Monday, January 31, 2011

Medium-content: Sunday/Monday. Late and early, respectively.

Sitting in the dark while I grow sleepy and tired, I thought I'd share the names of a few folks who I think maintain interesting blogs.

TheWyrdrem, available over at [ ], writes pun-sorts of things and other tidbits and musings that I find humorous.

Overthinker, available over at [ ], writes some (really) well-thought out walls-of-text. Good bathroom reading, or late-night musing, as it were.

Smokin' D, available over at [ ], has published a series of so-bad-they're-hilarious horror movie reviews, definitely worth a peek if you're cool with a conversational sort of writing style.

Sprocket, available over at [ ], is a fellow Minecrafter who has posted neat tutorials to help out new and experienced players alike. Word has it he's also got a good mob-grinder design, too.

Graendal, available over at [ ], is a friendly, geeky, catholic father who has a neat post about exorcism, among other things. Worth a read, even if your beliefs aren't aligned with the Vatican's.

Unrelated to blogs but still something I like, have a listen:

Sourced at YouTube, courtesy of UKF Dubstep. Most of their videos are the delicious grungy dubstep I've been binging on recently.

Until later, then.

(Did you notice that I really like hyperlinking things? If not, mouse over some clearly hyperlinked words.)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Paranoia: common sense for the security-minded.

I will admit that I am somewhat extremely concerned wherever my security and privacy are involved. Given what I understand of the internet, it's often better to remain low-key or hard to find. An easy-to-follow "e-trail", as a few friends of mine call it, is an invitation to be investigated. So's being deliberately secretive and letting other people notice. The plainly clothed John Doe strolling down the street probably attracts less attention than the disgruntled youth (complete with trenchcoat) quickly striding down the boardwalk.

What I mean by that somewhat obtuse metaphor is that it's often better to develop secure and safe habits than attempt to implement security as a policy only when it is thought of as necessary.

In that vein, I'd like to introduce the following bits of useful tech:

Tor, available at [ ], is pretty much the best thing ever for anything internet-privacy related. It's a SOCKS proxy interface that has nodes located all over the world. Essentially, the connection is end-to-end encrypted and bounced across multiple nodes, allowing bypass of any incompetently-implemented filtering technology that isn't on the machine you're using to browse.

Also useful:

Iron, slightly paranoid cousin of Google's Chrome, is available at [ ] and is my browser of choice. It retains all the functionality of Chrome and is what I use for all browsing where security is not the chief concern at hand.

Wherever security is of the utmost concern, I break out Firefox with Torbutton. The addon allows simple on-off usage with easy visual recognition of whether or not you're browsing via Tor.

I maintain two internet browsers so that the attitude that I use with each is compartmentalized- reading blogs and e-mail doesn't require a secure connection- but I make sure that if there's anything in question about the folks I'm interacting with, I route the data through Tor.

Related, but not really that important: alternate GMail accounts, lots of them. I have at least 5, one of which is for work, one of which is for personal e-mail, and the other 3 are mules that I use to interface with folks I don't regularly converse with.

That's all for now.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Lowbrow: Sites I like.

Short and to the point:

[ ]: probably the first big-name Flash gaming site I'd ever seen. Pretty classy, insofar as the interface is concerned. Good graphic design, good content rating system. A fair amount of regularly-generated everything. The huge quantity of free music is also a plus. The rather large quantity of shit that gets posted is typically dealt with quickly.

[ ]: I found this one much later than any of the others, but it seems to regularly turn out good, quality content. The community here is mostly friendly, and all of the interface is very clean-cut. The achievements and badges here are quite addictive.

[ ]: I got linked to this site from both newgrounds and kongregate. They're kinda like a huge development behemoth of a company, but they feel very friendly and turn out top-notch content.

Where do you play your (free) online games?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Low-content: Roosterteeth.

I'm a silly Texan, I suppose- but these folks aren't!

Over at [ ], you'll find lots of recent news, as well as the archives containing the entire Red vs. Blue series, my favorite machinima. It started years ago when some silly guys made videos of Halo with some even sillier voiceovers. With a plotline arching over several seasons and more plot twists than you can shake a grenade at, what think you?

