Sunday, September 21, 2008

Cubs Clinch 2008 NL Central

The Cubs are going to the PLAYOFFS! Go over to my sister blog, to see my photos and videos from the game! Here's the direct link to the post

And here's the clinch:

Go Cubs!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Cat in a Box Attacks

What do you get when you put a cat in a box and then dangle a camera wrist strap at one end of the box? CAT ATTACK. Stormy cat startled the camera woman on this one.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Your Gift Card Could Be Worthless

As a followup to my rant a few years back about gift cards, looks like there's another caveat of giving gift cards: they may be worthless if the issuing store goes bankrupt even if they don't cease operations.

Last week, The Sharper Image stopped honoring valid gift cards for purchases at their stores or web site while they are in bankruptcy. Even though laws in several states protect gift card balances from expiring, they don't protect holders from this situation.

The initial fear of the gift cards being worthless has since been eased, but barely. The store is now honoring the cards if the entire printed value is used in a single purchase and the purchase must be over twice the value of the card. If you have a partially used card, it's worthless.

With the downturn of the economy, we're likely to see more of this in the near future (already happened to CompUSA cards in December). So, if you have some gift cards, go use them ASAP. Then start giving cash as gifts instead. Cash wouldn't have fallen to this scam.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Mollusk Cruzer Shells

I took a week off from snow shoveling and went shelling instead. It's easier on the back, however it's very similar to shoveling the way we've been doing it (using a net to shovel the shells from the sea). Pictured are some of my finds. From left to right: Pear Whelk, SanDisk Cruzer Micro 8GB Black, Cerith and Lettered Olive. Guess which one is backwards compatible to USB 1.1?

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Encrypting that USB Thumb Drive

I purchased a large USB Thumb Drive in January for various reasons: portability, compatibility and of course cheap massive storage. At the time, I settled on the SanDisk Cruzer Micro 8GB with the retractable USB plug (no separate cover) which now spends most of it's time in my pocket attached to my keys, always ready for instant storage needs. I'm very happy with the purchase so far.

One of the primary uses for the drive was to store personal and work documents. Some of these docs I didn't necessarily want to share with people, like my personal debates on the proper way to install a new roll of toilet paper. (Innie, all the way.) I originally looked for a thumb drive with built in encryption/authorization techniques like a built in fingerprint scanner, but there was quite a price hit for this additional feature. Second I looked at drives that were entirely encrypted via built in software on the device. I felt that was a bit excessive and was concerned the drive would not work on all types of USB equipped devices (like a Wii or XBOX360).

The bottom line for me was that I wanted to encrypt some of the file system and certainly not all of it. So, I began to research software solutions. I found some that integrated tightly with Windows and used what appeared to be rootkit technology to hide and encrypt. That wasn't exciting to me because it would mean a reboot on any new machine I wanted to view my encrypted files on. Other tools I found were also heavy with their installs, which was a big turn off. Also, many of these were timed demos meaning I would have to pay to get my data after the trail period ended.

What I did find was a light weight tool that even had a mobile edition that didn't require a real install to operate on a machine: Cryptainer LE. This tool did everything I wanted: secured files by encrypting and requiring a password to unlock, cost nothing and was extremely portable like the thumb drive itself.

Accessing my data requires launching the Cryptainer software, whether installed on the machine or not. I then navigate to the Cryptainer Volume I want to open (basically a file of fixed size) and enter the password. Cryptainer then mounts the file as a removable drive on my machine. I can put any file I want on the Cryptainer volume and it encrypts it on the fly. When I'm done accessing the files, I just go back to Cryptainer (sitting on the system tray) and tell it to close the volume.

There are a few catches, as no software is perfect. First, the free edition limits you to 25MB volumes. This is enough for my needs, just some Word, Excel and MSMoney files, and you're not limited to the number of volumes you can have. There are "pay for" editions that go up to 500GB that can satisfy more serious sized files. Second is the OS limitations. The app only works on Windows 32-bit OS's, but that's not a concern for me at the moment as that's all I use (Windows Vista, 2003 and XP). Soon, however, I will need a 64-bit solution and hopefully the software will support it at that time.

If you're looking for a safe way to store data that may fall into the wrong hands, I recommend you try out Cryptainer LE. And if you find something better, let me know!

Blog Update: New Content Coming Now

Winter is about over and I'm getting motivated to write again. Looks like I will have more time on the now to write, which is exciting to me (you on the other hand, probably not).

Don't forget to add to your RSS reader. We're about to enter the 2008 season which is looking to be as exciting as 2007 (hopefully a better ending). The site is currently counting down to opening day, March 31st, but will begin with near real time updates of the actual number soon. So, sit back and watch as the Cubs make history (good or bad).

Sunday, October 07, 2007

2007 Chicago Marathon a Blast

Well, even though I didn't get to run, I went to spectate my buddy's first attempt. It was the hottest marathon on record for the Chicago Marathon (85+ degrees). They closed the course early and ran out of supplies too. Tons of people were sent to the ER and I believe their is already one confirmed death (my thoughts are with those people).

Anyways, back to the fun stuff. I made it for the start just 20 yards from the start line. Then I met up with a friend and headed to North avenue to watch just after mile 10. Then down to China Town (around mile 20). It was so fun and everyone spectating was positive and having a good time. That's a great distraction given that I was at Wrigley just 12 hours earlier and had tickets to the game that didn't happen today.

So, Perhaps next year will be my year to make the run and the year the Cubs do it all! (Probably neither will happen).
Good news is that my buddy finished around 4hrs 50min. We found him about an hour later. He's doing well and I'm heading over to his place for Lou Malnati's pizza, Guinness and Bears! GO BEARS!