Thursday, September 30, 2010

Content Callback

Now that i'm on a bit of a roll, i wanted to go back and explain a little bit about Firebug, and Net Transport. Like i said,  Firebug is a web page debugger, and Net Transport is a download manager.  With these two pieces of software, you can basically inspect a webpage's code, and acquire parts that may be of interest to you. Now now, i know that many might cry foul and mention something about stealing, but let's face it, making a copy of something isn't quite stealing. and the problem with digital media is that it is so easy to copy. I'm not advocating piracy or anything but hey, for all you that want to know the inner workings of a webpage Firebug is an easy way to get your feet wet as long as you have a basic understanding of code/html/javascript/css.  And downloading a page and all of the media attached to it, might just help someone learn enough to get into web development

Firebug basically a firefox addon that's used to develop and debug webpages. For web developers the value of this program is huge. and for someone interested in getting into developing for the web, it's an invaluable tool. Plus it's free..  I'm not gonna get into what it can do, let's just say that it's a little bit more detailed than the view source option that comes with Firefox. It's especially useful for someone who develops and codes webpages.  From tweaking your CSS to inspecting html, to seeing how fast each element of a page downloads to seeing where the errors are on your page, it's a pretty powerful tool. So check that out, and play with it, remember, learning is fun.

Net Transport on the other hand is actually shareware, but they don't call me blackbeard for nothing. yo! Yarrr..  But at the heart of it, it's a download manager. You plug a url into it, it downloads whatever that link is.  I know there are probably other download managers out there, maybe some that you even use, but what i like about Net Transport is that it can do the url stripping for you and get to the actual media that you're trying to acquire. Say like an mp3 on some band's website that's hidden behind a flash wrapper.  We all know how irritating those flash wrappers can be.  Some of them even prevent you from right clicking on a page.  That's what Firebug is for. Run firebug, inspect a webpage, find your file, plug that url into your download manager, et voila!  A new reason to plug in your superexpensive headphones and listen to some tunes. winky_face.gif

That's the beauty of the internet. People try to cram so much stuff into it, music, video, text, and my philosophy has always been if it's on the net you can make a copy and if you can make a copy, you can carry it anywhere.  There are powers that be that don't like library-ing. Building a library of media for personal consumption. But there in lies the rub,  Information wants to be Free. and with the net there's really nothing you can do to stop that from happening.  At the very least with the Firebug/Download Manager combo you could probably pick up a couple of NPR podcasts that you've always wanted to listen to and that's not a bad thing.

One more word of advice, i haven't looked into say hulu code or anything like that with firebug, so don't come round asking how to download your favorite shows off of hulu or the broadcaster's website. Cos i wouldn't know what to tell ya.  and there are other sources for those kinds of things. but as with everything, try it out, if you don't like it move onto something else that tickles your fancy. all in all though, use this information at your own risk and be safe out there.


Hot on the heels of portable apps and games, i wanted to write about specific applications which are not only portable, but also fun, at the same time talk about something which is somewhat of a passion of mine. Gaming. and not quite current generation gaming but old school, retro stuff.  Stuff that many of the kiddies these days are passing by. It's important because it's the history of gaming,  and where modern day games came from. I know i know, it might be boring for some, and all you "core" gamers probably couldn't give a shit. but history is important. and if you're the type that considers games as art, well this art history lesson might just let you experience some of the masterpieces of the gaming days of yore.  Here we go...

Emulation, and old system emulators specifically are programs which replicate the logic of old microchips, and operating systems in a current generation operating system. There are tons of emulators out there, emulating different things, and one that i've already mentioned is DOSBox.  DOS, or Disk Operating System, was the operating system that ran in most IBM PC compatible machines between 1981 and 1995. There were many versions of it including MS-DOS, PC-DOS, DR-DOS, FreeDOS, PTS-DOS, ROM-DOS amongst others (Thanks to wikipedia for the linkage.) but the most common of these was MS-DOS. MSDOS (which stands for Microsoft Disk Operating System) ran on intel x86 based machines until it was abandoned for more user friendly operating systems with a Graphical User Interface or GUI. Now instead of quoting and misquoting from wikipedia, i advise you to read up on DOS and what it was and where it came from to understand how DOSBox works and what exactly it is doing,  Or not. but suffice it to say that back in the day, before windows, and computer mice, and fancy graphics and rainmeter and windows 7, there was DOS, and back in the day, that was the environment that games were run in. Which brings us to DOSBox.

