Unix Utilities on Windows

Feeling crippled on Windows by not having access to such commands as grep, awk, tail, less … ?  Go here to get a copy of these utilities ported to the Win32 platform.  They’ve made my life much easier when I’m trying to do some quick command-line trickery on a Windows box.

Adobe AIR – applicationStorageDirectory – where is it?

When progamming an AIR application, you may want to make use of the applicationStorageDirectory available via the flash.filesystem package to store temporary files/folders.  You can find where your system is storing these files by doing something like the following:

var f:File = File.applicationStorageDirectory.resolvePath(“Test.txt”);
trace(f.nativePath + ‘ is where my file is stored’);

Reading Another’s Words is a Gift to the Author

I recently read an excellent article written by Po Bronson entitled, ‘What Should I Do With My Life?‘  It’s an excerpt/summary of a book of the same name.  I don’t recall when I first ran across the article, but I bookmarked it under my “read this later” folder, because it was too long to digest in a short 10 minute sitting.  Well, approximately 3 months later, I have finally returned and have read the entire article.  It was very good.  I don’t know what to do with my life yet, but I took great solace in reading Po Bronson express how others have gone about finding the answer to that question for themselves.

At any rate, I enjoyed the article so much I wanted to find out more about the author, so I meandered over to his web page, and read Po’s basic philosophy on writing.  He closes with the following paragraph:

“I think when a reader reads a whole book – which takes six to ten hours – that’s kind of a gift to the author. The gift of close, undivided attention. To who else do we listen so closely for eight straight hours? And when readers give that gift to me, I’m grateful for it.”

Amen to that.  When you consider that everyone has limitless choices available when it comes to reading material these days – it truly is a gift when someone chooses to spend time absorbing yours.

The Trash Goes Out On Tuesday Morning

It is wonderful and good to believe that you were meant for better things – but don’t forget to take out the trash on Tuesday morning.  No matter how high your dreams or your aspirations, that is all they will be if you do not continue to maintain the mundane activities of the day-to-day.

Every week on Tuesday morning, our garbage is collected.  It is my job to get it out onto the curb.  I don’t like to do it.  But I have to.  I’ve contemplated not doing it (and even ‘missed’ it a couple of times, truly, on accident) – but it just doesn’t make sense to maintain that sort of pattern for long.  If I don’t take out my trash, I end up with a house full of garbage, and things start to stink, and it’s hard to accomplish anything when you’re dealing with banana peels and orange rinds from last Saturday.

Each day is full of lots of little activities that help keep the gears running smoothly in the great cogs of life.  If we didn’t take care of the mundane things, there’s no way we could ever move on to accomplishing the great things.  Here are a few activities that will (I promise) invite some Karma into your life and make it easier to hit some of your bigger goals:

  • Empty the trash
  • Call your mother
  • Brush your teeth
  • Empty the dishwasher
  • Then fill it
  • Make sure your car has enough oil … and anti-freeze
  • Say hello to your neighbors
  • Bake cookies, and share them
  • Read a good book, with no motive other than to be entertained
  • Wake up early
  • Eat breakfast … slowly
  • Buy a comic book subscription for your son, and read it with him each month
  • Buy flowers for your wife
  • Try ice cream with chocolate syrup and rice krispies sprinkled on top (It’s amazing, I promise)
  • Don’t wait until you need to sell your house to fix all of the things wrong with it
  • Clean your office first, then respond to your Email
  • Walk the dog
  • Play tickle-monster with your 5 year old
  • Put your shoes away and hang up your jacket
  • Save some money for a rainy day
  • Don’t convince yourself that a 42in. plasma TV is necessary to shield you from a rain storm
  • Sweep the garage
  • Go to bed early

Establish good patterns for how the 80% of your time that is on auto-pilot will conduct itself.  Then, utilize the remaining 20% of your time, unfettered, to achieve your higher goals.

How Many TIE Fighters to Beat the Starship Enterprise

One of the blogs I enjoy reading when I have time is www.betterexplained.com.  The guy there is a math genius, most of what he talks about is over my head.  But what I appreciate is that he’s taking the time to try and explain stuff in a way that I would understand.  A while back he posted this about developing a sense of scale.  It’s a great article, but this blog post is about something he mentioned in passing in his article:

“Fun and interesting: occupy a geek for hours by asking how many TIE fighters would be needed to take out the Starship Enterprise.”

