Archive for the ‘computers’ Category:

Web Hosting Round-up

September 4th, 2007

I have several domains hosted out of my apt, meaning the computer that controls (among others) sits in my apartment. Now that i’m moving, i decided to look into hosting these domains somewhere else a bit more reliable (although it was fun to walk fritz and shayna thru a reboot from Thailand).

Here’s what i’m looking for

  • cheap monthly (less than $10/month)
  • virtual hosting (2+ domains)
  • linux/BSD/Unix
  • PHP access
  • ssh access (csh, cron, .htaccess, php.ini, etc)
  • web stats (access to apache log files)
  • decent disk space and bandwidth (?)

I’m happy to see that shared hosting (one machine serving many domains and many customers) is pretty cheap ($5-$10/month). This is in comparison to dedicated hosting, where a customer gets their own machine – for high bandwidth and/or highly customizable stuff. I used to think i needed that, but now i don’t. First I tried to find current reviews of web hosting, starting with GoDaddy, since that’s where i have some domains registered. Basically they are one of the cheapest around, but there are many on the net that complain about their customer support. After a bit of digging, i found some decent review sites and decided to do it right.

Webhostingsitesreviews does a good job evaluating the company and their offerings – their top linux sites were BlueHost 95%, StartLogic 95%, IX Web Hosting 92%, HostMonster 92%, HostGator 87%, Yahoo 87%, and last place GoDaddy 83%. I also liked Hosting Review’s top 10 table with links to their verbose reviews. YourWebHosting also lists a top 10 with BlueHost at the top, followed by IX, GoDaddy, Dot5, StartLogic. Top 5 Hosts picked Hostmonster, Lunarpages, Bluehost, Startlogic, and Hostgator. Ahh, those names sound familiar – I think i see some patterns. Good.

I also found a few sites that seem… off. Perhaps paid placements? Hostsearch allows people to review sites, which is nice to get user issues, but they are not as thorough as webhostingsitereviews. Hostsearch’s top picks are (in order) Webstrike (402 reviews), WebHostingBuzz (258 reviews), eBoundHost (43 reviews), Galaxyvisions (22 reviews), HostForWeb (259 reviews). Web Hosting picked these as their tops: Globat, Poweb, HostRocket, GoDaddy .. and none of them seemed like a good deal.

Anyway, on with the Round-Up – My Summary below. Most of the top ones were about the same, altho I noticed a few things i wanted that not everyone has, like SSH access and access to log files (i like to ssh and tail logs while troubleshooting).

Site Month Disk Domains Notes
BlueHost $7-8 300 GB unlimited ssh, many scripts, .htaccess, 350k domains, blog
HostMonster $6 300 GB unlimited ssh, scripts, log files .. merged with bluehost
StartLogic $5 300 GB unlimited ssh, many scripts, .htaccess, 80k domains
HostGator Baby $10 100 GB unlimited ssh, many scripts, log files, 400k domains
Dreamhost $8-10 146 GB unlimited ssh, many scripts,
IX Business $7 500 GB 8 no ssh, many scripts, log files?,
Dot5hosting $5-6 300 GB 6 no ssh, log files
lunarpages $7 350 GB 10 no ssh, many scripts,

And the winner is … Hostmonster, everything i need for $6/month.

Notes – only had 1GB storage and 20GB/month xfer for $7/month plan. Yahoo was equally lame.

Tigerdirect sux

August 24th, 2007

Don’t ever ever get a gift card for – trust me. I worked for yahoo, got a free gift certificate at, which i used to buy $250 gift cards at Tiger direct. Bad move. All i wanted to do was buy stuff from their site using the gift cards –

  1. I ended up having to call them 5 times, totaling about 3 hours, longest call was over an hour (this really sucked)
  2. I got passed around from customer service to credit card payment and back and on hold and talked to supervisors and on hold and … dropped entirely, 3 of 5 times. Each time they liked to tell me how their internal operations work (hello, do i care?), and it varied depending on who i talk to.
  3. Web site is great, but does not work with gift card system. During checkout, It incorrectly reports the amount available on gift cards
  4. If you use less than the full amount of a gift card, they have to mail you another gift card for the difference (why not email? or better yet, just change the amount on the gift card to whats left? not rocket science)
  5. They have at least 2 different types of gift card numbers, and one of the problems i had was that both could not be applied to one
    order – at least the supervisor acknowledged this as not great and made it work for me.  well, i hope he made it work – not shipped yet.