DOSBox, as i've previously mentioned is a DOS emulator. Designed to run within current operating systems (Windows, OSX, OS/2, Linux) it allows users to run programs that were designed to run in DOS. (my that's a lot of running.) and why is this useful you may ask. Well it's useful because, there were a multitude of games that ran in DOS. Wasteland being one of many.  Now DOS isn't that hard to learn and DOSBox makes it very easy to run games that maybe your older brothers or your dad played. and believe me, there are classic games out there (still) that are probably waiting to be discovered by a whole new audience. Games, that may be dated graphically, but can still bring the fun.  I mean back in those days, games had to be fun to keep your interest because of the lack of eye candy. And many of them were. To this day i'd much rather play Infocom's Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy rather than Half Life 2, cos you and i both know, that if you've played one shooter on rails, you've played them all. Ironically, you don't need DOSBox to play hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy anymore, cos well they've put it online here. (probably using a flash version of a z machine emulator) Anyway, bottom line is that DOSBox is an example of one emulator, Winfrotz, (a zmachine interpreter) is another.

i know i know, you're probably asking yourself what this has to do with the internet, and emulators, and that history's boring, and you want to go call someone gay while playing Halo Reach. Well okay, but here's the thing. there are programs that emulate a lot of platforms for gaming. From old computers, like the IBM PC, to the Amiga32, to the Commodore64, as well as console hardware, like the Atari2600 and the NES, and the SuperNES and even video game boards, and pinball machine chips. This means that there are a crap ton of games that one person can play. with emulation, you can have your own arcade cabinet with games from the dawn of electronic gaming itself. With emulation, your budget netbook can easily be a portable game library letting you challenge that cute girl in the library to a little Ms. Pacman.  If you're in the least bit interested in computing history, or video gaming history for that matter. Emulation is something you might want to look into. and guess what? it's all out there on the net for you to have, for free.  So Have at it,  Go forth and game old school style.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Portable apps

My quest for a playable copy of Wasteland led me to a portable version of DOSBox. Interestingly enough, it spawned the subject of my next post. A recent trend in computing these days is the idea of portable applications. Programs you'd use pretty much everyday, that you can carry with you to work, school, a friend's house, even the public library. They could be anything from web browsers, to office suites, to email clients, to sudoku. What's cool about portable apps is the fact that they keep your settings, without ever having to install it on another computer. Say you have a portable version of firefox on a thumbdrive, you can take it to your parent's house, and have your bookmarks, your passwords, usernames and logins, browser history with you. No need to use their crappy Internet Explorer. No need to leave traces of porn websites or craigslist uh adult meet-up listings on their machine. Ever. It's all on your thumbdrive. you're basically using their machine as a terminal, to run your programs. And because all your data is read/written on the thumbdrive, it's a good way to keep your information private, and secure.

A second advantage of using portable apps. is the fact that it doesn't bog down your registry with crap that your operating system has to process. Since most portable apps don't need to be formally installed, this streamlines your computer, and makes it perform faster. Even faster than those finally fast commercials. Who knew? What this means for computing in general is immense. There are multiple ways of carrying around data these days. A thumb drive, micro SD cards, Memory sticks, your cellphone. which means there are lots of ways to carry around your apps with you. And you can encrypt these drives, memcards, with something like truecrypt or even windows vista/7's bitlocker if your running versions of the OS that have that feature, just in case you lose your thumb drive.

But wait, there's more, if you have some internet drivespace, like on, or microsoft's windows live skydrive service. you can backup your thumbdrive, and not worry so much when you lose your drive as long as you keep your data synched. (You did encrypt the data right?) So yeah, portable apps is just another way to keep your data safe, and secure and private. and well, obviously portable. A word of warning though, when using portable apps is that you're gonna be using your thumbdrive/memstick/memcard on other people's computers, and that's a good way of getting virused, if you're not careful. So make sure you protect yourself at all times (see the antimalware/antivirus post below). But if you do, no worries so much cos you made that backup right? See what a good idea that was?