Also, similar media in the form of webisodes- what sorts of things do you watch?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Webcomics? I read a few.

I'm sure that there are plenty of webcomics of merit out there, but I'd like to give a shoutout to a few:

Questionable Content, [ ], is a story starring Marten Reed and a small community of semi-normal individuals who live in a universe not unlike our own, if you discount the walking, talking anthropomorphic robots. An interesting read, updated quite regularly.

XKCD, [ ], which is pretty much the nerdiest comic I've ever read. Science, mathematics, and funny or interesting things are all commonly posted on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Dieselsweeties, [ ], a comic full of pixelated folk and a few robots. There's also a furry dressed as a bear. Geeky jokes and references abound, interspersed with a healthy amount of hipster humour. Updated regularly.

Dr. McNinja, [ ], is about a ninja that is also a doctor. His assistant, Judy, is a gorilla. He has a sidekick, Gordito, who rides raptors. He's a pretty cool guy and eh, doesn't afraid of anything. Updated Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

What comics do y'all read?

Monday, January 24, 2011

Techshare:, Pidgin, VNC

This post (and its sequels) are intended to introduce readers to interesting bits of technology and/or software that's available for free that I find useful and/or interesting.

I'm sure that most people have heard of Pandora. It's one of a few popular free online radio services that provides streaming content to viewers (or listeners, if you prefer) and has a built-in recommendation service.

What I've seen less often (except in online communities, of course), is the use of [ ], which is another online radio service that is slightly less accessible than Pandora, but is plagued by fewer ads. Furthermore, it includes a social networking component through which you can compare your tastes to other folks around the internet.

TL;DR: is a cool guy and plays free music. Minimalised advertising and more social networking capabilities.

I'm not so much a chatting machine, but I have a few instant-messaging accounts registered on different networks, to accommodate the rather large number of folks that I connect with online that are spread across different networks.

I previously used [ ] for my multi-network chatting needs. It's a good cross-platform solution that utilizes webpages and an account management interface to allow for multi-network and multi-account usage, but it's a cumbersome webpage and some of the advertising doesn't act exactly as intended- occasionally doing things like covering half of my contact list. Not-so-bueno, to be frank.

I re-discovered [ ] a few weeks ago and have found it to be a much more simple-to-use application for all of my chatting-related needs. It also permits multiple-account and multiple-network behavior without error, and has none of the ads that discouraged me from using ebuddy. I also have the Psychic plugin enabled, so I get notified of people messaging me before they send it. It's probably a bit creepier on their end, but saying "Hey, what's up?" right before they've hit send is often entertaining.

TL;DR: ebuddy's good on mobile devices, pidgin wins hands-down as an open-source application through which account management is relatively simple and intuitive. It also has neat plugins.

Closing this post out, I thought I'd bring up what I think is arguably one of the best remote desktop access applications: VNC. Virtual Network Connection, available over at [ ] is pretty much an all-in-one comprehensive solution. When the server is set up on a machine (networkable through a VPN, which I'll post about later), it permits remote access as if you were sitting at the desk and using the computer. Depending on the connection speeds at both ends, the use of a VPN can permit access from anywhere that has internet access, even if both computers are behind routers and firewalls.

I use VNC to manage a gaming server that I run offsite, and it provides virtually unlimited access- including the ability to lock the local mouse and keyboard out such that one can work remotely while remaining relatively undisturbed.

The connection is encrypted in both directions, so connection-snatching is unlikely unless you are the victim of a man-in-the-middle attack and using an insecure password.

TL;DR: If you need RDP-level access to a machine, RealVNC is an easy, low-hassle solution that only requires the server software on one machine and the client software on another.

That's all for now; I plan on making these sorts of posts semiregular.

What tech would you like to share?

Sunday, January 23, 2011

VB2K10 Follow-up:

Well, I think I did it.

It's not everything I want it to be, but I figure if I release it here I can at least get some critiques or requests for additional features. I'd also like to note that this is the firstfirstfirst release, and I think that slicker graphics would be pretty neat. Also, a resizable window, because my desktop has a significantly higher resolution than my laptop does.

NOTE: This requires the .NET 4.0 framework to function.

