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J. Robert Burgoyne

Feb 26, 2013

Eben Upton on the Raspberry Pi

by J. Robert Burgoyne — last modified Feb 27, 2013 12:40 PM

Technical talk on February 26, 2013 by Eben Upton, inventor of the Raspberry Pi DIY computer, at MakerBar in Hoboken, New Jersey

The people at MakerBar in Hoboken, New Jersey have quite an interesting venue for making projects either alone or with others. There's a classroom and a lab for learning about new technologies, such as 3d printing or working with new materials, and there are many opportunities to do hands-on work, either on one of their open nights, or at one of their scheduled classes.

Eben Upton - 2013-02-26Last night's guest speaker was Eben Upton, inventor of the fascinating DIY computer known as Raspberry Pi.

With the < US$50, credit-card sized Raspberry Pi you can connect a display, keyboard, mouse, load an operating system via an SD Card, and instantly have a working hobbyist computer. Being able to tinker is something that has been absent for some years, as many recent trends have all been toward closed systems that didn't permit tinkering.

Raspberry Pi has already sold 1 million units, an amazing feat for something that's only been available for a year. The all-time best selling hobbyist computer, according to Eben, was the Commodore 64 with about 18 million units sold. Go Eben!

Eben has an educational bent, and his goal is for kids to achieve competency and flourish as programmers, in the same way that one masters a musical instrument, through repetitive practice, in the comfort of one's bedroom. Already there have been many interesting projects on the Raspberry Pi by students < 18 years old, and Eben's hope is that "software-driven performance" will entice many more kids to find out what all the excitement is about.

The hardware platform of the Raspberry Pi is already sufficiently powerful and robust to take on many projects, such as robotics, digital signage, etc. Over time, the hope is that so many people will become Raspberry Pi enthusiasts that its development environment will greatly mature, causing the software to become so good that it can foreground itself against all the various other things that compete for kids' attention these days.

Sep 26, 2012

DIY Weather Stations

by J. Robert Burgoyne — last modified Sep 27, 2012 05:40 PM
Filed Under:

Have you thought about setting up your own weather station and publishing the data on the Internet?

My client and I recently finished the installation of a professional weather station at his residence in East Quogue, New York. I'll write more about the installation later; for now you can access the data, from the link below, and get an idea of what's possible. 

The Burgoyne Weather Station - in East Quogue, New York

Sep 20, 2012

Be Here Now - Jail Those Distracting Smart Phones

by J. Robert Burgoyne — last modified Sep 21, 2012 03:45 PM
Filed Under:

Aspiring inventor Ike Sutton of Brooklyn has a new way to regain the attention of his six kids - he locks their phones in jail.

Remember when people you were casually talking with made eye contact, instead of always looking away at their cell phones? Did you ever feel like taking the offending person's cell phone away for a few minutes, so that you can have a real conversation? Now you can. 

cell-phone-jail.jpgHere's another way to "use technology to solve HR problems" - take your kids' cell phones and lock the phones in a custom made cell phone jail for 15 minutes or more. 

The $20 gadget should be out in time for Christmas, 2012.

Credit to CNN for the referring story

Jul 08, 2011

Chunlai Yang, Ph.D., Arrested by the FBI

by J. Robert Burgoyne — last modified Jul 09, 2011 01:45 PM

Chunlai Yang, Ph.D., (杨春来) a Naturalized US Citizen, was recently arrested by the FBI for Theft of Trade Secrets from his employer since 2000, the CME Group in Chicago.

 

From the FBI Press Release: "They discovered that thousands of files had been downloaded to his computer, and some were then copied to removable storage devices, such as thumb drives." 

The CME Group is the largest futures exchange in this country and a key part of the world's financial infrastructure. Chunlai Yang's profile is on LinkedIn where he is listed as a "Sr. System Analyst at CME". Here's one article in Chinese that appears to be about him:

杨春来: 海外侨胞要落地生根 积极融入主流社会 http://news.163.com/07/0621/14/3HH3RC6A000120GU.html

Some of you may remember that in April, 2009 I discussed the case of Yan Zhu, Ph.D., then age 31, of Lodi, NJ -- also known as "Westerly Zhu" -- who was arrested on charges of theft of trade secrets (software). The follow up is that Dr. Zhu was convicted in Federal Court in Trenton of seven counts of wire fraud in April, 2011: 

http://www.fbi.gov/newark/press-releases/2011/nk040611a.htm 

What I wrote in a followup post is still true: "The FBI is extremely thorough in these kinds of cases and as I pointed out, they probably have the resources of the NSA backing them up with reports of Internet traffic in this particular case. 