Just as an aside with the whole portability thing, is that, there are a lot of portable versions of games out there now. From Plants vs Zombies, to World of Goo, to Baldur's Gate 2 and even the epic Diablo 2. which means you can game almost anywhere which is always a good thing.

So be safe, be portable, be secure, be private. and remember to back your shit up.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Meanwhile on the Internet...

Browsing around the many blogs i follow i came across a post about Fallout. The original Fallout from 1997. which is pretty much a classic by today's standards. So in the spirit of celebrating classic PC games, i wanted to write about Wasteland, which was Fallout's spiritual predecessor. A post apocalyptic RPG first released in 1988. Now i don't want to spoil it for anyone who hasn't played it, but suffice it to say, i spent many many hours in front of the computer, playing this amazing game.

Now i haven't played it in a while, but looking around some of the back alleys of the net, i've found myself a copy of the game.  I'm not sure how well it'll run on modern hardware, but i'm pretty sure dosbox will take care of it. (ooh ooh memo to self, post about dosbox.)  If you like fallout or RPGs in general, you owe it to yourself to play this game. If you can find it. (it's out there i promise.) and it's less than 3 megs. So go forth and play. I guarantee you'll have a good ole time.

Internet Proxies Part One

Okay so previous posts have covered how to make secure passwords, programs to keep your machines free of malware, and viruses, controlling your internet connection so that hackers can't access your computers/networks at the same time, programs can't use your connection to download malicious scripts off the internet. Which brings us to our next topic.  Internet Proxies, and Internet Proxy servers.

A proxy server, in theory is just another line of defense against the evils of the internet. It's like a gateway that keeps the outside world (the internet) away from your computer at home. Most people use them all the time. At work, at the net cafe, even at home if your machines are on a home network. They're pretty common place, but what many folks don't understand is that you can connect to these proxies and do things like hide your ip, get to blocked websites, (like say if your school blocks facebook or myspace) get around ip bans, and a dozen other different things.

There are a few ways of using proxy servers and proxy software and they basically all do the same thing which is make computers think you're accessing their servers from somewhere else. The most common way to hide behind a proxy server is to use anonimity websites like hidemyass, or anonymouse.  You surf on over, type in the url that you want to visit and voila, you're anonymous.  Which basically means that the webpage or site that you want to visit, thinks you're coming from their servers (or other servers.) rather than your home isp. So like say, you want to download that new Justin Beiber album but you don't want people to know that it's you who's downloaded it. If you were to download it without a proxy, that server which you're pulling it down from will pretty much know that Joe Schmo from redneckton, Ohio is the one that pulled it down just based on your IP address. Go to anonymizer and see for yourself. It knows your ip address, the town/city you're in, your zipcode and your browser. Kinda creepy right? Now go to either hidemyass or anonymouse and then visit anonymizer again. Can you see the difference? Without the proxy server, anonymizer could pretty much send party vans and pizzas to at least the town you were living in, and eventually pinpoint where you were.  Not so much with a proxy server. With the proxy, instead of Redneckton, Ohio, it thinks you're hanging out somewhere with BJ Penn in Hilo Hawaii downloading Justin Beiber albums. And that's just with using free web proxies.  It gets even more interesting when you start plugging in proxy server IP addresses into your browser. But that's altogether a different post. This one should get  you started on the practice of anonimity online.  Have fun, and as always, be safe out there.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Internet security

So my second post was about tools and what people can use to keep their computers safe.  But how important really is internet security?  If someone like Sarah Palin can get hacked, how safe is the average joe surfing the web?  What's cool about knowing your way around the web, is that you  can prevent most of the "hacking" that goes on. I've already covered passwords.  for this post, i wanted to talk a little about hiding yourself, and your computer from black hats and identity thieves. 