Once I figure out how to integrate proxies (and I'll be damned if I have to put a .dll together), Tor support and proxylists shouldn't be far behind.

This image should be pretty self-explanatory; the password you're looking for is


sans asterisks. Will that simple obfuscation fool a search engine?

Who knows.

New link without gross image: Save as a .jpg or .rar, you pick.

Actually, don't use that link, just download this picture:

As always, let me know if you've got any suggestions.

Kinda related: I've named it mirror, but I bet there's a smarter-sounding name out there.
I would appreciate those sorts of suggestions as well.

EDIT: Still boring alpha release, sorry guys.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Visual Basic 2010 Express? OH YES.

Decided I'd break out the old-school VB skills, and it turns out there's a whole new programming interface. I'm adjusting to it pretty well, and it helps that there's a rather huge online community that supports development of applications. I figure that it would be nice to have an all-in-one application to manage this blogspotting deal, and here's the rundown on what I think it'd require:

- A webpage viewer. Clearly, the most important part. Since the .NET package includes a web browser, I don't think I need to worry about figuring out how to display the HTML.
- A textbox that allows input of blognames. It shouldn't require the http:// or the parts, because the application will automatically concatenate the URL in the proper fashion when it sends the URL to the browser.
- An IRC Client, because those are useful. I'm not sure how I'd code one from the base up, so I'll just use a webpage locked in to a mibbit widget that's already configured to whatever channel I want to access.
 - The ability to add/remove blognames to/from a list, which can be managed with ADD/REMOVE buttons and can be used in tandem with a GOTO button to send the learned URLs to the built-in webpage.
- The ability to import/export lists of blognames to and from .txt or another library/database file.

There are probably more features that are just as important, but this should be the skeleton of the project. I'm developing this for me, mostly, but if it's any good I think it'd be worth releasing to the public, right?

Your thoughts, please. What other features would you be looking for in something like this?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Lowbrow, low-content.

Barebones post:

TF2? Pretty awesome game.
Portal? Pretty funny sardonic humor game.
Portal 2? I am looking forward to this game, the previews are AWESOME.
Also, Half-life. The entire series? DELICIOUS.

I may be a Valve fanboy, but I like all the games, so /eh/.

I'm looking at Amnesia: Dark Descent, which I've heard is pretty interesting, too.

What recommendations might y'all have?

Picture kinda related, I love TF2 shenanigans:

Making Knives, stock removal.

The art of creating knives is (from what I gather) a relatively time-honored and extremely craftsman-oriented activity. [ ] has a pretty thorough picture-aided walkthrough of the steps involved.

I've had great success with stock removal (just one of many methods you can use), wherein you take steel (or whatever metal you decide to use) and - much like the artists that chiseled figures from marble - remove whatever isn't the blade you want to produce.

Once you've removed the excess and have the profiled stock, it's recommended that you scribe a centerline along where you want your cutting edge to be located, typically along the center of the stock. After you've figured out where you want your edge, you grind the blade down such that its edge is relatively defined. At some point you should probably heat-treat the blade and smoothly grind everything down. With any skill (and/or luck) your blade will look exactly as intended. The next step involves creating and then attaching the handles for your knife. You'll typically treat the wood with a vacuum-pump to waterproof it, and then append the handle to the blade using whatever fixative method appeals to you.

That's pretty general, though.

More specifics:

- Steel tends to be pretreated to discourage rust, you'll probably have to grind this off.
- Scribing lines: If you don't have the right tool and have a drill bit to spare, a bit that is exactly the thickness of the stock will scribe a line exactly down the middle of the metal when drawn down the edge of the stock (while faces are parallel, naturally).
- If you want to draw out the hamon (or pattern) of the metal, you can etch the blade with acid. Results may vary.
- Heat treating can yield interesting colorations with metal. Damascus steel also yields interesting patterns (even when un-etched).

Related: If you're feeling less craftsmanship-inclined, you can buy kits over at [ ].

The process involves a multitude of skills. If you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments.

Caveat: I'm no expert, but I have found the process to be very rewarding. I have made two knives from stock (One folder, and one fixed-blade full-tang tanto, if you're wondering), and find the work of master craftsmen to be fascinating.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Of Interest: Bug-Out Bags.

