November
30
Filed Under (Sports) by Justin on 2006-11-30

So, my North Carolina TarHeels won the game last night against Ohio State, 98-89. This was a huge game, both statistically, and I think emotionally for the squad after such a heartfelt loss to the ‘Zags last week. I wasn’t too impressed during much of the first half – sure, the offense was there, but the defense was lacking around the three-point line (a terrible side-effect of the zone), causing the Buckeyes to almost runaway with the game at one point. But during the halfway-break, Roy Wiliams rallied the troops, and the Heels came out fighting. They were in control of the game for most of the second half, surrending the lead for only a few minutes midway through it when Tyler Hansbrough just lit up and started a run of 12 unanswered points for the Heels. In my opinion, it was Tyler’s most impressive showing ever. I saw two or three shots from under the basket that I thought didn’t have a chance, fall right through the net, one particularly when he was surrounded by FOUR defenders from Ohio State and another when it was one-on-one and he just used his sheer strength to power over the guy and drop the easy layup.

All-in-all, it was a truly great college basketball game. Two really solid, talented teams, duking it out on the court for the love of the game and bragging rights, not for a six-figure salary or to get the newest shoe from Nike to have their name on the side of the box. That game was a good reminder to me of why I love it so much.

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November
29
Filed Under (Sports) by Justin on 2006-11-29

I’ve been rather quiet about the Carolina TarHeels preseason and their 4-1 start on the regular season, so I thought I’d make a quick mention about the ACC/Big 10 Challenge that kicks off tonight. What I really want to know is this: How long before someone in the Big 10 decides they need to cancel this annual event? In past seven contests, the ACC has literally spanked the Big 10, winning 40 of the 64 total games. I don’t this year will be any exception. Carolina does indeed have a talented (albeit young) squad, but so do many other teams in the ACC.

Tonight’s game against Ohio State will likely be one of Carolina’s toughest matchups this season outside of the ACC. Tip-off in the Smith Center is at 9:00 PM tonight and the game will be televised on ESPN, so get your game face on and plop yourself in front of the TV.

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November
15
Filed Under (Geekspeak) by Justin on 2006-11-15

Over the weekend, I put a few more touches on my church’s new website and unleashed it into the wild of the internets. In my personal (and semi-professional) opinion, there is still quite a bit to be finished, but I really wanted to get it released before Sunday morning so I could let folks know about it before our revival started.

It’s completely powered by WordPress, except for the photo gallery which uses Plogger. I chose a really neat theme from LivingOS called Psi in conjunction with the RS-Events plugin to power a “Coming Events” section. The theme was “Widget Ready” as well, so I threw in a RSS widget and added the Stamey’s Russia Blog headlines to the homepage as well.

I’m very impressed with Plogger. The entire package weighs in at 1.2MB – completely tiny in comparison to Gallery and Coppermine and much faster and easier to template. I found working with it on the backend a complete piece of cake and uploading photos in batches is just as easy. I may do a more in-depth review on Plogger later on.

I still have some things to work out. My big showstopper at the moment is MP3 support. When I started the project, I wanted to be able to upload sermon audio to the web and give users the option to play the file directly in their browser without having to download the file to their computer or have a Windows Media, QuickTime, or RealPlayer plugin installed. That left me with only one choice – Flash. When I had the site in my “sandbox” I had a Flash MP3 player plugin for WordPress that worked like a charm with some files and gave others what is known as the “Chipmunk effect.” I thought I had it licked, but it showed back up when I posted Sunday night sermon. Flash has problems decoding MP3s encoded at anything other than a frequency that is a multiple of 11.025Khz. I’m recoding via Audacity at 44.100Khz, so I don’t know what the problem is – maybe a broken LAME encoder. Anyhow, it’s still screwed up and I don’t really know what else to do. Can anyone suggest any better recording software or MP3 encoder? I’m actually thinking of looking at Hipcast.com and seeing how that works out – anyone have any experience there or with a similar service?

Also on the to-do list is some theme tweaking. The “single” page/post template needs tweaking to add the date back in and my archives are pretty much non-existent at the moment. I also need to flesh out some more content, particularly on the Deacons page and Visitors.