There are a couple of programs, and sites which can help keep you safe. as well as some common sense, but i'm guessing that most people have a little bit of that to go around so i'm not gonna get into it.  But yeah, first things first.  You need a firewall.  Internet security is based on pretty much protecting your computer not only from viruses and malware, but from would be intruders,  and that's where a firewall comes into play.  It basically keeps unwanted connections out, and if you've gotten yourself infected with some sorta remote access tool, it can keep those from "phoning home."  one that i've used pretty much since the dawn of the internet is Zone Alarm. It's free for personal use, it blocks unwanted connections from coming in, and keeps unwanted programs from connecting to the internet.  simple enough.  Install it, give it permissions for your trusted programs, and then forget about it. 

Another thing that you can do but i'm not going to get into right now, is to use internet proxies.  Which basically hides your computer from the websites you visit.  But that's for another post.  For now, i just want to say, get your ass behind a firewall and keep it there. Good night, and good computing.

IPA Monday!

IPA monday is gonna be a regular extra feature on here, that i wanted to do.  Basically a featured beer for all you connoisseurs/beer snobs out there.  this week.

Amazingly hoppy. Good balance of citrus and maltey goodness. Grab a six if you can find it. It's pretty good stuff..

Search Engines

So you've played with Google Instant, and maybe messed around with Bing, or something. but one of the search engines i've found way useful in acquiring uh, media that falls into a somewhat grey area of legality is Filestube.   If you're looking for anything, it doesn't have to be something that's w4r3z or anything, filestube is your friend.

Almost everything is on the internet. Except for cars. you wouldn't download a car would you?  But most media, is on the internet. and because it's on the internet, for people with the know how, that usually means it's free.  This is where filestube comes in. What it basically is, is a search engine that crawls webpages and looks for links that point to stuff that's hosted on major filesharing websites. Hotfile, Rapidshare, Megaupload and so on and so forth.  And it indexes the results for easy searching. so what this means is that everything you download is pretty much online rather than say, bittorrent, or limewire. So there's no more cussing out the dude on the dialup connection who has the last piece of the torrent you're pulling down. It's easy, it's convenient, it's almost brainless.  As with everything on the internets though, you never know what you're gonna get, and i've gotten virused and malwared from stuff that i've pulled down. so be careful, make sure your sources are legit, and that the files really are what they say they are.  Don't go blindly downloading stuff you're not sure of.  And filestube helps you here, by posting the source of the links. so you can check out the webpages it came from.

Just remember the net's a scary place.  Pictures of gaping assholes and cheese pizza lurk in it's deepest and darkest corners. So be safe.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


I know i know, some people may think leetspeak is a stupid tip, or something just the lame xbox kiddies do, but on the internet, it has it's advantages and uses..  Mostly in the password realm.  As word lists for brute force crackers get bigger and bigger, and computers get faster and faster, hackers don't need to spend alot of time getting into your facebook/gmail or even blogger.

this is where leetspeak comes in. all it takes is to change a couple of letters in a phrase, like say christm4str33 and you have yourself a pretty secure password that's easy to remember, or 34st3rbunny, or h4l0w33n. what's cool is that take your girlfriend's name, and change some of the letters into numbers and your password turns from something that'll be on a brute force list somewhere into something that only you know. The cool thing is that it can be anything. your name, your mom's name, your hand's name. your favorite bear. just as long as you remember where you put the numbers. it takes a little getting used to remember where the numbers go, but if you have a system, like just the "a"s or just the vowels. it gets easier to remember. So go forth and speak your inner geek. Be safe out there. 

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Free tools.

Couple of things i've found repairing computers, aside from folks who aren't savvy enough to know when a fake program is trying to get their credit card information, is that a lot of them are infected with malware.  Fake antivirus, and fake antispyware. Which is why i keep saying the internet needs an iq requirement.  in either case,
Malwarebytes  and Avast are your best friends.  As with anything in life, protect yourself, and stay safe out there. Happy trails, y'all

Friday, September 24, 2010

First Post

Not sure what this is about yet, but as the title goes, it'll be something good. Along the lines of protips.  and the first one is this. Use Firebug if you're using firefox. It's a webpage debugger at the heart of it, but oh so much more once you figure out how to use it. It gots me an album today. webrip and all.. fun fun stuff..  install it, use it wisely.