Blame it on some strange compulsion or obsession of mine: I think it's important to know what you ought to pack if you need to disappear in a hurry. I maintain something like one of these, which contains the following:

Reinforced Work Jeans, 1 Pair.
Flannel-lined Waterproofed Windbreaker, 1 Count.
Water, 1 Liter. (Inside a refillable canteen)
MRE, 3 Count. Gross-tasting but nutritious.
Folding Knife, 1 Count. One smooth edge, one serrated.
Leatherman Multitool (Supertool 300, to be specific), 1 Count.
First Aid Kit (Gauze, ~2 square yards. Tape, 2 rolls. Iodine, 1 bottle. Cotton-balls, 20 count.)
Water Purification Equipment (Chlorine tablets) 30 count.
Storm Blanket secured to the outside of the pack, 1 count.

It's relatively lightweight, and I think it would keep me covered for a few days, at the least.

I'd also try and grab my handgun and some spare ammunition on the way out, but that's optional. (Glock 19, ammo's cheap.)

More helpful than my list: [ ]

Granted, their list is also preparing you for a Y2K-esque event.

What would you pack if you had to get the hell out of dodge on short notice?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Potential Topics: Brainstorming.

Thinking of things to write about:

CNC Plasma-cutting of steel, as well as CNC machining in general.

Knife-making, (somewhat) relevant to my work with metals.

The Constitution (I spent a year in high school studying it), and the Bill of Rights.

Standardized testing, and what I think of it.

Woodworking, including such things as staining, creating crown molding, cabinets, and more.

Pepakura, and its applications in creating molds for doing such things as Halo (or other) armor.

The implementation of a Minecraft server using craftbukkit or MineOS.

Ragnarok Online, an MMORPG that's been going on for longer than I can remember.

Music, and my (perhaps esoteric) opinions on it.

Fashion, and my take on how presentation can take below average to center-stage.

Women, and interesting things that I have learned over time and through interesting things like [ ]

Webcomics, news, and other media intended for regular, casual consumption - what it might imply for culture today.

I might update this as more ideas come to me.

Is this how you blog?

I'm still sort of new to this concept of blogging- I suppose it's something like writing entries in a journal or publishing short essays that aren't necessarily peer-reviewed.

I have plenty of opinions on large numbers of things; if you want me to write about something, leave a comment below and I'll see what I can do to get something worth reading written up.

About myself: I'm mostly a student, although I occasionally teach or tutor. I specialize in catalyzing change in other people, if that makes any sense. I like to think that I'm a good motivational speaker (or text-writer, in some cases), and I'm always willing to offer objective advice on anything you'd like to ask me about. I can only guarantee good advice, though, if it's in the realm of my experience or ability to speculate.

Here's to some (hopefully) interesting posts to come in the future.

A brief explanation of CNC:

CNC-anything (typically a term used in milling) is referring to a Computer Numerically Controlled device.

The idea is that if you have several motors (or other electromechanical devices) that are precisely controlled by computer outputs and sensor inputs (typically coupled with proprietary software), you can take anything that you create in Computer Assisted Design software (Solidworks, CATIA, and the like) and turn it into something tangible.

I have access to a 3-axis CNC mill that has a bitset suitable for machining wood, but the results aren't anything spectacular. It's relatively small-scale and doesn't work that quickly.

On the other hand, I also have access to a (pretty much amazing) CNC Plasma Cutter, produced by the guys over at [ ]. The software is proprietary, but the options cover most of the things I've had to do in-shop.

With the cutter, the robotics team that I work with for FRC [ ] can drastically reduce manufacture times by speedily producing the sheet-metal frame which we can then bend/fold into shape.

It also permits the creation of neat yard-art sorts of things, if you're into that.

Using CNC removes one of the human elements- this can be good, or bad, depending on what you're going for. Manufacturing with automated processes removes the human capability for error whilst cutting small pieces- but it also means that if the human controller isn't precise enough or issues incorrect commands, the computer will perform exactly as ordered, even if this means doing the opposite of what you requested.

Neat stuff, this is. (Make sure to wear eye protection, plasma's BRIGHT )

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