Friday, February 28, 2014

Prog Thursday: Jolly

Who?  Jolly?  Never heard of them?  Neither did I not so long ago, now I'm a Jelly (that's how Jolly nicknames their fans).  Only 3 albums under their belt and already on the 2014 Prognation at Sea cruise should tell you something.

For the sake of labeling Jolly, think of them as "alt-prog-metal".  Or as I like say: think of Tool but happy, as weird as this may sound.

Caught these guys live a few months ago opening for Scale the Summit and The Reign of Kindo (me no likey but my buddy bought their CDs - they more jazz-prog).  Franly, they stole the show in my book, so the next thing I did was to check out their material online, listened to The Audio Guide to Happiness Vols 1 & 2 then went to iTunes to have my own copies of these fantastic albums.

You don't need to start with Vol 1 but it does not hurt.  Vol 2 is their best one yet, and it's amazing.  Designed with bi-neural tones (yeah had to look it up too) and this is supposed to make you happy.  Don't know if it works but the music is great so that makes me happy by definition.

If you like your prog creative & loud, this is worth your time.  Here is a playlist for  listening

Where to buy

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Windows 8.1 Spring Update coming

Good news - Microsoft will release a new update this spring which is supposed to bring back our much-missed Start Menu.  Finally, Microsoft listens to users, their original move to go for a revolution instead of evolution has hampered their adoption rate of Windows 8 therefore revenues.  I appreciate the place where they're at, no longer king of the mountain, and that should force them to innovate.

Alternately, I've been using Pokki as a replacement.  Does the job for now.  Looking forward to the spring update.  Curious to see what's going to happen with the new CEO as well.


In the only Olympic contest which really matters (hey I'm Canadian) we won Gold!!!  No surprise but lots of nail-biting, and a few interesting facts in these hockey Olympics:

  • Canada won (yes that's interesting)
  • USA, Russia have no medals.  In many people's opinion, USA empty-handed was not supposed to happen, indeed a surprise. 
  • Latvia beats the Swiss team then loses 2-1 to Canada - and only 2-1.  What an amazing performance by this goalie.
  • Carey Price played over 150 minutes without letting one go in the net.  Locally you have 2 types of folks, those who love having Carey in the nets and those who claim we should have kept Halak a few years ago.  Guess the team made the right choice.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Prog Thursday: Anathema's Weather System

Once in a while listening to online radio stations your head turns around, looking at the screen/app/speakers and you end up asking ""hatwhazzat?" - and Anathema's Weather System album hit the target right in the middle for this reaction.

To be fair I only own their last two studio albums (Weather Systems is the latest, We're here because we're here is the predecessor) so I have not been following them for a while (say like Riverside) so I'm a new fan, and am I ever happy to be one.

Anathema's sound to me is a mix of concepts, textures, melodies and beautiful arrangements, and for the majority (if not all) the album feels like a well put together piece of music where all the songs end up making a greater whole (think of The Beatles together Vs separately if you will).  Each following song takes off where the previous left, which is hard to accomplish the right way.

If you're into Porcupine Tree or Gazpacho, give it a whirl, it will prove to be quite satisfying.  Here is a YouTube clip of the whole album so you can kick the tires and wonder where this band has been all your life:

Where to buy:

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Fix your home router - and I mean now.

Beyond your PC(s), what is the most insecure item in your home network?  Printer?  Naaah.  iOS device like your iPad?  Naaaah.  Android device?  Tempting but naaaaaah.  Wireless router which acts as your network security for Internet connectivity?  You betcha.

It hit the wire this week that Polish hackers used compromised home routers to stage man-in-the-middle attacks on banks, and I'm not surprised.  In laymens' terms, when you log onto your bank's web site, you let hackers in.  This article outlines the details, some geekspeak included but not too bad.

The real thing here for home users is how do I protect myself?  Here are a few avenues and really folks, it's not that hard.

  1. Update your home router's firmware regularly.  Either check monthly for firmware updates on your vendor's web site or subscribe to their newsletters if they offer some.  Vendors will plug holes for your devices, it falls on you to apply the fixes.  This is by far the easiest way &  does not cost a dime, just schedule it in your smartphone and you should be all set.
  2. If your level of geekhood is up to it, or if you want to take a chance, try an alternative firmware for your router.  What-is-that-thing-you-just-said?  Well for years now communities of hackers (the types who tinker with stuff, not the bad evil ones) have built firmware releases for consumer devices based on Linux.  The most famous/popular one is DD-WRT and if you're willing to follow the steps, the process is fairly easy to go from your stock firmware to the DD-WRT one.  You get a more robust level of security, additional feature and you know what - it's free.   Warning - you can brick your device.
  3. If you have an old PC (say a 1Ghz & up with 512Mb ram, 2 network cards & a small hard drive) you can build your own firewall, but on steroids.  Many flavors exist (Endian, Sophos UTM Home Edition, Smoothwall, Untangle & many others) and what I use is the Sophos one, bear in mind the ones I listed are all good choices.  If you have issues with running Windows 7/8 on a PC stay away from this but if you have the desire to know more, give these packages a whirl.

    Do you have network-based intrusion detection/prevention on your home network?  I do.  I don't have critical data but better safe than sorry.  For WiFi in the house I use a Netgear 3500L with DD-WRT (turn off the DHCP server on the router if you wan to do this otherwise you've got 2 competing).
Netgear & Linksys were the two identified brands, but don't rest easy if you use another brand.  The same problem will happen sooner or later I guess to others.

'hope this helps more than confuses, but if you have questions drop a comment below.

Stay safe!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

BBQ section updated

For everybody's eating pleasure, I updated the BBQ section on the blog.  Feel free to head over, snoop & leave comments/questions.  We're still buried under snow but it does not matter, grilling is for all seasons!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Free shareware anyone?

