Saturday, 11 September 2004

Wow, the hits just went through the /. roof. My article with pics on breaking down the Rio Carbon got posted on [link]. I have changed the pics in the article to make them smaller (clicking the smaller version now loads the larger image), as the bandwidth was challenging the NIC in the server. Good thing I didn't do what someone thought I did. I also made some changes to my fat-fingered apostrophes to settle down the grammar-police crowd. :)

My blogging software, dasBlog (a .net-based app running on Windows 2003 by the way, hehehe), has held up quite well under the /. traffic load. I'll put together stats and post them for other dasBlog users, once this all dies down. My service provider, Stormhosts, held up very well, too.

Number of unique * web sessions on Saturday: 20,358

The graphs of bandwidth used are pretty interesting - note the trafffic before the spike is for all web sites on that shared web server - after that it's pretty much all mine:

Here are some numbers showing unique user sessions per hour - meaning it's how many actual visitors hit the site per hour. Saturday is usually pretty darn slow day, but not this time, and the number/size of of images on the page being loaded was a real challenge:

6am  57
7am  65
8am  54
9am  68
10am 74
11am 102
12pm 3321
1pm  5069
2pm  3360
3pm  2661
4pm  2196
5pm  1721
6pm  1477
7pm  1279
8pm  1239
9pm  1157
10pm 1063
11pm 702
Some more numbers...
                    11SEP04    Daily Avg
Sessions 26,030 1,792
Pageviews 52,522 4,280

Hits 639,524 8,754 
Bytes Transferred 13.49 GB 175.35 MB

Note that RSS was about four to five times my Saturday normal at 4,426 sessions (about twice a normal weekday count), but at a very light bandwidth requirement. Score one more for RSS. Quick, someone write a manifesto! ;-)

So anyhow, I would like to formally apologize to my service provider, Stormhosts. Well, not really apologize per se - more like shoot them a big HAHAHA! ;-) Good test for your systems I guess eh? Their systems held up very nicely, and when I emailed them just in case alert as soon as I knew what was about to happen**, they got right on IM with me. We watched the performance counters together. Great service from those guys, as always. Recommended.

** Mandatory educational content: Many sites over time have fallen victim to the Slashdot Effect, a term used to describe the very common and overwhelming onslaught of sudden traffic to a web site and the resulting failure of said server. It's typical for web servers to simply choke under the load. At some point, I don't remember when, slashdot started releasing new items to their subscriber base for a short while before they release it to their general public web site. This informal early warning system allows just enough time for their notably large number of subscribers to hammer your server, with just enough time left over for you to panic and send an email to your personal web site's unsuspecting service provider that reads something like “HOLY CRAP LOOK OUT!” The slashdot subscriber visits that precede the general onslaught generally include such friendly comments left on a blog as, “What a really cool/lame story. Oh, and by the way - you're about to get slashdotted.”

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Blogging | Random Stuff
Saturday, 11 September 2004 09:28:38 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Friday, 10 September 2004

Interestingly, in an article by the Associated Press posted on the Security Pipeline web site, Microsoft is quoted as saying that their new biometric authentication products, which I posted about the other day, should not be used for securing important/sensitive data or networks:

"Curiously, Microsoft warns that the Fingerprint Reader shouldn't be trusted to secure access to corporate networks or to protect sensitive data, such as financial information.

"Basically, the company says it's about convenience, not security. That seems to rule out password-protected Web sites for credit cards, utilities, banking and others for which I might want to be spared having to remember and type a litany of passcodes."

Hmmm, well I guess I probably won't be ordering any of these to evaluate for work, then. :-) Maybe at home though. From the review, it appears they work well and that they passed the Silly Putty test, which is good. Despite Microsoft's advice regarding use of the equipment, I'll look forward to getting my hands on one of the devices to try it out for non-critical purposes.

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IT Security | Tech
Friday, 10 September 2004 20:31:15 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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The other day I wrote about a post I saw in KC Lemson's blog that describes how to make sure Office files open in their respective program windows, rather than in Internet Explorer, when you click on a link to one on a web page.

A friend commented that it would be cool if you could get Adobe Acrobat Reader to behave that way too - that is, open PDF files the native program, not in an IE window.

Well, it turns out you can make it behave that way. Now, probably 99.9% of the people who use Acrobat Reader don't ever check out the settings that are available in the program, and it's no wonder: The dialog where you make those changes is not exactly where you'd expect to find it. You'd think the Tools menu would be the place to find the options, but it's not there... Yay Adobe. Instead, it's hidden in the bottom of the Edit menu. Click on Edit>Preferences, then click on the Internet section header:

Uncleck the Display PDF in browser option and save. That's it! When you click on a PDF file from there on out, it will download and open in Adobe Acrobat or Reader.

