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Legitimate free credit reports... Don't forget to get yours! Tim 
Posted by: Tim at 10:43 PM EST on 3/28/2005
File Under: Whatever

Earlier this month, the federal policy on free credit reports was extended to the midwest states. So, the service is now available to those in the west and midwest. Unfortunately, those of you in the south will have to wait until June 1, and those in the east have to wait until September 1.

Given that I'm graduating soon, I figured it'd be a good idea to take a look at my own report, since I never have before. Thankfully, nothing anomalous showed up, but you never know.

Anyway, consider this a reminder and public service announcement. If you haven't already, head over to annualcreditreport.com and get your credit report. This site is completely legit and won't lock you into some nutty credit monitoring service, like so many others. It's free, and just a good idea in general.

PROTIP: Everyone is entitled one report from each of three credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equfax, and TransUnion) every 12 months. If you only choose to get a report from one, you can save the other two for later. So, if you space them out every four months, you can continually keep pretty close tabs on your credit.

Nintendo Revolution... Horrible artist's rendition included! Tim 
Posted by: Tim at 12:12 AM EST on 3/28/2005
File Under: Games -> GameCube

What's this? Two updates in one day?! I think it's a record... [Edit: Ahaha, I just noticed the timestamp. I guess it doesn't count!]

Anyway, Alan sent me this link a couple of days ago, and I figured I'd share it. (Why did I take so long to post it? Because I'm lazy.) It's a fairly interesting article about Nintendo's next console.

I'm gonna go off on an aside for a minute. In the article, it says that there are rumblings that this system may not actually be a successor to the GameCube, but that the Cube will actually be supported for some time afterwards. This is the same crap they said about the DS. Why does Nintendo seem to think that they can successfully support four systems for two markets? I don't really get it.

Anyway, there's a rather... Intersting take on what the system could look like. Frankly, the artist must be smoking something really good. Although, the controller isn't too crazy, since they're anticipating gyroscopic controls. But that main system? Yeesh.



UPDATE: Other sources are saying the Revolution will be backwards compatible with the GameCube and support Wi-Fi internet, as well. *Thumbs Up*

Dell Inspiron 5100 overheating issues... Tim 
Posted by: Tim at 11:49 PM EST on 3/27/2005
File Under: Misc Tech -> Computers

You may have seen the "review" I posted not too long ago of a "laptop cooling stand" (you'd understand the quotes if you read it) that I've been using for my Dell Inspiron 5100. I just blamed poor air circulation for the fact that the fan was constantly running full blast and that the computer was occasionally overheating and shutting off on its own. Well, yesterday, I stumbled upon the fact that, apparently, the 5100s and 5150s have a known issue with overheating. In fact, a customer that posted about the problem at the Dell Support Forums went so far as to create a website detailing the issue.

The problem? That fan that's (stupidly) placed on the bottom of the machine ends up acting like something of a vacuum cleaner and sucks up a ton of dust. This dust accumulates on the heatsink, which keeps it from doing its job, and basically ends up insulating the CPU. So, I took a couple deep breaths and blew into the exhaust vent. Sure enough, a cloud of dust puffed out of the fan vent. After that, my computer was already running noticeably cooler and quieter.

I wasn't satified, though. I wanted it to be as clean as possible, so I popped off the keyboard and took a look inside. I unscrewed the fan, took a look at the heatsink, and was amazed at what I saw. A thick layer of dust was caked onto the heatsink, pretty much blocking any decent airflow. You know the sheet of lint and dust that you peel off the screen of a dryer after a few loads? Yeah, that's what this was like. Needless to say, I'm amazed that my CPU hadn't melted long ago. So, I peeled that off, installed this handy utility and have been enjoying my new, cooler, and very quiet laptop ever since. Seriously, that fan used to scream like a banshee almost 24/7.

One note: The site for the fan utility doesn't actually list the 5100 as a supported model, but if you upgrade to the latest BIOS from Dell's support site, (if you have an older system, like me, you'll need to upgrade to version A22 before installing the latest one) it should work brilliantly.

PSP... It's out? Tim 
Posted by: Tim at 3:52 PM EST on 3/26/2005
File Under: Games

I guess the PSP came out a couple days ago, and I totally missed it. Not that I was planning on getting one, I just should know these things. Some techie I am, huh?

Edit: God damn it, now I want one. I've been reading about converting videos to play on the system, and that's the kind of thing that will really suck me in. That, and Wipeout Pure is apparently incredible. *sigh*

March Madness actually makes me insane Karyn 
Posted by: Karyn at 10:38 PM EST on 3/20/2005
File Under: Whatever

Sine the chorus of "My bracket is fucked!" is being echoed throughout the internet, I believe I should add my voice. Truthfully, I'm really not all that crazy about basketball. Tim is a diehard IU fan, and I keep track so that I can celebrate or lament as is appropriate (with IU, it's mainly lament), but I don't really care.

That being said, I love the NCAA tournament. I love to pick teams and then root for people that I've never seen play before. I like to pick teams like Xavier, because they have an X, Pacific because they're an ocean, and Creighton because the name sounds neat when you say it. I'm *that* kind of predictor. A girl, in other words.

