Interesting Reading

A few articles I’ve come across in the past week, or so, that I thought I’d share:

  1. 5 Myths We Need to Can About Soda TaxesLike bears to honey or zombies to brains, politicians find something irresistible about soda taxes … From the Washington Post.
  2. On Duct Tape –  Response to an ongoing conversation about Coders at Work and an article from Joel Spolsky. This response from Tim Bray. … Via Tim’s blog.
  3. Ants vs. worms – Not a new video game, though that would be sweet! Since ants are pretty good at finding and combating enemies in the natural world, a team of researchers decided to try reproducing an ant-type model on computer networks. … From H-Online.
  4. Journalists have OpinionsSeriously. If anyone things that all journalists are non-biased, they have to be crazy. As a side note, good article by John Stossel about having an opinion. … Via Reason Online.
  5. When is a Tax not a Tax?When the President wants to claim its not! President Obama campaigned on a promise not to raise taxes on Americans who earn less than $250,000 per year, yet he has endorsed policies that look a lot like taxes on those people. … Via Donald Marron’s blog

If you’re interested in more articles that I’ve shared recently, check out the Recommended Reading tab at the top.

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-09-27

Encryption, Decryption, AES, PGP, Oh My!

Professor Stick talks AES
Professor Stick talks AES

Jeff Moser has an enlightened, and entertaining explanation of the Advanced Encryption Standard on his web site, Moserware. As Jeff describes the explanation, its a play in four acts. I had to exit the stage when the stick figure professor got into the heavy math, but it was a great lesson, none the less.

You can head on over to Jeff’s site to check it all out. In fact, I suggest reading it, even if you’re not really that into encryption standards and technology. Its a great primer.

Jeff also posted some sample files about how to use AES on GitHub, which got me thinking about an encryption / decryption article I wrote recently. For the PGP Decryption with C Sharp post I wrote, I created a handy sample application and a small library, both of which are available on this site today.

I haven’t really done anything with GitHub, despite its simplicity and audience. So today, after my AES education with Professor Stick, I decided to setup a GitHub account and share my PGP Encryption with C Sharp examples there too.

Enjoy.

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-09-20

Storing Files on Optical Media

For a number of years now, nearly a decade, I’ve been saving files for backup and archival on to optical media. In the early 2000’s, I was using CD-Rs as my primary backup media and more recently, I’ve been using DVD-Rs. In recent years, I’ve mostly been concerned with archiving my photos. With two little ones at home, I tend to take a lot of pictures, and I’d like to keep those around.

In fact, just the other day, I came across a backup CD from 2000. The label was something descriptive like, August 2000 Backup, so I put it in my MacBook and it loaded right up. By the way, lots of useless crap on that CD. I have no idea why I thought I needed to archive that stuff… But at least the CD was still in good working order. Good news, right?

Not so fast my friends…

Optical Media
Optical Media

I was reading through some threads this morning on a Mac that were talking about interesting ways to create contact sheets for DVDs that contain lots of archived photos. One of the comments pointed to a New York Times blog about the shelf life of optical media, stating that many low end DVDs have a shelf life of less than 5 years. Yikes!

Now, in my mind, the New York Times doesn’t have the best record when it comes to the telling the whole story, or in some cases, the truth at all… So I set out to do a bit research to see just how long I could expect my newly imprinted DVDs to last.

The US Government has some interesting information about using optical media to temporarily store data. There are several links at the bottom of that FAQ that are also worth while.

One of the studies, Using CDs for Data Storage, is definitely worth while. It only talks about compact discs, but it is somewhat reassuring.

According to the National Media Laboratory’s findings, CDs could be relied on for data storage for at least five years, and that the best quality CDs could provide reliable data storage for at least 50 years.

That’s better news… At least for the useless crap I backed-up to CD back in the day. The study above doesn’t talk about DVDs and that’s what we’re all using today, so the search continued.

Seeing how Wikipedia is the destination for all knowledge today, I decided to poke around there to see what I could find. At last, something reassuring about all those DVDs filled with family pictures.

Per Wikipedia (link):

According to the Optical Storage Technology Association (OSTA), “manufacturers claim life spans ranging from 30 to 100 years for DVD, DVD-R and DVD+R discs and up to 30 years for DVD-RW, DVD+RW and DVD-RAM”, although a manufacturer of 24-karat gold-based DVDs claims lifespans of up to 300 years.

The Optical Storage Technology Association has further information about using optical media as an archive medium. According to their page, Understanding DVD – Disc Longevity:

The life span of a written disc depends upon a number of factors including such things as the intrinsic properties of the materials used in the disc’s construction, the quality of its manufacture, how well it is recorded and the way it has been handled and stored.

In plain English, I read that as, “the life span of your DVD depends”, or “we really don’t want to commit to a specific time frame”, but thank you for buying…

I was talking with Jim while I was doing the research to write this up. He had a great idea for extending the life of your DVD media.

Store the DVD in a jewel case, then use one of those vacuum packed food storage bags to hold the jewel cases.

Yeah, I’ll get right on that.

You know, I learned something today.

  1. Take good care of the optical media you use.
  2. Buy high quality DVDs and/or CDs (stop buying the $4 for 100 CD spindles!)
  3. Disc Rot is a thing of the past (proof)
  4. Properly handled DVDs should last at least 5 years and likely much longer than that.
  5. No solution lasts forever… You’re going to have to move those archives to some new media at some point.


Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-09-13

Tailgating Report – Week 1

I’m a little behind on my posting, with the long weekend, and all the other stuff going on. As I’m sure you’ve all guessed, we had a great time tailgating for the season opener of Syracuse Football.

Our group of tailgaters has grown this year. Bruno, Jim, Lauren, and Steve are still there, and we’ve added Jon and Cristina to this year’s group. A larger group means increased logistics. How do we get everyone there, in the same place and relatively on time? I have to say that for the first week of the tailgating season, we managed to do pretty well.

Lauren claims that he was the first one to make it to Bruno’s house – our first rally point. Never mind the fact that he wasn’t there when I got there, but we’ll let him take the honors. He wasn’t on time once last year.

We had a pretty extensive list of items to bring for the party for the first day.

  1. Beer
  2. Beer
  3. Other kind of beer
  4. Fruity drinks – mostly for Bruno
  5. Sort of healthy chicken wings
  6. Very delicious brats
  7. Snacks
  8. More snacks
  9. Chairs
  10. Grill
  11. Footballs, nerf and pseudo-leather

Our plan was to head for the SU Hill around 9 a.m., so we would have plenty of time to prepare for the first Syracuse Orange Football, which just happened to be the same day.

We executed that plan flawlessly, and managed to get both vehicles to the right place, at the same time! Unfortunately, our normal party parking lot was already full. Not to mention that the price for parking was $20. W. T. F. We’re all trying to remember, but we’re pretty sure that parking, while expensive, wasn’t $20 at any point last year. Again; W. T. F.

As a point of reference, we’re only paying $100 for 8 home game tickets.

With our normal lot full, we headed out for parts unknown. We found some on street, free, parking right next to a sweet grass median along fraternity row. We got everyone parked and setup our camp – without having to pay $40 in parking!

After one, or two cold ones, we broke out the grill and feasted on some very tasty food. Bruno’s better half, Sara and their daughter Marissa were even there for a while to help celebrate.

The tailgating got us all in the right frame of mind for SU Football. We made our way to the Dome along with about 40,000 others. The only other time we’ve seen that many people for a game was last year when the entire population of Pennsylvania invaded the dome to see Penn State crush the Orange.

After fighting our way into the dome, we found a few more adult beverages and made our way to our seats. We were treated to a 7 – 0 score – with more than 12 minutes to go in the first quarter. Ugh. Shades of the GRob era. Amazingly, the team made a strong showing in the first half, and lead going into halftime.

Unfortunately for the “48,000” fans in the Dome, the team looked a lot like last year’s team. There was a strong de-motivation speech during halftime. The Orange failed to make adjustments and Minnesota dominated the play in the second half. The game ended tied at 20 and we were forced to watch overtime.

Thank God that we were in the right frame of mind for the game. The Dome, also known as the Carrier Dome, was freaking hot. Yes, Carrier, the air conditioner makers. Too bad they don’t have any in the Dome.

I’ll give credit to the fans… A vast majority stayed to see the whole show. That’s very different from last year when the stadium was nearly empty by the end of the third.

Anyway, on to OT Action! Syracuse gets the ball, does a lot of stuff that hadn’t been working for the entire second half and fails to score. Paulus did try to make a heck of a play, but threw an interception, which basically sealed the teams fate.

Minnesota moved the ball about 15 yards, centered it and kicked a field goal to win the game. The whole crowed seemed to feel like it had been sucker punched.

Oh well… There’s always the 19th of September – that’s Week 2 of tailgating, in case you’re wondering. 7 p.m. game, no telling when the party will start.


Twitter Weekly Updates for 2009-09-06

Visual Studio – ClickOnce Deployment

ClickOnce is a feature of Visual Studio 2008 that allows a developer to quickly and fairly easily create a deployment package for their software.

ClickOnce Publish Wizard Dialogue
ClickOnce Publish Wizard Dialogue

The ClickOnce feature supports two types of applications – installed applications and online applications. The installed applications are similar to traditional Windows applications that appear in the start menu and can be removed with Add/Remove Programs. The online applications are hosted in the browser and not actually installed on the local machine.

As Wikipedia notes:

ClickOnce enables the user to install and run a Windows application by clicking a link in a web page. The core principle of ClickOnce is to bring the ease of deployment of web applications to the Windows user. In addition, ClickOnce aims to solve three other problems with conventional deployment models: the difficulty in updating a deployed application, the impact of an application to the user’s computer, and the need for administrator permissions to install applications.

ClickOnce applications can be deployed to a computer from a web site, a network share, and from traditional media like CD and DVD.

You may be wondering why I’m talking about such a seemingly trivial process… Well, in the past week, I’ve been working with ClickOnce, and while it is easy, and it does make deployment of an application really simple, it has a few quirks that are rather annoying.

It seems so simple!
It seems so simple!

When you’re creating an application you will often add additional files to the project, important files that are needed to ensure the application works properly. My recent project had a couple of PGP Key Rings that it absolutely had to have in order to operate.

Visual Studio assumes that the files you’ve added are only there to be viewed and that those files are not important to the running of your application. Therefore, those files are excluded, by default, when you create a deployment package with ClickOnce.

After a bit of trial and error, and a number of Google searches, I finally came across an excellent tutorial on including important files in the deployment package for ClickOnce. If you’re fighting with ClickOnce, like I was, please check out Neil Knobbe’s ClickOnce Deployment – Deploying files with your application.

Enjoy!