Seriously, guys, how much money do you waste on customer service? Perhaps gift cards are not that popular, and its not worth the time to make the system functional, relying on supervisors to fix it? I thought about calling Carl Fiorentino, TigerDirect’s president, at home in Miami, like Fred Wise did, but haven’t. I think i got it sorted – we’ll see if my package arrives after burningman.

I love being a Geek

August 19th, 2007

I can’t tell you how excited and happy I am now that i got my laptop fixed. My macbook pro, which died in India, was resurrected by the good kids at Apple. I’ve been waiting to get this laptop fixed since i got back – and it finally arrived thursday after 11 days of separation anxiety. Hurray. Now i’m loading it up with software, mp3s, and videos.

Here’s a little more on fixing a broken macbook pro. First lemme tell you its condition – it was in my bag, well padded, but the bag fell off the roof of a SUV going 30 mph. Ouch. Surprisingly, it did boot up – the screen was mostly cracked (nice fractals) but the upper left corner of the screen i could see the mouse and the little blue apple. The harddrive worked (wow), the keyboard sorta worked, but the sides of the titanium casing had ripples in it, making the ports questionable. I took it to the apple store for an estimate – he quoted $1,000 for tier 4 damage – meaning they would replace all parts needed to get it back to normal. He said a 3rd party could fix it cheaper – maybe – and mentioned techrestore. I talked to those guys, but they wanted $500 for just a screen fix – and wouldn’t give me an upperbound – like, the most it would cost for a new screen, new case, new ports, new drive, etc. So i just decided to let apple do it. Apparently the first apple guy was incorrect on the price – Apple ended up charging me about $1,300 ($1,140 tier 4, $100 labor, $96 tax) – more than a brand new windows laptop. Of course, this IS a macbook pro. Ooooooo…. But i gotta say, i think they replaced EVERYTHING. It’s like i have a whole new computer. Feels so nice and purty. I’m soo happy. I love being a Geek.

Oh, and before i took it in, i wanted to salvage my harddrive data – mostly pics – because apple likes to erase everything. My ports wouldn’t work, so i had to remove my drive and put in a external harddrive enclosure, and mount it to another computer. Removing the drive was a bit of work, but a success, thanks to the macworld macbook pro hard drive upgrade guide (say that 10 times fast).  After doing this, i decided i could do it again, replacing the new 100GB drive with a 250GB hardrive (only $200). I also ordered another 1GB of RAM ($50), which will arrive next week. Woop!

So yeah, like i said, this stuff makes me happy, so i know i’m a geek. And i love it.

Lamayuru to Padum

July 28th, 2007

Updated 7/2008 with my pics. orig pic

Between Sengi La and Margun La

I already mentioned getting my trek on in India – well, I survived the 10 days. But my laptop didn’t, and my iPod ran away. More importantly, I saw amazing mountain peaks and valleys, powerful rivers, crystal clear streams, horses, sheep, yaks, and donkeys, locals, other trekkers, villages and gompas (monastaries). But mostly i stared at rocks at my feet as i hiked 4 to 8 hours a day for 10 days. The exercise, fresh air, and beautiful scenery made this one of my favorite parts of my Round the world trip.