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Friday, 10 September 2004 20:06:35 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Note: Due to the slashdot effect on this site, I posted smaller images on this page. If you need more detail, you can click on each one to view the larger size. I've also deleted about 80% of the referral link list below for performance reasons. There were more than 5,200 unique referall links listed on this one page. I've cut that down to about 600.

People who have tried to use a solid-state Compact Flash card in place of the hard drive in the Carbon have reported it is not working for them. I have not tried this myself. If anyone has been successful in getting a standard CF card to work when replaced in the Carbon, please email me and let me know: gregATgreghughesDOTnet

In addition, I have posted a followup with some real-world test results, using the drive in my Nikon D70 digital camera.

Want to use it in a PocketPC maybe? Check this out and see if it's for you.

As I described yesterday, I bought a very nice MP3 player, the new Rio Carbon 5GB model. It's awesome, and I already like it a lot. My original intent, though, was not to buy an MP3 player to listen to music, but instead to rip apart for its compact-flash size 5GB hard drive, for use in my Nikon D70 digital camera. I got the idea from a post on a message board. But once I saw the Carbon, I decided it was time to own an MP3 player, so I got two.

Rather than eating lunch today, I decided I would share my story of destruction. In part two of our saga, I tear into the second of the two Carbons I bought, pictures included.

Update: I had to reduce the image sizes due to a sudden and unexpected spike in traffic. I will put links on eack of the small images so you can load the larger version of each.

Note: If you decide to spend $249 on one of these things and tear it apart yourself, you do so at your own risk. Its value to Rio and the store where you bought it will instantly become $0, and your warranty will be a thing of the past. At your own risk, your mileage may vary, do not pass go, please tip your waitress. Oh, and whatever you do, don't come yelling at me. It's your own damn fault. In fact, you will probably end up with $249 worth of useless junk. You have been warned.

Okay, so first of all let me tell you right up front that I broke the thing to the point where I will have to use a little glue to put it back together. The Carbon has a metal back plate, and a plastic front plate, with a rubber surround. What I did not realize is that the front plate is in sections, as well. Not realizing this, I didn't remove the front plastic facing (the silver plastic with the LCD window and the Rio logo) from the body of the MP3 player. It is held in place with some adhesive. Just be careful while you remove it and it will come right off. Once off, it may be that there is a better way to get this thing apart than the method I used. If I will have to use some glue inside where it used to have screws holding things together, because I broke a few plastic threads on the plastic case where the screws were attached as I pried it apart.

While it looks from the outside like the rubber portion is a section all on it's own, it in fact is not. The rubber part is just glued to the plastic front plate, which is under the silver plastic front cover just mentioned.

How I got it apart (your mileage may vary, be careful): I started by working a small screwdriver around the case, prying very gently between the metal back plate and the rubberized section. There are a number of metal tabs that you will see inside as you go. Those hold the drive in place. Be careful and don't go too deep or apply too much pressure inside with your screwdriver, you will break things if you do, or you might crack the case. If you don't care about reusing the Carbon, you can afford to be a little more indiscriminate, but things are packed together pretty tight in the small case, so caution and taking one's time is warranted.

Once I worked all the way around with the small screwdrivers (I used 2, it helped keep things working along), I peeked inside to become a little bit familiar (there's a lot you just cannot see, though). Then I used a screwdriver inserted from the bottom of the case to get good leverage as pictured below, and worked the case loose.

In the end, I used my fingers, after loosening with the screwdriver, to take the case apart. Again, note that I broke the plastic threaded screw posts in the process. The end result was a front plate, a loose power button (just insert it back in place later), the top chrome-like trim plate (that has the holes in it for USB, earphones, etc), and the back plate with all the electronics attached. The front panel navigation button is loose when you disassemble it - it's held in place by the front plate.

There are two screws that you will need to remove from the face of the circuit board (the side with the LCD screen), and then you can start to swing the circuit board away from the hard drive. Below is the view from the side, pulling the circuit board up and away from the battery (lower left) and hard drive (in the lower center of the picture under the circuit board). The white block on top is the LCD.

Using a small flat-head screwdriver, I gently released the frame holding the hard drive from the back plate by prying the tab clips away slightly.

Taken apart, with the electronics removed from the metal back plate:

The black frame holding the hard drive simply pulls off. The 20-hour battery is shown folded away in the foreground of the below image, and the ribbon cable attaching to the Seagate 5GB drive is visible and accessible:

I used by thumbnail to gently disconnect the drive from the ribbon cable, releasing each side of the connection a little at a time. Be careful not to bend the pins if you intend to reuse the Carbon.