The FBI is just like anyone else - they want their credibility to be maintained and respected."  

These are serious matters for anyone involved in IT, and worth discussing, even if you just want to vent your anger toward me. 

 

Apr 27, 2011

Skype Video Conferencing Problems? Try Google Chat's Video and Voice Plug-in

by J. Robert Burgoyne — last modified Apr 28, 2011 09:10 PM

I have used Skype for years to have video conferences with people in Asia. For unknown reasons, Skype's video and audio quality have degraded significantly for me in recent months, to the point that it's unusable. I sought out alternatives, and my current solution is Google Chat's video and voice plug-in.


Google Chat's voice and video plug-in does not have the slow video, audio dropout, and dropped call problems I have been recently experiencing with Skype. If you're encountering similar video conferencing problems with Skype, give Google Chat's video and voice plug-in a try. 

Skype, what's going on?


Google Talk Options Screen Capture

Aug 07, 2010

How To Produce Blu Ray Discs On A Standard DVD +R Drive

by J. Robert Burgoyne — last modified Aug 08, 2010 06:40 PM

Shorter length DIY videos can be successfully burned to DVD +R media, at Blu Ray levels of resolution (1920x1080), using a standard DVD +R drive. This article explains how I was able to do it.


I use the Adobe Creative Suite 4 Production Premium Edition software products to produce videos. My video camera is a Canon Vixia HFS100 and I incorporate various digital media from other vendors into my videos. This is how I was able to burn a Blu Ray Disc on my DVD +R drive. 

  1. In Premiere Pro, make your workspace 1920x1080 and create your video. 
  2. Export Your Project as a .f4v file, 1920x1080. I used a target VBR of 35Mbps. FYI, that is a lot of data. The length of my video was 3:05.  
  3. The Adobe Media Encoder will then produce your .f4v file. 
  4. In Adobe Encore, create a new project using the .f4v file you just created. 
  5. In Encore, render to a Blu Ray .iso file. This process crashed my Adobe Encore repeatedly, so I finally rebooted and without any other programs running, Encore was able to complete the job. The resultant .iso file was 591MB. That means the effective data rate is > 3MB/s. That is a lot of data - and that's why Blu Ray is worthy. 
  6. Using CDBurnerXP, a free program that can burn optical media from .iso files, I burned the .iso file to a DVD +R disc.
  7. The resultant disc plays correctly in my LG BD550 Blu Ray player. For some reason there is a green screen pause at the start of my video that lasts about 2 seconds. More experimentation is needed to see what's causing the problem. Otherwise the video quality is outstanding - very impressive. 

Jun 27, 2010

Adobe Flash Update Automatically Installs McAfee Security Scan Plus

by J. Robert Burgoyne — last modified Jun 28, 2010 02:00 PM

The Adobe updater periodically phones home and checks for software updates. The most recent Flash update also installs, by default, McAfee Security Scan Plus.


For some reason, Adobe decided to permit McAfee to piggyback McAfee Security Scan Plus onto the most recent Flash update. Unless the user clears a checkbox during the Flash update, McAfee Security Scan Plus will be automatically installed by Adobe's updater software. Some readers may recall that in April, 2010, an errant McAfee anti-virus program caused thousands of corporate computers to spontaneously reboot. I would guess that anyone affected by that outage would prefer NOT to have this program automatically installed.

We understand the vagaries of software, and that computer systems do fail and break. Accordingly, we try to be fully transparent about our own technical problems, including providing a real-time link to the status of our servers.

We would prefer if the Security Scan Plus installation was NOT selected by default. Perhaps knowing that some consumers would be searching for how to uninstall McAfee Security Scan Plus, McAfee provides a web page in their Corporate KnowledgeBase titled "Unwanted McAfee Security Scan Plus popup windows" dated April 9, 2010.