Unloading at Lamayuru - Day 1

I hiked with 7 others – 4 others who payed, and 3 who got paid. The 4 other trekkers were all from Switzerland – 2 Swiss German, Amir and Patrick, and two Swiss French, Sam and Jo (the only girl). They met each other on the bus to Leh and organized this trip. I just happen to find a sign that said they were looking for more peeps and joined just 2 days before we left. The 3 who got paid were 2 guides and a ponyman. The ponyman is a local dude who carries the stuff – ours had 2 horses and 4 ponies. His english was practically non-existant, but his spirit was great. The 2 guides, Rigzen and Thinles, were from Leh and were quite entertaining. Rigzen was the main guide, young and smart, a bit more reserved than Thinles, and hiked with us every day. Thinles (pronounced tin-less) was his friend and assistant, mostly hiking with the ponyman. Both could speak Ladakhi (local language), Hindi (india national language) and English. Thinles’s english was barely passable, but always entertaining. “Today is much problem, you know?” or just “today is .. you know, by god”. At night they cooked us amazing dishes like .. rice, soup, and vegies (‘amazing’ said in my sarcastic voice). Actually, except for the lack of protein, food was OK – just kinda boring and flavorless. But when you hike and burn so much calories, food cannot taste bad, and i was always thankful to have plenty to eat for dinner.

The route was from Lamayuru to Padum – from north to south, starting in Ladakh region and ending in Zanskar. It is commonly called the Zanskar trek, although there are other routes going thru Zanskar. Total distance was 136km (85 miles), with much elevation gain and loss – 8 passes total. It takes 5 to 10 days (well, locals do it in 5, most tourists do it in 8-10). We technically hiked it in 9 days, since the first day was a wash waiting for the ponyman to show up. Stupid late ponyman. We left Leh on July 4 and arrived in Padum on July 13. The route we took is the same as the one discussed in the previously mentioned book, “Trekking in Ladakh“, pages 197, 269-245. I got most of details from there. I even plotted the places we stayed on google earth. View my hike on google maps. (not as cool as this guy’s google earth video from nepal).

Baby Sheep and Wanla Child

I chose this route cuz it was supposed to be more challenging – a bit longer than most, with alot more elevation gain and loss. Over half the people who come to region do the markha valley, a 5-8 day trek right by Leh. I had the time so i wanted to do something a bit longer and more remote. There are only a handful of options, and this one was sold to me as having more dramatic moutains, amazing river valleys, ancient gompas, and varied geological terrain. I found it to be true, for the most part. The beginning and end were less physically demanding than the middle days. After a blister popped and got infected on the 8th day, i was glad to only have to limp 4 hours a day instead of 8. And yes, it really sux to have an infected toe while traveling.

One thing that surprised me was how brown the mountains were. Hardly any dirt, just rocks – various rock colors – purple, red, yellow, aqua/green, white, black, etc, but mostly brown. I was also surprised to find so many “tea houses” along the trail. A tea house is often a tiny stone house where people stop to have … tea. (never would have guessed, that, would ya?) mostly chai, a tea with milk, sugar, and a few spices. In fact, every night except once we had a tea house. They also had ramen noodles, potato chips, and a few other snacks. A few times they even had beer – a delishous treat after a long day’s hike, even when it was warm. Other interesting things included waking up next to donkeys, horses, yaks, and goats, and seeing a local festival in Karsha on the last day. That was quite cool – hundreds of people came dressed in their best, very colorful, regional clothing to the biggest Gompa in Zanskar.

Chad Rides The Donkey

The worst time on the trek was on the fifth day – the day it snowed. It was the only time in my 6 months where i was seriously asking myself, “what the hell am i doing here?”. It started with an overcast morning, warm as always, but with chance of rain i put on my “waterproof” pants and packed a jacket. As we head out, light rain started, and within a couple hours, as we were close to going over Sengi La (the highest pass on the trek, around 5,000 meters, 16,400 ft) the rain had turned to snow. At this point i my legs were soaked (don’t buy “waterproof” pants in India) as was the rest of my body. But my blood was pumping and I did not feel too cold. The snow got worse, and everybody ducked into a tea house just north of the pass. Weather was too bad to cross the pass, the locals said, so we had to wait for our ponyman to show up with the stuff so we could setup camp. We were there for about 3-4 hours, and i was uncontrollably shivering the whole time – except for a short period where an extra stove was placed near us to warm us up. That was heaven. Besides the 6 of us, there was a team from poland, about 14 peeps, another team from america, about 8, and a few guides or locals. It was cold, but it was worse being soaking wet, not moving, and nothing to do in a small tea house tent. At least i was not alone, and i knew it would end. Eventually it did, i put on my warm fleece and setup tents. Luckily, the snow stopped, and before night the sun came out again. The next day we made it over Sengi La and I celebrated by riding a donkey. Hurray.