Please feel free to poke around the site – it’s crestviewbaptistnc.org and I’d love any suggestions whether they be technical, content related, or just your personal opinions. Big thanks to Jim at Mindstorm Hosting for giving us a free couple months of top-notch hosting while we wait for our current prepaid year at some other stupid host to expire!

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November
12
Filed Under (Geekspeak) by Justin on 2006-11-12

This is not what I pay $45/month for:
Speed Test

It’s been like this all day and it really wreaks havoc on our Vonage service. What’s even worse is that I’ve put up with it because I really dread calling tech support that badly.

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November
10
Filed Under (Geekspeak) by Justin on 2006-11-10

I spent all day yesterday at a Microsoft event in Charlotte, and I have to give them credit – they put on a pretty good show. It wasn’t anything major or flashy, but I felt like the presenters a good job of interacting with the audience and presenting their information. What really surprised me though was the “extras” and their tolerance for hecklers. Upon arrival and check-in at the movie theater (yes, you read that right – a movie theater), they had quite the spread laid out for a complimentary breakfast, including, water, juices, coffee, sodas, bagels, donuts, and assorted other pastries. The freebie for the afternoon session was a really nice, leather-esque 3-ring binder portfolio stuffed with info about Small Business Server and the Partner Program.

Each session was about four hours long and was split in half so that each session could cover two topics. The morning session was a TechNet event and covered Securing Active Directory followed by a look at Exchange Server 2007 and ways to use it to comply with inter-company rules as well as legislative policies regarding retention and things of that nature. The AD session was informative, but not at a very high level like I was expecting. Most of it was simple stuff like “rename your administrator account” (Duh!) and how to use Group Policies to secure your AD environment. The Exchange stuff interested me more than I expected it to. Exchange 2007 has been abstracted into several layers so that you can run it on multiple servers, each with a predefined role such as “Edge” or “Filtering” or you can use one server to run all the different roles that you wish. I’ve never looked at Exchange, let alone used it, but it does look like a good product for larger companies. I really like the solution we use at work though – it’s from Ipswitch which and on Windows. Not nearly as bulky and complicated as Exchange. Back in the days when it was still called Imail, they apparently claimed you could take a clean server, install Imail and have a working email system in like less than 20 minutes. I believe it. It’s slick. That being said, it is getting expensive, so we’re hoping within the next eight months or so to migrate that to a open-source solution on Linux as well. Suggestions? OK – I’m way off topic – back to the MS thing…

At the end of the morning session they gave away prizes – some lucky dude in the front got a Xbox360. I was jealous. Very jealous.

The morning session finished at noon and I took off to Chic-Fil-A for lunch. The afternoon session for me was a TS2 (designed for system builders and small IT shops) event covering Small Business Server, Windows Vista, and Microsoft 2007 Office. Yes, for some reason, it’s no longer “Office 2007” but instead “2007 Office” – silly I know. They talked a great deal about the Microsoft Small Business Specialist Partner Program which sounds pretty neat. Sign up, take an online Sales Assessment test and then one of two MCP tests and you’re certified and eligible for all sorts of discounts and are able to sell volume licensing then, if I understood correctly. I may look more into that to save my company some money down the road when it’s time to upgrade Office or Windows.

The Vista stuff was pretty, as I expected. Saw some things that I hadn’t seen when messing around with it on my own, and brought home a RC1 DVD. I think I’ll be upgrading my XP machine here at the office to the Vista RC1 soon just for kicks.

Finally, 2007 Office – by FAR the most impressive demo of the day, and possible, the slickest piece of software I’ve ever seen. I steered clear of the beta’s for some reason, but it is amazing. Some of the 3D artwork and charts are just mind blowing. Every time that “Indy” (short for Indika – not a racial slur thank you very much) would show off one of those artwork tools, the entire room of 80 or so IT professionals would gasp and shake their heads. I may grab the demo today and play with it myself. I wasn’t a big fan of the “Ribbon” idea when I read about it, but seeing it used was another story. It appears to be very functional.