 

Feb 06, 2010

50 Foot HDMI Cables - Do they work?

by J. Robert Burgoyne — last modified Feb 07, 2010 02:32 PM
Filed Under:

You want to use your PC to output images and video to your big TV. The distance from your PC to TV is > 30 feet, so you need to use a 50 foot HDMI cable. Some articles and comments point out that when using such a long cable, there are image defects, video noise, sparkles, etc. on the TV. Other articles say it all works perfectly. Does it work or not? Why? Read more to learn the answer.


The Quick Answer

A 50 foot cable is fine, but not every output device can work correctly with such a long HDMI cable. The devices that work correctly output their content over the long cable and the TV renders the content perfectly. The devices that don't work correctly are unusable - the image they render on the TV is not acceptable.

For an unusable device, it's not clear how long a cable can be before the output becomes unusable, but 50 feet is clearly too long.

The Detailed Answer

My PC has two completely different devices that can output HDMI:

  1. An MSI R4550 Video Card - NewEgg.com link
  2. A Blackmagicdesign Intensity Pro Card - manufacturer's link

I wanted to output video that I create to my 42" LG TV and to use the TV as an external monitor. The distance from my PC to the TV is long, so I needed a 50 foot HDMI cable. There are expensive cables and cheap cables. Amazon sells a 50 foot HDMI cable for $21 including shipping, so I bought it. 

The MSI R4550 is unable to use the 50 foot HDMI cable successfully. The images it renders on the TV are full of video static, video noise, sparkles, etc. The HDMI audio works OK. I tried making a few adjustments but no matter what the TV image was unacceptable. I'm not sure if the TV could be damaged under these circumstances, so I unplugged the cable ASAP.

The Intensity Pro renders its content perfectly over the 50 foot HDMI cable! Video and photos are stunning and there are no video artifacts or defects. The HDMI audio is fine. Using the Intensity Pro as the content source, I don't see how a more expensive HDMI cable would give me better output on the TV.

Using the MSI R4550 and Intensity Pro as a Video Card with HDMI Output

Since the MSI R4550 is a standard video card, its HDMI output can be setup and configured with the standard Windows tools. However even though the MSI R4550 has 3 interfaces: HDMI, DVI, and VGA, and 1GB of memory, it can only use 2 out of 3 of the interfaces at a time. So for me, with a dual-monitor setup, even if the MSI R4550 worked with the long HDMI cable, it would still be unacceptable because I would have to give up one of my desktop monitors to use the TV as a monitor. What I do like about the MSI R4550 is that it cost < $50 and it doesn't have a fan, so it doesn't add any ambient noise.

The Intensity Pro is an HDMI video capture and output device. It's output capabilities are not the same as a video card - you can not control the Intensity Pro with the standard Windows display setup tools. This is because the Intensity Pro renders its output only through special plugins for Adobe Photoshop and Premiere Pro. You can't just look at an image or video on your HDMI TV without first starting up one of these programs and opening the image or video. On the plus side, the dual-monitors continue to work independently of the Intensity Pro's output.

Additional Thoughts and Questions

I don't know if an expensive 50 foot HDMI cable would work properly with my MSI R4550. Long HDMI cables can cost $300 or more and I'm not interested in paying more for a cable, since I now know that any display problems which result from using long HDMI cables are the fault of the output device, not the cable.

I would still like to be able to find a video card that does the following:

  1. Works with a 50 foot HDMI cable output.
  2. Is able to drive 3 or 4 output devices simultaneously, including a single HDMI output, without needing to use a dual-video card setup, and still being able to use standard Windows display setup tools.

If you have experience with such a video card, please contact me and let me know - thanks!

Jan 19, 2010

A Superb, Low-Noise, Inexpensive Headset for PC Use

by J. Robert Burgoyne — last modified Jan 20, 2010 12:40 AM
Filed Under:

Are you disappointed with the audio quality of analog PC headsets? I'm quite picky about sound quality and always looking for something better. I've used many different PC headsets over the years, and today I have a new favorite headset for audio clarity — and it's only $35!

