anything to lose, since I could just install the pre-RC1 instead. I went ahead and grabbed the full RC1 (Build 5600) from USENET and did the install late the night before last, and continued to use it until late last night.

    The Good

    It installed extremely quickly. It asks you where you are and what language you speak, and then it asks for the key. That was it until it wanted me to tell it my name after the install. It was the most painless OS install I’ve ever done.

    Vista recognized all the hardware in my computer, except my Visioneer scanner, and my USB headset. It didn’t even acknowledge my USB headset, so I have no idea what’s up with that, but at least for the scanner it put an unknown device in device manager. My printer was easy to install off my home Windows 2003 Enterprise Server (legal MSDNAA copy). I double clicked it and it installed the drivers and connected the printer automatically, presumably using 2000/XP drivers.

    It is extremely pretty. I have a computer that gets a 4.0 on a 5.0 scale on the performance rating, so it has all of the pretty Aero Glass effects. I can’t even describe how pretty it looks and the awesome transparency effects done completely on the 3D card (NVidia 6600GT). You just have to see it. The built in wallpapers are extremely awesome, too. I made a copy of those. Win+Tab is an amazing Alt+Tab replacement. It’s utterly amazing, which is why it saddens me to bring you this next part.

    The Bad

    When I muted my sound card by using the mixer or the mute button on the keyboard, the icon in the tray and in the mixer reflected the muted status, but the sound would continue to play. Honestly, it was pretty humorous, especially since the volume control worked fine. I submitted a bug report for this.

    When I went into the registry to modify my profile path (to store it on another partition so the OS is completely separate), I could not tell which key was open on the left. It was highly annoying and leaves you having to read through the hierarchy in the status bar to figure out where you are in the tree. That was highly annoying and would stifly any system admin.

    I found a UX error in IE7 in Vista as well. When you bring up IE7 in a new profile, for the first time, it has no knowledge about your auto-complete preferences. Therefore, the first time you enter text into the search box or a web page, it asks you. Pressing Alt+Enter when typing a URL or a search term normally opens that item in a new tab, but if you do this before setting auto complete preferences, the preferences interdictor appears and after you tell it yes or no, the item opens in the current tab instead of a new tab. That’s not really a huge issue, since it will only happen once per profile. I submitted a bug report for this as well.

    Then I got into the really annoying things. My mic didn’t work, no matter what. No audio input was recognized, no matter what I did with the mixer. It worked fine in XP. That wouldn’t be a huge issue either, but my USB headset wasn’t recognized either. For reference, my USB headset is the Logitech USB 350 headset. My sound card is the Sound Blaster PCI 512 which was detected as a SB Live! (WDM) device (and I even tried forcing it to use a PCI 512 driver).

    The sound constantly skipped when doing anything on the computer. It was like it couldn’t handle processing anything and playing sound, so it sounded like I had a 486. Don’t even think about playing music while using your Vista computer! This was while the CPU utilization wasn’t even peaked, which brings me to my next point.

    The CPU utilization just springs up and down, up and down, up and down, constantly! I don’t know what it is, but it claims that “System” is using it in the Task Manager. Not “System Idle Process”, but “System”. The memory utilization was also much higher, like 400-500MB just sitting idle at the desktop. I ordered more RAM in preparation for the full Vista because of this. I should have 2GB in this system, soon. That CPU utilization was nuts, though. I hope they optimize it more, but honestly, it scares me that this is a release candidate.

    The Prodigal Son

    I decided to go ahead and reinstall Windows XP last night. The sound issues were just too much to handle. XP will never look the same to me again, though. Vista is extremely pretty, and I can’t wait to use it if they ever get all the bugs worked out. Jim Allchin should really be ashamed.

    I had forgotten, however, how utterly awesome the Microsoft Out of the Box Experience (OOBE) is for Windows XP. If you’ve never installed XP or at least done the OOBE after a manufacture pre-install, you’re really missing out. The music is awesome! It made me not want to hit “Next” until the music finished playing. It’s singlehandedly the most awesome computer software company generated music ever. What’s that you say, you’ve never heard it? Well, I converted it into streaming MP3 for you. Just click the play button:

  • The Crocodile Hunter Is Dead

    Steve Irwin, Crocodile Hunter, with a CrocodileAccording to this CNN article, Steve Irwin, better known as the “Crocodile Hunter”, is dead at age 44.

    Australian media reports say Irwin was diving in waters off Port Douglas, north of Cairns, when the incident happened on Monday morning.

    Irwin was killed by a stingray barb that went through his chest, according to Cairns police sources. Irwin was filming an underwater documentary at the time.

    That sucks that he won’t ever be on TV again. I enjoyed doing his accent. Now, I’ll probably just be depressed when I do it. Stupid stringrays.