Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Stop CD's Auto-Launching (P.S. Fuck You SONY)

Some of you may remember back in 2005 the big hoopla regarding the Sony Root Kit. In an effort to fight piracy, some Sony CD's included software that intercepted all interaction with the CD drive.

It all starts like this, you put your music CD into the CD drive of your computer, a prompt to install audio software will appear. However, by this point, the hidden software has already been installed without your permission. The software is normally undetectable because of various cloaking patches that it installs in Windows. Currently there is no know way to remove it without messing up your system. Antivirus programs are only able to remove the cloaking ability. Deleting the executable itself will disable your CD ROM drives.

As a result of this, I have come to the decision that SONY has no respect for the boundaries of your property. They invade your computer, putting your data and security at risk.

I will never buy another SONY product as long as I live. Fuck SONY. They don't care about their customers anymore, just their bottom line.

Your first line of defense is to stop CD's from launching everytime you put a CD in the drive. Some of you may recall my USB Stick post that U3 devices do the same thing by pretending to be CD's. This is originally thought of to be a convenience, but in light of the SONY fiasco, I will teach you how to turn it off.

First, download and install Tweak UI from Microsoft, here is the link to the XP version.

Run the program from START > Powertoys for Windows XP > Tweak UI

In the window that pops up, click on the + sign next to "My Computer". You will see AutoPlay in the list that appears. Click the + next to AutoPlay and select "Drives".

On the right hand side, you will be presented with a list of drives. A red question mark indicates that a drive does not exist.

Un-check the box next to your CD or DVD drive(s). Don't worry, this will not disable them, nor will it prevent you from installing software off of a CD. This just prevents Windows from arbitrarily installing software from a CD before you even know what's going on.

Now just click OK and close the window. A reboot of the system may be in order to get the new settings to kick in.

In the future if you really want the software to run, just right-click on the icon and select AUTOPLAY.

Now go out there, and keep on having fun (and stay away from SONY).

"bah weep graaagnah wheep ni ni bong"

Here Comes the Sun

Summertime is fast approaching, and this year I was really interested in purchasing a solar power supply for use with various portable electronic gadgets. Between Magnum's annual Canada Day picnic, and Tito's annual Luau, there does seem to be a need for portable, clean electrical power. Big V usually has a battery powered assembly for musical entertainment, so I felt perhaps I could augment his setup with a little AC/DC from the sky!

The only problem being that I know squat about electricity other than "don't stick metal things in the electrical outlet". So the research was rather slow going.

Many of the items seemed to be distributed by Asian companies, which did not bode well for their reliability. Slogging through many poorly translated manuals only helped reinforce this perception (honestly, couldn't they hire someone to check the grammar?).

Finally I found the device I was looking for, the Brunton SolarPort 4.4. It is made in the US, but there is a Canadian distributor in BC. Boy was I happy. I read the product specs and found that it had some handy features:

  1. Clam Shell design - The unit unfolds like a book to expose its solar panels

  2. Built in Cigarette-lighter Socket - If you have a car charger, just plug it directly into the device.

  3. Built in USB Outlet - use your device's USB cord to charge your iPod, PalmPilot, mp3 Player, or anything else that charges via USB.

  4. Standard Power Adapter Plugs - the device includes standard power adapter plugs to charge or power other devices like CD players as if they were using AC power.

  5. AA and AAA Battery charger included - The package also includes a second unit that attaches to the panel portion that charges AA and AAA NiCad and NiMH batteries.

  6. 12V and 6V switchable - what this means, I don't know. It sounded good, but I'm a Chem, not an Elec, so what do I know.

  7. Multi-Unit Co-operation - link multiple units together to add additional power. Not sure how useful that is, since I'm only planning on buying one. I guess if one of my buddies likes it so much that they buy one for themselves, then we can take advantage of this feature.
The main product page is at and the Canadian distributor is Modern Outpost. I really am looking forward to buying this baby, but I'll probably wait until closer to summer time when I can give it a good run-through with full sunshine.

When this happens, I will definitely post a follow-up review to fully describe this product.

Until next time, keep on having fun!

"bah weep graaagnah wheep ni ni bong"

Monday, March 12, 2007

Everything Old is New Again

Hello everyone, time to lay out on the internet what is on my mind.

Today's topic, the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. What once was the rightful successor to the NES Legacy, the SNES went head to head with the other 16 bit system, the Sega Genesis.

Recently, I have rediscovered the joys of SNES gaming with the use of a USB controller, and a nice emulation software called ZSNES. I find this software easy to use and works well with the Logitech Rumblepad 2 controller that I bought. Although the Rumblpad 2 is a clone of a Playstation controller, the button positioning is similar enough to offer no trouble.

Installation is a non-issue, just unzip and run and play.