 

Recently I read an article that advocated using USB headsets (not analog) for improved audio clarity and lower background noise levels during Skype calls, WebEx, recording audio directly to the PC, etc. The idea makes sense — it's difficult to remove all the electrical white noise generated by a PC if you use an analog microphone, so use a USB based headphone instead to improve the audio quality and reduce noise. 

My headset search brought me to the Plantronics MX500i headset, currently ~$35 from NewEgg.com. A photo of the headset and a photo of its USB interface are shown below. 

As is True Blade's custom, we first bought a single headset for testing. My partner Eric verified that the headset was good and had clear audio. I then bought my own MX500i and it arrived today. 

Once I set up my MX500i tonight, I promptly made a Skype call to Asia (from New York City) and it was the clearest PC based audio I've ever experienced. The sound was really that good. 

This headset's design is a bit unusual, with the bulk of the headset resting under the ear, not on top of your ear. That seems odd, but so be it. I can't say it's the most comfortable headset I've ever used, but as of now, I own a new headset with the clearest PC based audio I've ever experienced. Recommended. 

Bravo, Plantronics and NewEgg!
 


Photos of the Plantronics MX500i USB Headset and its USB Adapter

Jan 05, 2010

How To Properly Implement Pop-Up (Interstitial) Webpages in Plone

by J. Robert Burgoyne — last modified Jan 06, 2010 06:00 PM
Filed Under:

True Blade Systems is the founder of the Plone New York City Users group. We meet monthly to discuss and present on topics of interest to the Plone community.

 

The January, 2010 PloneNYC.org meetup will be about implementing interstitial web pages in Plone.

Interstitial web pages are web pages that display prior to anticipated content. Common usages are:

* Agreement to a Website's Terms of Service
* Disclaimers
* Advertisements or Special Offers or Information
* Capturing User Information

In addition, website login pages and introductory pages which precede and explain subsequent content are other suitable uses for interstitial web pages.

At the January, 2010 PloneNYC meetup, Eric V. Smith and J. Robert Burgoyne will explain the path we chose for implementing interstitial pages in Plone using jquery. jquery is the de facto javascript library for AJAX applications and according to Eric Smith: "I think it's worth spending a few hours with it [jquery]."

For a terrific example of an interstitial web page that uses jquery, see this website:

http://yensdesign.com/tutorials/popupjquery/

We plan to host the meeting in our office in the Graybar Building and we will also deliver the presentation online via WebEx, for those who cannot attend but would still like to learn the information.

If you will attend in person, please RSVP now.

If you plan to attend via WebEx, please Contact Us and let us know you need the WebEx credentials for the meeting. Online attendance is limited to 20 participants.

Read more about interstitial webpages on Wikipedia:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interstitial_webpage

2010-01-20 — Here's a link to Eric Smith's presentation.

 

Dec 12, 2009

Thomas Friedman on DIY Filmmaking with Online Resources

by J. Robert Burgoyne — last modified Dec 13, 2009 10:20 AM
Filed Under:

Mr. Friedman's Dec. 13, 2009 New York Times article includes references to numerous vendors whose services assist the DIY filmmaker / videographer with a tight budget. The vendor list is replicated and augmented in our article.

 

We were instructed years ago that one of our most important tasks as business owners was to develop and nurture a competent set of vendors. 

Thomas Friedman's article generously shares a list of the vendors his friend, Ken Greer of Greer & Associates in Minneapolis, Minnesota, recently used while producing a video. Since we're also a small business producing our own videos, it seems worthwhile to take a deeper look at the vendor list and offer our own suggestions as well. 

 

Service or Product Vendor Name
and Website
Comments
Online File Sharing Box.net When working with team members in different locations, it's necessary to have a service that permits everyone on the team to have simultaneous access to all the files required to complete a project. That way you're not emailing documents back and forth and accumulating multiple versions of the same file.

Box.net appears to fill this role quite well. We use Google Documents from time to time for similar reasons, but Google Docs is primarily used to share documents and spreadsheets - not all types of files such as .JPGs or .MP3 files.

Of course for security, capacity, speed or other reasons you may need or want your own managed, in-house server. This is a service True Blade offers. 