Karsha Gompa and Mountains

My favorite part was just being in the mountains. I’ve always liked hiking and camping, but this last 6 months i could not get enough nature and mountains. And this trek had some of the coolest mountains i’ve ever seen. We would climb 3,000 feet in elevation, from a small valley up to a pass with stunning views of green grass river valleys and snow capped peaks in the distance – almost daily. I love seeing a huge mountain, slowly going up, looking around and noticing how perspective changes. I see things more accurately from above, often seeing things i didn’t even know existed. Very inspirational – i feel like i can do anything when i’m in this environment. Even though i loved my hike and would recommend trekking in Ladakh to all backpackers, i’m not sure i’d go back. If i do, it will be after i do nepal and tibet. I’ve got my eye on the popular Annupurna circuit in Nepal. I also have to check out Turkey, Iran, Egypt, Ethiopia .. Cuba and Mexico.

Bangkok WIFI

June 28th, 2007

When i first got to Bangkok in March 2007, i had trouble finding good wifi.  Well, i’m now gonna list a few spots that I ended up using – i may add to this list more later.


  • Around the Thammasat(?) University – cafeteria a good spot – near Khao San Road
  • Irish Exchange – Bar on Convent Rd (near Sala Daeng BTS)
  • The Dubliner – Irish bar on Sukhumvit, between Soi 22 and 24
  • a few other bars have free wifi on Sukhumvit

Pay (but fast)

  • A-One – hotel and internet, near MBK (national stadium BTS). 40-60 Baht/hr
  • Wendy House – 24hrs, next to A-one.  40-60 Baht/hr (Downloaded 800MB in one hour – over 1Mbps sustained!!!)
  • Old Bangkok Inn – fast, free wifi with room, expensive (2000-3000 baht/night)

iPod: iTunes SUCKS !!!

January 23rd, 2007

Well, i’m just another sucker who thought Apple designed products well. Apple products sure are pretty. But what could be the absolute worst thing that could happen when you use iTunes? Besides blowing up in your face killing your baby nephew. Yes, erasing your harddrive without warning. I backup my laptop, but not my iPod. So of course today i got my iPod wiped clean by iTunes 7. For you techies out there, its like the old “sudo rm -rf /”

What do you do when iTunes erases your iPod??? well, first stage is denial. What? no songs? eject ipod, hold it in my hand, look at artists .. blank. WHAT?? Ok, maybe i can recover .. search the web .. Oooh.. “iTunes 7 erased my iPod” happened to this guy, too. Hmm.. most of the 48 responses are people complaining how it happened to them too. OK, so maybe it did happen. Any recovery tools out there .. a few for windows, none for the mac. Let’s recheck the iPod, maybe my songs are there now. Nope. Videos gone, too. But my photos are still there. Wow.

Sigh. Luckily i have copies of my mp3s on a backup server, but i did lose all my playlists. I spent many many hours creating and tweaking these playlists – those run mixes, driving in the car mixes, chilling out on a bus mixes, and many more. I hate iTunes.