Well, that’s just too interesting of a question to go unanswered.  I don’t have the time to actually figure out how many TIE fighters would be needed to take out the Starship Enterprise – so I have to go with my gut on this one.  I think it would take around 463 TIE fighters to take out the Starship Enterprise.  The important thing to take away from this is that the TIE fighters *would* take out the Enterprise.  Don’t get me wrong – I’m a fan of the Star Trek multiverse.  However, on some deep level I just know that if the two worlds were to ever collide, Jedi’s with the Force would waste the crew of the Enterprise with their phasers.  The ability to beam around to different places would definitely be an advantage to the Trekkies, though.  Why didn’t the Star Wars universe ever think of that?!  I guess it’s because too much power makes a hero uninteresting over time.  Take Superman, for example – how many times can you take a storyline that involves the arch-nemesis being the same thing over and over: a green rock from some other planet.  Wolverine is a borderline almost-too-powerful superhero, since he can heal from just about anything.  But that’s what keeps you coming back for more in his case, you never know for sure whether he’ll heal from whatever wounded him.

Sorry, I digress.  Back to the question at hand – Star Wars would win over Star Trek, ’nuff said.  It’d be cool to see a Wookie versus Klingon match, though – that might be a toss-up.

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New to Boating? 5 Types of Boat to Choose From

Whether you’re buying a boat for the first time, or it’s just been a long while – you might benefit from a refresher on what types of boat are out there.  The boats that I’m going to cover here are mainly for day-use out on lakes and reservoirs.  Anything bigger than that and you’re starting to get out of my league (for now).  My wife grew up boating but I didn’t know much about any type of motor-driven boat until a couple of years ago.  This overview will help you get a handle on what’s out there and what might fit your style and budget.


This type of boat has an outboard motor, meaning that the entire motor and drive unit (propeller) is external to the boat and is attached to the back.   You’ll find this most often used on fishing-type boats, but it’ll also appear on older water-ski boats.  In addition, I see a lot of speed boats using this configuration.  The benefits to an outboard boat are mainly in cost, and they’re a little simpler to maintain and operate than the others listed here.  You can use this type of boat for wakeboarding and other towable sports, but if you really get into it, you’ll probably want to graduate into one of the other types. Do NOT wakesurf behind this boat, though, due to danger of getting too close to the propeller.

Sterndrive, or I/O (Inboard/Outboard)

This is identical to an outboard boat in terms of the drive unit, it is external to the boat and contains the propeller and pivots with the steering wheel to turn the boat.  However, the engine is much larger and is inside the boat, at the stern, and is connected to the drive unit through the transom.  These make great waterskiing and wakeboarding boats.  You cannot wakesurf behind them, though, due to danger of getting too close to the propeller.  These are going to cost you more than the outboard boats, but will generally be less expensive than the inboard boats listed below.

Inboard Direct Drive

Inboard boats have a fixed propeller, meaning it is on a shaft that does not allow the propeller to pivot.  It simply spins and pushes the water straight back.  There is a rudder affixed to the boat a few inches behind the propeller and the steering wheel pivots this rudder left and right to direct the flow of water and thus steer the boat.  Inboard boats generally have a platform of some sort on the back of the boat.  A direct drive inboard boat has the engine located almost directly in the center of the boat.  These types of boats are for the die-hard water skier.  The location of the engine in the center means that the boat will sit very flat on the water, and create little to no wake behind it, leaving it nice and smooth for the skier.  In recent years, wake towers have been pretty common on these boats and they’re used more and more for wake boarding and wake surfing as well.  It is a little bit harder to create a nice wake for boarding and surfing behind these boats, but possible with additional weight placed in the right spot and the assistance of such devices as the wedge on a Malibu boat.  As soon as you cross over into the inboard boats, the cost goes up.  Direct drives are less expensive than a V-drive boat, though, and can usually be used for all of the same things, you just have to be a little more creative if you want a large wake.