Stock / Royalty Free Photos iStockphoto There are many vendors who offer "stock" or "royalty-free" photos, where for a fee, you purchase the rights to use their photos in your creative work. Mr. Greer apparently had good results with iStockphoto so I'll pass the referral along here.

Doing a Google search for "stock photos" or "royalty-free photos" will bring up a listing of dozens of competing vendors. 

Voice Over Talent Voices.com This is an interesting service that connects voice talents with people who want and need to pay for the voice talent. Mr. Greer notes that using Voices.com substantially reduced his overall costs. 

I'll note that when dealing with people, it's best to have an organized system for keeping track of said people. True Blade recently hired someone and to manage the application process for the 80+ applications received, we used an in-house developed series of web forms connected to Salesforce.com to directly post the applicants' data to our Salesforce.com database. By using our own database, we now have saved all the applicants' data in our own database for future use. See more about our experiences with Salesforce.com below. 

Stock / Royalty Free Music AudioJungle Similar to the need for royalty-free photos, you will also need "stock" or "royalty-free" music at some point. AudioJungle.net is one such vendor. Again, Mr. Greer notes the cost reduction from using AudioJungle. 

We've used a variety of vendors for royalty-free music but recently settled on Digital Juice, primarily because of the high quality of their products and their holistic approach to filmmaking. What we especially like about Digital Juice is that they have tried to offer nearly every product a filmmaker needs, including royalty-free music, photos, and special effects. They also offer free software that lets you manage all of their "assets". 

If you still want to find more royalty-free music vendors, a Google search for "royalty-free music" will bring up dozens of choices. 

People Management True Blade recommends:

Salesforce.com
Perhaps for reasons of space Mr. Friedman neglected to mention how Mr. Greer keeps track of all the disparate people working on his film project.

But the more you depend on people and resources in remote locations to work collaboratively on a project, the more you need an online database to keep track of everyone and to log and report upon their activities, tasks, goals, and deadlines. We use Salesforce.com to accomplish this role. I've also seen people make good use of Google Spreadsheets for the same purpose, but once you want to start connecting tasks to people, you need a relational database - not a spreadsheet. 

 

We tip our hat to Mr. Friedman and Mr. Greer - thanks for inspiring us to write about our own filmmaking experiences.

Dec 10, 2009

Android Gains Traction in the Investment Press

by J. Robert Burgoyne — last modified Dec 11, 2009 01:55 PM
Filed Under:

Robert V. Green of Briefing.com today published a well thought out article on how and why Android could seriously erode the Windows monopoly.

 

I was encouraged to see that Motorola recently decided to drop Windows Mobile from their future cell phone offerings to focus on Android. 

Now Robert V. Green of the well-respected investor website Briefing.com writes in an article published today that he believes Android could seriously erode the Windows monopoly over time. 

Based on our own experiences using Android on the HTC G1, we'd say there's a long way to go before Android replaces Windows on the desktop, but it's nice to see the investment press taking notice. 

Power Outage at superb.net on 2009-12-11

by J. Robert Burgoyne — last modified Dec 11, 2009 01:00 PM
Filed Under:

True Blade's servers at superb.net's DCA2 facility in Tysons Corner, Virginia were not accessible for about 45 minutes this morning.

 

Apparently the main power failed at superb.net's DCA2 facility, and though the switchover to backup power occurred, some of superb.net's router equipment did not properly receive power from the backup source. 

Thus, our servers never powered down or rebooted, but they were not accessible until all power was restored. More information is available here

As a result we thought it would be a good idea to create a Twitter account: truebladeStatus so that we can quickly inform our clients and partners of any technical problems. 

Follow the technical status of True Blade's services on Twitter at http://twitter.com/truebladeStatus

Aug 31, 2009

Virus "Trojan horse Injector.FP" Slips Through Postini

by J. Robert Burgoyne — last modified Sep 01, 2009 10:32 PM

True Blade uses Postini for our email virus and spam filtering. Today's the first time I can recall that Postini has let a virus come through. The email's Subject was: "Western Union transfer is available for withdrawl". Other technical details of the email and the virus are presented below.