iTunes WarningOk, for the record, here’s what i did – I reproduced it to make sure i got warning message and steps correct. With my iPod plugged in, on iTunes 7 I clicked on chadpod (my name for my ipod). I clicked on the Music tab, and unchecked “Manually manage music and video”. I got the warning message in the image above – “Are you sure you do not want to manually manage music and videos on your iPod? All existing content on the iPod ‘ChadPOD’ will be replaced with content from your iTunes library.  Ok, i think “merger” when i read that, not “YOUR IPOD WILL BE ERASED”?  Clearly i was wrong.  Then I clicked Summary tab just to the right of the Music tab. I tried to sync one of my playlists automatically by checking the “Sync Music” box and selecting one of my playlists. I then had an interruption, and when i got back to my computer, I decided i didn’t have time to finish this right now, so I went to eject my iPod.  Then i got the following warning: “You have changed the settings for iPod ‘ChadPod’.  Would you like to apply these changes?”.  Umm.. Ok.  At that moment it erased my ipod – i could tell cuz it took a few seconds. Now my chadpod is blank. Wha?? Unplug from my macbook pro. Yep, wiped out. I admit that popup was a warning, but i definitely didn’t expect to lose my music and playlists. What i still don’t get is that it didn’t even sync. I have tons of music in my iTunes, none were copied.. No playlists copied. Whatever happened, it definitely was not a design flaw, it’s a bug in iTunes.

Lessons Learned:

  • Use Manual Mode to update iPod (apple info on switching to manual mode).
  • NEVER accidentally click on anything in settings – especially do not try and sync a playlist if you’re in Manual mode
  • iTunes SUCKS.

Hmm… I think i feel better now that i vented.

iPod: Copy To Play Order

January 17th, 2007

I’m very excited today .. I finally figured out how to reorder my playlists on my ipod. I’ve been using iTunes 7 on my macbook pro for a while, but could not figure this one thing out. I read numerous postings where people had the same problem i had – I reorder my iPod playlist on iTunes, but when i eject the iPod, the playlist order is still random. The only solution i found was to create a new playlist and drag each song to it one at a time in the order you want. Then remove the old playlist and rename the new one to old playlist name.

But today i found out what to do – pick the iPod playlist you want by clicking on it in the left pane of iTunes 7, reorder songs in your playlist how you want, sort on title/artist/album, and/or drag and drop how you want them. When you’re ready to save the playlist order to the iPod, goto the left pane, ctrl-click (or right-click) the iPod playlist (which should already be selected), choose “Copy To Play Order”.

EXAMPLE: Change “Favs” playlist to be sorted by album, except switch the first five items with second five items.

  1. Click your “Favs” playlist on left pane under your iPod symbol
  2. Sort by album by clicking album column in main (right) pane
  3. Save current order by ctrl-clicking “Favs” playlist, selecting “Copy To Play Order”
  4. Sort by playlist order by clicking on column to the left of the ‘Name’ column (has no name, contains just numbers). Make sure arrow is pointing up.
  5. Select first five items, then drag down right below the next five.
  6. Save by repeating step 3.

Note: this was on a Mac using iTunes 7.02, iPod version 1.2.1

For me, this is huge – most of my music is live sets and the mp3 tag info is poor. Plus i love my playlists, several are 50 songs are more, and now i can easily pull out one song i’m sick of, add another song or two, or switch the order around to my full pleasure. Hurray.

Macbook Battery

June 12th, 2006

Score one for apple. Ok, this is just a quick update on my apple macbook pro laptop adventures. About a week ago my laptop battery started going out, from 3-4 hours on a full charge to 5 mins or less before it would die (not even ‘sleep’). Obviously this sux, so i needed to fix. First i thought i could just go to an apple store and they would swap it. But alas, there’s only one apple store in SF and the genius bar there is always booked, making this idea and all tech support a nightmare. So i called 1-800-fix-my-apple-please and within 5 mins the nice girl resolved my issue – i’d get a new battery delivered to my door, and as long as i returned the old one, no charge. The very next morning my new battery arrived. That was 12,000 times easier than trying to goto the genius bar, and i’m super happy. Hurray apple.

Apple Sux

March 13th, 2006

Ok, so they don’t always suck – they can design kick-ass products, but they’re quality and support need some work. I’ve had several problems recently with both my new macbook pro and my ipod video, and i need to vent a bit.

I took a chance and bought the new intel-based macbook pro. I’ve had it a few weeks now, and for the most part its the same as the powerbook. The main 2 things that are different are the intel chip (vs PowerPC chip in powerbook), and the RAM access (twice as fast on macbook). For the few apps that are compiled as a universal binary (like camino browser), macbook rocks. But most apps are not, and performance is about the same as the powerbook.