Inboard V-Drive

The V-drive is identical to the direct drive, except that it has the engine placed at the back of the boat, to add more weight there and help create a larger wake.  This type of boat is designed for wakesurfing and wakeboarding.  A water skier can also be happy behind this type of boat, but you’ll never be able to match the flatness of a wake created by a direct drive boat.  V-drives are more expensive than direct drives.

Jet Boats

I don’t have an illustration of one, but I thought it would be good to include a description anyway.  A jet boat is generally a fisherman’s boat.  It is propelled by pulling water into the boat and forcing it out in a concentrated stream from the back of the boat via a ‘jet’.  The boat is steered by pivoting this jet to direct the stream in different directions.  The big advantage of this boat is that due to the absence of a propeller, it can be taken into very shallow water.  This leads to it being used on a lot of rivers to get to places that no other boat would be able to.  I don’t know how these rate in terms of cost to the other boats mentioned.

Converting an x509 SSL certificate from a Linux node into one usable for IIS on Windows

I don’t know how many other people out there might ever need to do something like this. Say you have a Linux web server using an SSL certificate, and you need to put that same certificate onto a Windows server for use with IIS. Here is how you would accomplish it.

You’ll need the openssl tool on your Linux node to do this.

  • Put the contents of the public SSL cert and the private key into one file. Easiest way to do this would be to cat the public cert and append to a new file. Then cat the private key and append to that same file. For the purposes of the next steps, we’ll call this new file ‘newcert.crt’.
  • Now, run: openssl pkcs12 -export -in newcert.crt -out iiscert.p12 -name “My Certificate”
    • Where ‘newcert.crt’ is the file that we created in the first step, and ‘iiscert.p12′ is the file that will be imported into IIS
  • Securely (i.e. scp or something that won’t send the file in clear text – it contains your private key!) copy the iiscert.p12 file to the IIS server you’ll be using it on.
  • Use the certificates MMC to import the iiscert.p12 file into the Personal certificate store for the computer object.
  • Now use IIS to configure the default web page and replace the current certificate with the new one that was just imported.

Voila! Now you have a cross-platform SSL cert you can use.

Can Your Computer Run This Video Game?

About a year ago I bought a video game, Supreme Commander, to play on my PC.  I don’t buy new video games very often, which probably explains why I still think Pong totally rocks.  So needless to say, I was excited to play my new game.   My computer was relatively new and the game had been out for a while so I only glanced at the system requirements and made my purchase.  Of course, when I got home and installed it and tried to play, it didn’t work.  Upon closer inspection I realized that my video card didn’t have a ‘Vertex Shader / Pixel Shader’.  It was too late to return it at that point, of course, as I had already removed the shrink-wrap.  I considered selling it on ebay, but just depressed myself further when I searched and found that I could have purchased it myself there for about $20 less than I’d paid for it.  So … it sits on my shelf, and when I next upgrade my PC then I’ll finally have a chance to take it for a spin.  I’m sure the wait will be worth it – after all Gamespy said that it was “A game so immense that ‘supreme’ might be too delicate a word”.

Since my impulse purchase of a year ago – I have learned that there is a web site you can go to which will scan your computer hardware and tell you whether it’ll be able to play that new video game you’re contemplating.  It is found here: http://www.systemrequirementslab.com/referrer/srtest.  Happy hunting.

Pull a 1080 and make $10,080

Looks like Tige is willing to spend big cash to see people land the elusive 1080 trick (3 complete 360′s, for those of you who are not mathemagicians).  They’re offering $10,080 to whichever finalist can land the trick at the upcoming 2008 Tige Pro-Am Wakeboard Championships.

Me? I’m pretty good at a 180 (only one direction as of yet), and would be happy as a clam at high water if I could ever graduate to pulling a complete 360.

Removing Tree Sap from your Hands

Have you ever had the unfortunate task of removing tree sap from your hands?

I was worried I would end up with the keys from my keyboard stuck to my fingers a few minutes ago, but luckily I picked up a tip here: http://www.ehow.com/how_10395_remove-tree-sap.html. Some helpful soul mentioned that smearing your sap soaked hands with butter and then washing with soap and water would free you. I gave it a try and it worked! Just thought I’d share with you all, in case you just happened to have a run-in with a weepy tree in the future.

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