Like everybody I like good free software (thinking of 7-Zip, GIMP, VLC & others) and once in a while you need a tool for a specific job like data recovery and end up in the world of shareware.  Problem is trial versions - not that they expire but they're crippled.  I hate that, I want to give a full kick to the tires before I buy.

Bu sheer luck I landed on Shareware On Sale and found a few tools which are worth it.  Subscribe to the daily newsletter and you'll be kept up to date of their new free (or almost free) offerings.  Even saw stuff from Cyberlink there, but not all is good, keep your eyes open & some will have adwarew.  Worth a peek at least and some Mac stuff shows up as well.  Enjoy!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Awesome ads

Being a bit of an ad junkie, saw this posted on Facebook and thought it was worth re-sharing.  In my book the Superbowl is there to enjoy ads, because setting up 2 mins for a 5 seconds play is just too looooooong. :)


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Quick chicken fajitas

Here is a quick way to marinate chicken for fajitas:

  • Cut chicken breasts into layers
  • Mix in a bowl the chicken with eyeballed quantities:
    • Lemon juice
    • Olive oil
    • Roughly chopped garlic
    • Paprika
    • Salt
    • Pepper
    • Ground cumin
    • Ground Mexican chilies
  • Let it sit in the fridge 2 to 24 hours, the longer the better.
  • Stir-fry in a bit of olive oil, serve with the usual suspects
Kids love it last night, will repeat.  No rocket science involved to make a good family dinner.  Not the most sophisticated but appreciated.

Prog Thursday: Eloy's Ocean

Never heard of Eloy?  Don't feel so ashamed, most have not if they're born outside of Germany after 1975.  I heard of this band by sheer luck having beers in a bar talking to a friend of a friend, and what a great discovery that proved to be, since I now own the majority of their albums.

Eloy feels like a cross between say Genesis (concepts, melodies), Deep Purple (keyboards).  The top album in IMHO is Ocean from 1977.   Simply put: the rise & fall of Atlantis in 4 tracks totaling 44 minutes.  If you like the classic progressive rock era (Pink Floyd, Genesis, Yes, King Crimson, ELP, etc.), the "spacey" kind, you will find this album rewarding and something you will go back to.

Below is the YouTube clip of the whole album, give it a whirl.  Next albums I'd recommend in order: Dawn, Silent Cries & Mighty Echoes, Power & The Passion, Colors.

Where to buy:

Personal note: I always buy my music because musicians need to eat too.  Especially true where I listen to a lot of band which never make it to the mainstream, supporting them is quite important otherwise they'll just quit.  And frankly that's theft anyway, regardless if it's from an evil faceless corporation :)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

LinkedIn tips for job seekers

My buddy Alex (and we actually met through LinkedIn) has published a free document to get the most out of LinkedIn when you are looking for a new job.

It's full of good stuff if your profile is on the "light" side.  If you don't advertise yourself, they can't find you.  And recruiters are all on LinkedIn.  Simple, no?

Grab your free copy by clicking here.

Stupid Cooking Trick

Last night was making an Indian beef-coconut stew which involved some green chilies.  Of course I did the most stupid thing in the world after cutting the said chilies, I rubbed my left eye with one of my hands.

Holy hot peppers Batman!

Never, I mean, never do this.  It hurts like you stick a stack of needles in your eyes.  No wonder crowd control forces use cayenne pepper sprays.

So I yelled out to my oldest to come over & Google me'up a fix to this issue and came up with this.  Pretty simple and calmed the pain down after a few minutes.  Remember the eye-rinsing faucets in chemistry labs?  I could have used one last night.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

XMBC Media Center

In the living room the media center used to be a PS3 but in the last six months or so the DLNA client has just gone buggy and its hard to play a whole album without it stopping for no reason.

So I decided to make my own media center.

Bravery or folly? Not so much, a bit of Googling and tinkering brought me a very usable result. My U/I of choice is XBMC, if your have not taken it for a ride it's very cool & simple to use.  I did not want to put a full-blown PC by the TV, something more discreet was preferred and since its a media player, did not want to blow a fortune (you can get a brand-name device for $50+).

So I went the way of the Raspberry PI, a "system-on-a-chip" board with 10/100 networking, 2x USB & most importantly an HDMI port.  And it goes for $25.  Complement that with a SDHC 8GB card, electricals & a case from these guys along with their IR receiver (for the Logitech Harmony of course).

I tinkered for a while as there are 3 Linux distributions made for the RPi with XBMC and settled on OpenELEC, for speed & compatibility with the IR receiver.  Once set up I added NFS support to my NAS (Synology 212J) so access is as fast as possible, configured it and voila, a media center for the living room which outpaces most of the commercial ones.  The only think missing (for now I hope) is Netflix support.

Love it for all the features (including the weather but you could look outside), the flexibility & the overall look.  Performance is as good as any commercial product I've tried so far (limited to only a few brands).  Plus a bunch of add-ons are available (my wife is very happy that I put the Songza one), and supports Airplay (which I found choppy) so for now no AppleTV (can't stream directly the content of my NAS for music & movies as far as I know).

There is a new version coming of XBMC (13 codename Gotham), I'll get a new SDHC card to try it out so I won't mess up what I've got working.

Try it for fun on Windows, Linux or MacOS (even Android), time well spent.  Here is a sample pic of  the main U/I:

Hello, world, again

Over the years I've put blogs on & off online, and why not, I'm at it again.  Here is what I have in mind for this one:

  • Share home IT/tech stuff (always fun)
  • Share food stuff (we all gotta eat, let's make it fun!)
  • Share parenting / family information (always useful)
  • The occasional funny item (we all gotta laugh!)
  • Music suggestions (folks who know me will not be surprised)
Please subscribe, read & comment!