Specifically, i was using firefox (powerpc binary) a week ago when my laptop froze up. The mouse would still work, but nothing else would. I let it sit for a while (10 mins), came back, and it was still frozen, so i hard-rebooted. After this, it would not ever boot up again – It would go to the screen where it says “Mac OS X” in small white square window with solid blue background, and then just be completely solid blue, and stay forever. I kept hard-rebooting (by holding down power button till it turns off) and repeating this process for several days. Unable to find any info help online, I went to the “genius bar” at the local apple store. They would not accept drop-offs, and the wait to talk to anyone 1-1.5 hours. Sigh. I had to goto work, so i skipped it. Later I tried a few more things on my own, including the firewire target disk mode (press-T-on-bootup), but nothing worked till i wiped the drive and did a fresh install. So i lost all my data, but at least my laptop works again. I’m not sure exactly what happened, i’m guessing there were bad sectors on the harddrive that could not be read on bootup so it hung .. but not sure. I should prolly run some exhaustive drive checks …

The other problem i have is with my ipod video. I have the 60GB one, bought last december, and 3 times now it has frozen up on me. The screen is lit up, usually during mp3 playback, but the entire unit becomes unresponsive. Normally you can power on/off a device or computer if it freezes up, worst case remove batteries/power and reboot. But ipod video does not have that option. I had to wait till batteries were drained and it powered off. Then i plugged it in and it would reboot. Not annoying enough for me to get rid of if and by a new mp3 player, but annoying enough to piss me off and blog about it. Heh.

Update: Check out the comments for ways to fix..

Update: Apple MacBook Pro

February 14th, 2006

2/21 Update – It was shipped 2/18 via Federal Express and arrived today. Hurray!!!! Now back to the original post from 2/14:

Just got an email today – my new apple laptop, the intel-based macbook pro, has been delayed and upgraded. Is this good news? Hmm… When i ordered it on Jan 10, 2006, they said it would ship 2/15. Today they said they will begin shipping the macbook pro, but mine will not ship till 2/23. For the record, i ordered the macbook pro the day they were announced – so you would think mine would be the first to ship – think again. I guess its because i got the more expensive 1.83GHz version. However, my 1.83 GHz has been upgraded to 2.0GHz – and for $300 more i can bump it up to 2.16 GHz (yeah right .. maybe for $50 .. but not $300). Anyway, i suppose one week is not that long, and it will be slightly faster …

Here’s the email i received on 2/14 from apple:

                                                         Date: 02/14/2006
To Our Valued Apple Customer:

  Today we announced that this week Apple will begin shipping the new 15.4-inch
  MacBook Pro featuring the Intel Core Duo processor, a built-in iSight, Front
  Row with Apple Remote and more. The reception of the MacBook Pro has been
  tremendous and we are working hard to ship as many units as fast as possible.

  Better still, prior to shipment we've improved the entire MacBook Pro family
  with configurations starting at 1.83Ghz up to 2.16GHz. We have upgraded your
  MacBook Pro from a 1.83GHz processor to a 2.0GHz processor at no additional
  cost! We anticipate shipping your upgraded order by February 23, 2006.

  To learn more about the most recent upgrades to the MacBook Pro family, please
  visit You might be interested to know that
  Apple is offering an even faster processor - the 2.16GHz. This is a custom
  configured option and is available for an additional charge.

  If you decide you'd like to make a change to your upgraded MacBook Pro order,
  we're happy to help. You may reach us at at 1-800-676-2775, Mon-Fri 7 am-10 pm
  and 9 am-6 pm Sat-Sun (Central). Some change requests may extend your shipment
  date slightly. If we do not hear from you by February 18th, we will ship the
  MacBook Pro 2.0Ghz Intel Core Duo.

  Our systems will reflect the change to your order by February 15. Please visit for the
  most up-to-date information on your upgraded order.  A shipment notification,
  with tracking information, will be emailed to you as soon as your order is

  Thank you very much for shopping at the Apple Store!

  The Apple Store Team