 

virus-2009-09-01.jpgToday at 9:56pm I received an email with a virus in an attached zip file. Others are probably receiving the message as well so delete the email if you receive it.

For testing purposes, I uploaded the zip file to a Linux server and unzipped the zip file to look at what was inside. At that point AVG anti-virus was able to immediately identify the .exe file within the email as a virus.

The email came with a .zip file attachment called M2f318a54.zip with file size 28357 bytes.

Inside the zip file was an executable program: M2f318a54.exe, 45056 bytes, and dated Jan 18, 2038. Delete this email if you receive it; do not open this email or forward it to others. Below is the email's header and body.


Return-Path: <commiserationep3@sobmen.ru>
Received: from murder ([unix socket])
         by deleted (Cyrus v2.3.7-Invoca-RPM-2.3.7-8.fc6) with LMTPA;
         Tue, 01 Sep 2009 20:56:17 -0400
X-Sieve: CMU Sieve 2.3
Received: from psmtp.com (exprod8mx279.postini.com [64.18.3.77])
        by tok.trueblade.com (Postfix) with SMTP id 478131818164
        for <deleted>; Tue,  1 Sep 2009 20:56:14 -0400 (EDT)
Received: from source ([173.74.55.173]) by exprod8mx279.postini.com ([64.18.7.10]) with SMTP;
        Wed, 02 Sep 2009 00:56:16 GMT
Received: from 173.74.55.173 by mail.sobmen.ru; Tue, 1 Sep 2009 20:56:09 -0500
Message-ID: <000d01ca2b68$28a0f230$6400a8c0@commiserationep3>
From: "Misty Fournier" <commiserationep3@sobmen.ru>
To: <deleted>
Subject: Western Union transfer is available for withdrawl
Date: Tue, 1 Sep 2009 20:56:09 -0500
MIME-Version: 1.0
Content-Type: multipart/mixed;
  boundary="----=_NextPart_000_0006_01CA2B68.28A0F230"
X-Priority: 3
X-MSMail-Priority: Normal
X-Mailer: Microsoft Outlook Express 6.00.2900.2180
X-MimeOLE: Produced By Microsoft MimeOLE V6.00.2900.2180
X-pstn-neptune: 45/43/0.96/77
X-pstn-levels:     (S: 0.06505/99.18051 CV: 0.0000 FC:95.5390 LC:95.5390 R:95.9108 P:95.9108 M:9
7.0282 C:98.6951 )

This is a multi-part message in MIME format.

------=_NextPart_000_0006_01CA2B68.28A0F230
Content-Type: text/plain;
        format=flowed;
        charset="iso-8859-1";
        reply-type=original
Content-Transfer-Encoding: 7bit

Hello.

The amount of money transfer: 2111 USD.
Money is available to withdrawl.

You may find the MTCN number and receiver's details in document attached to this email.

Western Union.
Financial Services.

Aug 19, 2009

Windows Remote Desktop Doesn't Work with Certain Nvidia Video Drivers

by J. Robert Burgoyne — last modified Aug 20, 2009 05:47 PM
Filed Under:

Here's a strange reason why a new PC wasn't able to be a Windows Remote Desktop host: it had the wrong Nvidia video drivers.

We recently setup a new Dell Optiplex 360 PC in a client's office. This PC needs to be a Windows Remote Desktop host for an offsite user. The PC has Windows XP Professional and an Nvidia GeForce 9300 GE video card, with 512MB of memory.

Microsoft publishes a series of instructions for how to setup a PC so that it can be a Remote Desktop host. After following these instructions, we were unable to establish a connection to the PC. We tried making changes to the Windows firewall, etc. all without success.

A Google search eventually turned up a posting by someone with a similar problem, which was eventually traced back to an older Nvidia driver.

Updating the PC's old driver with the new driver immediately fixed the problem, and the PC was then able to be used as a Remote Desktop host.

The Nvidia driver that works is Nvidia driver version 6.14.11.9038, dated July 14, 2009. The Nvidia GeForce 9300 GE video card's BIOS is version: 62.98.42.00.06.