Another great feature is that it can run games full throttle on a Pentium II, so older computer owners out there can rejoice.

"Play what?" you might ask, well Game ROMs, which are copies of game cartriges. It is however illegal to download ROMs that you do not own, and that 24-hour use idea that is floating around the net is poppycock.

However, if the idea of breaking international copyright law amuses you, then head on over to and get your fill of games that you always wanted, but your parents wouldn't buy for you. Just unzip the roms to the same directory, and relive the good ol' days.

Until next time, keep on having fun.

"bah weep graaagnah wheep ni ni bong"

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

(HDTV Primer Part 1) HDTV's - The true picture

I keep reading/hearing/seeing stories regarding hi-def TV's and how great they are, and by and large they are quite worthy pieces of technology, however, I am here to break down the hype surrounding them.

Now just to get this out of the way, I do not own a high def TV, nor is this article supposed to discourage you from buying one. I am a huge TV junkie and I do love watching television. I just don't want you to be suckered into paying too much for something you may not need or finding out later that a great picture needs more than just and expensive screen.

My first issue: DIGITAL. This seems to be the new buzzword of media presentation, digital. What does it mean? As far as I can tell, it means that the data is broken down into 1's and 0's in an electronic format. This is not synonymous with high quality. Digital signals CAN be high quality, but that is because the content is of high quality not because digital is inherently good quality. Old movies are not going to become super crisp and sharp just because they are digital.

The next detail, picture quality, is my most divisive issue. Is it worth the extra money? As RadioFreeG stated in his latest podcast, if you think you can just plug in your existing cable feeds and get hi-def picture, you are sorely mistaken.

Yes, existing feeds will look better since the screen is a higher quality, but its not hi-def. No, my friend, hi-def needs a hi-def signal to take advantage of your new screen. The only way to get that signal is with a digital receiver box, which you have to rent from your television provider. On top of that the free content is minuscule. To get HD content, you have to pay extra for that too.

Additionally, movies on disk will suffer from much the same problem. DVD's will look better, but they are not HD content, so you won't get super sharp whatever. To get HD content, first you need a Blue-Ray disk or HD-DVD disks. Then you need a Blue-Ray disk or HD-DVD disk player. Then you need the digital cables to transfer the protected content to the TV, lest you syphon the signal and make illegal copies of it.

In fact every path to get HD content requires an unbroken chain of content, HD compliant equipment, and finally the TV set. The TV is the last step in the chain, so why is that the first thing they try to sell you?

In a word, money.

You see, my objection isn't the selling of the TV's, its the ridiculous investment that they don't tell you about when you're buying the TV's. If you know that there's strings attached to your purchase ahead of time, you can do one of three things, 1) put off the purchase and live with what you have until it dies, 2) Mortgage the house and buy everything in one fell swoop and enjoy a super picture with surround sound in your own home theatre, or 3) realize you just want a huge screen TV or that you want to watch widescreen movies without letter-boxing and make a purchase without disappointment.

I prefer Option 3, but really any of these solutions is acceptable, provided they are made by an informed mind.

I know several people who went with option 2, maybe not the extreme as I described it, but they have their HD signal and TV and the picture is so amazing that they swear they will never go back. Again, never having experienced full HD quality, I cannot fault their logic.

However I will offer this. Standard definition to Hi-Def is not comparable to the shift from black and white to colour, or from silent films to "talkies". Those were major paradigm shifts. HD-TV is not. Wider screen and an improvement in picture quality? Not a major "revolution" in my books.

Personally, I'll hold off on an HDTV for as long as humanly possible. Why? Because in the not too distant future all stations will be broadcasting in HD for free, not just the premium channels. When that happens, the HD tuners will be built into the TV's much like cable TV tuners are now, so I won't have to rent one.

I work hard for my money, like most of your out there, I'm sure. While I do want to get some entertainment and enjoyment from my hard work, there comes a line that we have to draw to tell the media and content providers that "enough is enough, I don't want to give you any more of my money". Again, this message is reiterated in RadioFreeG's latest podcast. How much content are you willing to pay for? It is one thing if it was free, then give me all you've got. But, if I have to pay and pay and pay for entertainment, then I have to sit down and decide how much do I need, how much do I want to spend, and how much do I want to save for a rainy day?

Just a small thing to think about.

Until next time, keep on having fun.

"bah weep graaagnah wheep ni ni bong"

Monday, March 5, 2007

Studio Tax Announcement!

Some of you may remember my earlier posting about free Canadian tax software.

Well, for those of you still interested, StudioTax 2006 is now NETFile Certified!

That's right, you can now electronically file you Canadian Income Tax for free. In addition, they have removed the limit to how many returns you can file for your family.

Till next time, keep on having fun.

"bah weep graaagnah wheep ni ni bong"