With the hard drive removed:

You simply peel the copper foil away from the drive, along with the foam padding:

In the end, parts parts parts:

The whole point of the exercise was to get a 5GB hard drive that I could insert directly into my Nikon D70 camera. I tentatively took the drive, crammed it in the CF slot of the camera, powered it up and formatted. After a nervous little period of flashing screen on the camera (FOR-FOR flashing over and over), the screen changed, as pictured below. That's showing the number of pictures I can take now using the hard drive. I was a little confused when it read 1.4 on the display, but then I noticed the “K” above the number. That's 1,400 images (estimated by the camera) at 6 megapixels. Wow!!! Cool!!! After taking a few pictures, I confirmed it works. Nice!!

Next thing will be to put a 256MB or 512 MB CF card back in there and load the Rio software on it, put it all back together, and see what happens.

Feel free to add your own experiences in the comments section, by clicking below. Please keep it clean and reasonably polite. Thanks. :-)

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Friday, 10 September 2004 13:08:19 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, 09 September 2004

I finally did it - I bought an MP3 player. Yes, my name is Greg and until today, I was a geek without an MP3 player.

My choice of weapons? The just-released and sparsely-available Rio Carbon 5GB. And my first impression, after using it for a couple hours this evening, is that this thing is sweet:

  • 5GB Seagate compact-flash type hard drive (more on this later)
  • Voice recorder capability (with built-in mic - I need this)
  • MP3 (80 hours) and WMA (160 hours)
  • 20-hour lithium-ion rechargable battery
  • Nice controls on the edges and face
  • USB 2.0 data interface (charges from USB too)
  • Impressive audio clarity and quality
  • It's freakin' thin and compact (smallest 5GB unit around)
  • Speaks Windows and Mac
  • Plays well with (to which I am now addicted, thanks Chris)
  • Cool bonus sample recordings out of the box (Augean Stables is cool, so is Backyard Galaxy)

These devices are not exactly readily available or easy to find. Last night I missed dinner while I went looking for one at the Best Buy store closest to where I work (in Beaverton, a suburb of Portland, Oregon). Not a single one in stock. So today I logged onto and found they were already completely out of stock there, too. But a friendly link on the site helped me discover that the Best Buy store in Clackamas (which is on the other side of the city) had one in stock. I called them and confirmed (they give you a link to a printable page with phone numbers, a map and driving directions nice!), then headed across town in evening traffic. Success!

While I have never owned my own dedicated MP3 player device, I have used a number of different kinds, and have some idea about what works well and what doesn't. So, I have something on which to base my opinion of the Carbon.

It's nice. About as small as a credit card on its face, overall I think it's just a little smaller than the iPod mini, and it has 25% more storage in it - not a bad setup. This thing will fit in any pocket easily, comes with a little case to keep the scratch monster away, and has decent quality earbuds in the package, too. Audio quality is great. I'll add a little FM transmitter and be listening to audible books and other recordings while I'm on my work commute.

What's all this about cannibals???

Well, the thing is, my original intent was not to buy the Carbon to use as an MP3 player. My plan was to buy it, bust it wide open, and cannibalize the 5GB CF micro hard drive for use in my digital camera. Music was not on my mind - pictures were. But once I saw the thing, realized how cool and compact it was, and reached a conclusion that /me without an MP3 player in 2004 was tantamount to sacrilege or mortal sin, well... I decided I had to buy the Carbon and keep it in it's native state, for use just as it was intended.

So I bought two. :-)

I justified the extra expenditure (lamely) with the fact that I just got an unexpected check for something I had completely forgotten about, the amount of which almost exactly covered the cost of the second unit. Hey - I still want 5GB of storage in my camera - at 6 megapixels, having 5GB onboard storage is just about right!

But for now, I am having so much fun with the MP3 player, the cannibalism party will have to wait. When I get around to ripping the second unit apart, I'll post about that here, too. I'll be trying to do it in a way that will allow me to stick a 512MB compact flash card back in the Rio though, in place of the transplanted hard drive, so it can still be used for music purposes. Chances are I'll need a tube of super glue (and it's also entirely possible the hard drive won't work in my camera, but I am told its worked for others), but that's fine. ;-)

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Thursday, 09 September 2004 21:05:20 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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From Engadget... of course... A robot that consumes flies and uses their consequential energy, if you will, to power itself. Ummm, wow, and you thought your teenager's feet smelled bad:

EcoBot II

We know what you’re thinking. A robot that totes around human sewage, digesting living beings for energy? What, you’re not inexorably excited about this? The EcoBot II (ah, what a benign, nonthreatening name) is fed flies into 12 sewage-based bacterial fuel cells, which break them down, digest them, and use the electrons released as current. And we don’t wanna hear no jibberjabber about how it’s only a matter of time before these bots turn on their human masters, because if you’re gonna go, what’s so bad about being slowly digested in human feces by giant robot oppressors?

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Thursday, 09 September 2004 07:13:40 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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