Aug 15, 2009

TB Excellent Vendor Award Goes to: HopOne Internet Corp.

by J. Robert Burgoyne — last modified Aug 16, 2009 09:03 PM

From time to time True Blade Systems will write about the many excellent vendors we use who enable us to provide our professional services. HopOne Internet Corp., our vendor for server Colocation facilities, earns their fee and more.

Sparkling, Animated Gold TrophyAs any business owners knows, having excellent, dependable vendors is a key factor to providing great client service and maintaining a successful business.

For True Blade, an excellent vendor meets all our needs and provides exceptional service, often anticipating what we'll need in the future, based on what we're doing today.

With that in mind, True Blade Systems decided to create our TB Excellent Vendor Award.

Today we want to make you aware of the vendor we use to host our servers: HopOne Internet Corp. The service is known as Colocation. We use HopOne's DCA2 facility in McLean, Virginia. The staff are friendly, competent, and professional and the facility is first rate. We've had our servers there for several years and never had a problem.

Congratulations, HopOne, and thanks!

--
True Blade Systems, Inc.

Jul 15, 2009

Windows Vista - Works Fine for Me

by J. Robert Burgoyne — last modified Jul 16, 2009 02:45 PM
Filed Under:

Lots of our clients are concerned or unwilling to try Windows Vista. My experiences using Windows Vista on my primary desktop PC are positive.

system-300x312.jpg
I rebuilt a Dell Vostro 200 with updated hardware and installed Windows Vista Ultimate SP1 in March, 2009. I've been using it as my primary desktop PC since then. All my other PCs run Windows XP.

I haven't had any issues with Vista over these four months.

Today I needed to print something in color, so I had to install printer drivers for the two color printers in our office:

  • An HP Color LaserJet 3800, and
  • A Konica Minolta C250


I'm impressed with how easy it is to add a network printer.

From the Windows Control Panel, Printers, click "Add a printer", then click "Add a network, wireless, or Bluetooth printer".

Windows Vista then polls the network and found the HP Color LaserJet 3800 and automatically installed the printer driver. When it was finished, everything worked. There was no other effort required.

Vista did not discover the Konica Minolta C250, so I clicked on "The printer that I want isn't listed". Next I clicked on "Add a printer using a TCP/IP address or hostname" and entered the Konica's IP address. Within a few moments, Vista was setting up the printer, and when it was finished, everything worked.

For me, setting up a new printer under Vista is much easier than in Windows XP.

Jun 23, 2009

APC Smart UPS 750 - Hot Swappable Batteries?

by J. Robert Burgoyne — last modified Jun 24, 2009 02:50 PM
Filed Under:

Although a user can replace the batteries in a Smart UPS 750 without turning the unit off, in our case clearing the replace battery warning requires power-cycling the UPS, which cuts power to the devices you have plugged in and are trying to protect.

 

UPDATE - June 29, 2009 - The APC Smart UPS 750described below figured out its battery had been replaced, and now gives the correct status message, without power-cycling.


True Blade Systems has been using APC UPS products for many years. They're reliable, integrate well with our Linux servers and we've generally been pleased. We run apcaccess and apcupsd to monitor what's going on with the UPS. 

But a recent experience with a battery replacement in an APC Smart UPS 750 left us asking the following question:

Why make the UPS' batteries hot-swappable but NOT clear the battery warning indicator upon replacing the old batteries?

APC's technical documentation for this unit notes:

"This UPS has an easy to replace, hot-swappable battery. Replacement is a safe procedure, isolated from electrical hazards. You may leave the UPS and connected equipment on during the replacement procedure."

The above is true. Although I was a bit afraid to swap the batteries without turning the unit off, nothing bad occurred during the swap. But replacing the battery module (actually two batteries) did not clear the Replace Battery LED on the front panel. 

So I waited a day to see if time would clear the LED, but the LED stayed on. 

Thus on June 24, 2009 I called APC on (800) 555-2725 and spoke with a support rep. The support rep informed me that to clear the Replace Battery LED I must power-cycle the UPS. For me that means I must also power-cycle the server that's plugged into the UPS, which is not acceptable for me. So I'll have to wait for a weekend night to power-cycle the UPS. 

The rep created an internal case for future reference, case #C1-1041119483. 