Of course, we didn’t get out til right at 5:00 and I had to fight Charlotte traffic on 485 and 85 to get home – what a nightmare. But I think it was worth it. The Charlotte IT Professionals group had a table setup and I signed up to be a member. Maybe through that I can at least find someone to serve as a backup for me if I happen to be out of the country again. 🙂

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November
03
Filed Under (Geekspeak, Linux) by Justin on 2006-11-03

I was working with some PDF files a little bit ago, trying to compile a bunch of state, federal, and in-house forms into one single PDF file. One form wouldn’t merge into the others because the creator (Yes you – NCDOR!) had locked the file for printing only. My first workaround was to print it through Adobe Distiller again and see if that removed the lock, but instead I was greeted with a message saying encrypted files cannot be Distilled again. Next, I tried printing it through trusty ol’ PDFCreator, but received a similar message, except it was in a PDF file instead of a text file. Nice touch. Insert eyeroll here.

My final attempt was to copy the file over to my laptop and try to find some Linux utility to remove the protection and then copy it back over. A few Google searches later, I hadn’t found anything, so I decided to think about that PDF tools I already had installed. The list looked like this:

pdf2dsc pdffonts pdfinfo pdftoppm pdftotext
pdf2ps pdfimages pdfopt pdftops

A few keystrokes later, I had my file unlocked:

jmoore@neo:~> pdfinfo locked-file.pdf
Creator: Adobe InDesign CS2 (4.0.2)
Producer: Adobe PDF Library 7.0
CreationDate: Tue 01 Aug 2006 02:37:56 PM EDT
ModDate: Thu 03 Aug 2006 03:03:55 PM EDT
Tagged: no
Pages: 2
Encrypted: yes (print:yes copy:yes change:no addNotes:no)
Page size: 612 x 792 pts (letter)
File size: 271471 bytes
Optimized: yes
PDF version: 1.6

jmoore@neo:~> pdf2ps locked-file.pdf temp.ps
jmoore@neo:~> ps2pdf temp.ps unlocked-file.pdf

jmoore@neo:~> pdfinfo unlocked-file.pdf
Creator: ESP Ghostscript 815 (pswrite)
Producer: ESP Ghostscript 8.15
CreationDate: Fri 03 Nov 2006 02:26:21 PM EST
ModDate: Fri 03 Nov 2006 02:26:21 PM EST
Tagged: no
Pages: 2
Encrypted: no
Page size: 612 x 792 pts (letter)
File size: 137722 bytes
Optimized: no
PDF version: 1.2

Copied it back over and Acrobat had no problems letting me merge it. Linux to the rescue again!

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November
03
Filed Under (Politics) by Justin on 2006-11-03

You’re unlikely to hear or read about the unemployment rate reaching a 5.5 year low of 4.4% anytime between now and Tuesday (Election Day), so I thought I’d draw some attention to that fact here. Everyone be sure to keep this in mind when going to the polls on Tuesday…

The unemployment rate dropped to a five-year low of 4.4 percent in October as employers added 92,000 new jobs – flashing a picture of a strong labor market as the midterm elections draw near.

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November
03
Filed Under (Geekspeak, Linux) by Justin on 2006-11-03

I’ve made a few references before on this blog about the infamous “freezing over” but this one my friends, takes the cake. BusinessWeek is now reporting that yesterday, Microsoft and Novell linked up and Microsoft has agreed to provide some support to Linux.

“They said it couldn’t be done,” Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s chief executive, said in a prepared statement. “This is a new model and a true evolution of our relationship that we think customers will immediately find compelling.”

Executives at both companies said that they were turning from competition to cooperation because corporate customers have made it clear they want to use a blend of technologies; Linux on some machines and Windows on others. Rather than frustrating customers with software that doesn’t work well together, the two companies hope to make their technologies operate smoothly. “Too often technology companies ask their customers to adapt to them,” said Ron Hovsepian, chief executive at Novell. “Today, we are adapting to our customers.”

I am glad that both Novell and Microsoft have realized this and for once have decided that the PAYING customer doesn’t have to adapt. I’m really interested to see what will come out of this partnership. I can’t tell you how overjoyed I would be if I was presented with an option during my SuSE installations to “Join an Active Directory Domain” for one thing.

I think there has to be at least some marketing mojo behind this for Microsoft, so we may need to take this news with a grain of salt until we see some results of the partnership. With the release of Vista just down the road, this move is sure to win Microsoft some bonus points with the geeks. I know it has for me.

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