Generally this strategy is amazingly accurate in the first round. I get 25-30 first round picks right every year. However, once I hit the Sweet Sixteen, the wheels come off of the wagon. I got 8 of those right, have 4 possibilities in the Elite Eight, 2 in the Final Four and 0 in the final game. I cry for Wake Forest and UConn. I'm sure many of you are in similar states, and I'm calling that Washington, the dark horse 1 seed is taking the whole tournament, since now they won't have to face the dreaded Bucknell.

In conclusion, I'm already looking forward to next year. Also, I understand almost 0% of Tim's latest post. Something about Indians and colored hats.

MySQL, how I loathe thee... Tim 
Posted by: Tim at 1:53 PM EST on 3/15/2005
File Under: Misc Tech -> Computers

Since I'm a complete dork and just went home for spring break (actually, I went home because I'm graduating and wanted to save money for when I move out -- that's okay, right?), I decided to take on a little project to keep me occupied. I figured I would set up a LAMP web server. For those not in the know, LAMP stands for Linux/Apache/MySQL/PHP, and it's the combination that a majority of web servers on the 'net use. In fact, it's the combo this site is hosted off of.

Anyway, for the last couple of days, I've been struggling with a couple of things. I had no trouble getting Apache and PHP to play nice, but MySQL is being a little bitch. I think the main problem here is that I'm working off of a four year old release of RedHat 7.0. Why am I doing that? Because it's all I had on disc, and the only internet connection in this house is 56k. Oh yeah, and I have to take my laptop downstairs to the living room just to be near a phone jack. Joy of joys. Thank god I got Samba working, at least. I about pulled my hair out before realizing that you have to turn on encrypted passwords if you want to open a share with Windows. But since I did get it working, I was able to download newer versions of Apache and PHP. Unfortunately, the MySQL download is something like 30 megs, and I don't think the battery on this damn laptop would last long enough to download the whole thing. (Oh yeah, did I mention there isn't a single three-prong outlet in this house, so I have to run off of a battery?)

I'm about to break down and just try to download the new version of MySQL, though. The one that came with RedHat 7.0 is an insecure piece of crap, anyway. Add to that, the installation seems to be borked (seriously, why isn't there a single configuration file installed anywhere?), and I have the recipe for frustration.

Xenon... NeXt Box... Xbox 360... Xbox Next... Whatever it's called. Tim 
Posted by: Tim at 11:37 PM EST on 3/8/2005
File Under: Games -> Xbox

Well, it looks like the next generation of "console wars" is officially on. Microsoft has unveiled some preliminary specs for the successor of the Xbox at the Game Developer's Conference. GameSpy's got the scoop.

Some highlights:
  • Three 3.0 Ghz PowerPC cores
  • A GPU a step above the ATI X800
  • 256 MB of RAM
  • Games will come on standard DVDs
  • Optional harddrive
  • All games will be developed for a baseline 720p HDTV resolution
  • All games will be Xbox Live aware
  • A 1.2 megapixel camera (Optional or standard? I don't know.)
I'm not so hot about the optional harddrive. If it's optional, what developer is actually going to make any effort to take advantage of it? Also, it's kinda disappointing to see that Microsoft has opted for a DVD drive, instead of HD-DVD. Though, considering costs, I suppose it's understandable. I just wonder if we'll see a repeat of the whole "PS2 supports DVD, Dreamcast doesn't, so it's lame!" thing, but with Blu-Ray/HD-DVD instead.

Anyway, try as I might, I just can't really get excited about the upcoming new systems. It feels like I just got the current ones. I must be getting old, or something. Or maybe it's just the fact that I don't like new games nearly as much as the ones that were coming out in the 90s. Saturn and N64 for lyfe, yo.

Xbox Repairs Tim 
Posted by: Tim at 5:07 PM EST on 3/6/2005
File Under: Games -> Xbox

Alright, I have two broken Xboxes, and it's starting to irritate me. The first one, completely out of nowhere, just wouldn't turn on at all. Naturally, I figured it was just a problem with the system's power supply, but a new one that I ordered online had no effect.

Then, in my infinite wisdom, I decided I would just buy another broken system and use it for repairs. I bought one with a blown power supply, thinking I could either replace the power supply and use it as my normal system, or grab other parts out of it to fix my original one. Yeah, well, that didn't really pan out. Replacing the power supply did nothing, so something else is broken, too. It seems that, whatever is wrong with my original one, the second system has the same problem. So much for using it for parts.

Anyway, I'm at a loss, but I suspect both systems have bad motherboards. I've already sunk almost $100 into the broken system, replacement powersupply, and shipping, and if I want to keep my original harddrive with all my saves on it, I'm going to need to mod whatever system I end up buying. Bah, it hardly seems worth it.

VoIP Technology Alan 
Posted by: Alan at 9:08 PM EST on 3/2/2005
File Under: Misc Tech

So, Tim told me he was updating this site again, and I couldn't pass up the chance to talk about VoIP and how wonderful it is.

I went thru a company called Packet 8, and for $19.95 per month, I get unlimited calling to the US and Canada.

I had just gotten the new lease for my new rental approved and called Verizon to move my line, and they told me there was a $45 fee to move the line down the street. I decided to look for another option.

I get the full features of the phone, caller ID, call waiting, and all that good stuff, for 1/2 the price of my Verizon landline.

I called a bunch of people tonite. One in a town an hour away, one in Boston. They were all quite impressed with how good it sounded, particularly with me running Azureus in the background, uploading at over 30kbps.

So, I highly recommend VoIP.

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