Here are some other relevant details from apcaccess, the Linux based program we use to monitor the UPS:

APC      : 001,040,1009
DATE     : Wed Jun 24 14:36:56 EDT 2009
HOSTNAME : kenya.[deleted]
RELEASE  : 3.12.4
VERSION  : 3.12.4 (19 August 2006) redhat
UPSNAME  : TBSI_UPS
CABLE    : USB Cable
MODEL    : Smart-UPS 750
UPSMODE  : Stand Alone
STARTTIME: Sat Jun 20 13:40:37 EDT 2009
STATUS   : ONLINE REPLACEBATT 
LINEV    : 123.1 Volts
LOADPCT  :  24.7 Percent Load Capacity
BCHARGE  : 100.0 Percent
TIMELEFT :  36.0 Minutes
MBATTCHG : 5 Percent
MINTIMEL : 3 Minutes
MAXTIME  : 0 Seconds
OUTPUTV  : 122.4 Volts
DWAKE    : -01 Seconds
DSHUTD   : 090 Seconds
LOTRANS  : 106.0 Volts
HITRANS  : 127.0 Volts
RETPCT   : 000.0 Percent
ITEMP    : 35.5 C Internal
ALARMDEL : Always
BATTV    : 27.3 Volts
LINEFREQ : 60.0 Hz
LASTXFER : No transfers since turnon
NUMXFERS : 0
TONBATT  : 0 seconds
CUMONBATT: 0 seconds
XOFFBATT : N/A
SELFTEST : NO
STATFLAG : 0x07000088 Status Flag
SERIALNO : AS0721121024
BATTDATE : 2009-06-18
NOMBATTV :  24.0
FIRMWARE : 51.13.D USB FW:7.3
APCMODEL : Smart-UPS 750
END APC  : Wed Jun 24 14:37:04 EDT 2009

Let us know if you have had a similar experience with an APC or other manufacturer's UPS.

May 14, 2009

Google Service Outage on May 14, 2009

by J. Robert Burgoyne — last modified May 15, 2009 04:37 AM
Filed Under:

Users of Google services experienced slow service or interruptions in service on May 14, 2009. Here's what happened and what users should know.

 

Yesterday, Google suffered an outage that affected people using Google Calendar and Google Mail. The services were either unavailable or extremely slow.

In the past year, True Blade has become a big fan of Google Calendar, Google Contacts, and Google Mail. They've become critical to how we do our work and we highly recommend each of the services to our clients.

So when any of these services go down, we know first-hand that it's painful, and we understand that users are concerned.

It's especially frustrating that with technology problems the time required to restore service is often unknown. Nonetheless, we remain confident that Google aspires to high standards and that data saved on Google servers will always be safe, if not always available at every moment of the day or night.

More information about the Google Service Outage of May 14, 2009:

Official Google Blog 

NY Times Blog Entry on the Google Service Outage

 

Internet Connectivity from Taiwan to the USA circa 2009 - Excellent!

by J. Robert Burgoyne — last modified May 15, 2009 04:25 AM
Filed Under:

I've been visiting Taiwan since 1990 and the Internet here keeps getting better each year. Below are some notes on my experiences.

Photo of Longshan Temple, one of the oldest temples in Taipei, 300px x 450px.

Internet connectivity in Taiwan for residential users is available from the Cable TV company or via DSL, similar to the USA.

The residence where I'm staying uses a DSL vendor known as KBT or KB Telecom. KBT enforces PPPoE, but the Linksys WRT-54G router I installed handles the chore of establishing and maintaining the PPPoE connection.

The monthly service cost is NT$393 for the ADSL fee from www.hinet.com + NT$279 for the ISP, www.kbtelecom.com. So the total monthly service cost is NT$672 with a one year commitment. At today's exchange rate of US$1 = NT$32.864 the monthly cost is $20.45, including all taxes. The service is rated at 2Mbps down and 256 Kbps up. Such a deal!

The service is reliable and the Internet speeds are excellent. I'm getting 1,362 Kbps down and 207 Kbps up to Speakeasy's Seattle, Washington servers. Here's a comparison of the measured bandwidth from various ISPs.

I'm having no problem getting work done with our company's IMAP server & Plone webservers in New York and Virginia.