June 30, 2008
For the longest time I haven't really done any official monitoring of my hosted server. However, over the last few months I have become more and more dependent on my server being available 100% of the time. A little over a month ago I got a tip from Andrew, a buddy of mine, that he had just started using a service called Pingdom. I signed up for the 30 day trial and was very impressed with the polish and ease of use of the service. For under $10/month you get the basic service, which allows you to monitor up to 5 different services. It is highly configurable, allowing you to specify how long a service has to be down before notifying you, how many times to re-notify you and many other options. Pingdom can notify you by email or SMS text message. Along with the uptime monitoring they also provide response time monitoring as well. This allows you to see how responsive your site is in a given date range. Here is the average daily response time for this site for the month of June:
As you can see, I need to work on the response time. The reporting is great, the service is rock solid, they have a blog where they openly communicate with everyone and they even have an API to get at your data in case you need to do some extra reporting. In my short time using Pingdom I haven't experienced any issues with the service at all, and I can easily recommend it to anyone who is serious about uptime monitoring.
June 26, 2008
This evening I received an invitation for iRacing from one of the fine gentlemen in the rFactor league I run with. When I first heard about iRacing a few years ago I was very excited. I ran in a Grand Prix Legends league for a couple of years, and it was my introduction to online sim racing. iRacing is made by the same people that made Grand Prix Legends, and they've been working on it for around the last 4-5 years (maybe more). iRacing is so radically different from every other racing sim, I don't even know how to properly describe it. Let me put it this way: if you're not a hardcore sim racer then stay away from this. It has a monthly subscription fee starting at $13, and it comes with very few cars and tracks to choose from. When you first purchase the game you start with a rookie license, and only 2 cars to choose from.
When I first found this out a few weeks ago I was appalled that you don't get more for your money. But after spending the last 3 solid hours with this game I can fully understand what they're doing here. This isn't Project Gotham Racing. This isn't Forza. This is a tight community where you have to earn your right to race. This works just like any form of real racing. If you constantly smash up your car you're never going graduate to the next license level, and you won't get the faster cars. You can purchase more cars and tracks, but that's not the point of this game. This really is a simulation. With only 2 cars and a handful of tracks to start with it gives you the chance to figure out how each car works on each track, without being overwhelmed with dozens of cars to learn. Speaking of cars, this is my baby in iRacing: the #32 Pontiac Solstice.
So far I have only participated in 1 full race event, but it was intense. Every time you drive off the track, or make contact with another car you get points taken off your license. You need these points to progress through the different licenses, so you need to drive as cleanly as possible. My race took place at the Lime Rock Park circuit. It's a decent beginners track with a short lap time of just over a minute and not very many corners. I managed to qualify 2nd and started on the front row. When the lights turned green I got the jump on the field and was in the lead by the first turn. I managed to hold the lead until I spun a couple of laps in. Oops, a spin cost me some points... time to ease off and finish in one piece. Once the dust had settled and the race was over I finished in 3rd place. I spun a few times and had a few excursions onto the grass, but I managed to earn points towards my license, so it was a net gain. I learned a lot from this first race, and I can't wait to play again tomorrow night.
June 24, 2008
I'm very happy to announce the release of FileSeek v1.5 today. This release includes some important fixes, and a couple of new features. Most notably, the exclusion pattern is now applied to folders as well as files. For the complete list of changes I invite you to check out the change log.
I encourage everyone who is running an older version to update today. If you have auto-update checking enabled in FileSeek you will be prompted to update next time you use it.
June 23, 2008
After using the Vertigo theme for the last 7 months I've decided that it's time to freshen things up a little bit around here. My biggest problem with my previous theme was the poor page navigation. I have too many pages, and listing them all on the right-hand sidebar was getting a bit unwieldy. This time, I have settled on a theme called Fresh News. It condenses the navigation into drop-down menus along the top of the page, which leaves the right-hand sidebar much cleaner.
The new theme is the first step to creating consistency across all of my applications. I have also picked up a fantastic icon set called Icon Experience: V-Collections which will be used in all future application releases. I will slowly be re-releasing all of my applications with numerous bug fixes, new icons and fully signed executables for full Windows Vista support. This is not a small undertaking, but I am hoping to release 1 application per week.
As always, if you find any problems, or if you have any suggestions please contact me. I welcome any feedback you might have.
June 19, 2008
For those of you who are still running Windows XP on at least one of their computers (like me) and have upgraded to the latest version of Firefox, you may have noticed how ugly the default theme has become. It has a mix of green, red, yellow and blue buttons and seriously lacks consistency. Yuck! Well, courtesy of LifeHacker, I discovered a theme called Vista on XP. The theme is marked as experimental so you will need to login, but that's a small price to pay for this glorious eye candy. You can go from this abomination:
June 15, 2008
I would like to send out a big thanks to about a dozen people that found DisplayFusion included in the July 2008 issue of Maximum PC. As a result, they all received shiny new DisplayFusion Pro licenses. If you would like to find out how you can take advantage of this great offer, just visit the In the News page for more information.
June 4, 2008
Yesterday on Slashdot I came across an article that claimed "Firefox Appears Ready to Crack 20% Share Next Month". It links to a ComputerWorld article that talks about how Firefox has been gaining web browser market share, and how it is poised to pass 20%. I have a real problem with these metrics though, as they really don't tell the whole story. A site like Slashdot is probably already around the 50% mark, while other sites that cater to a less technical audience are probably well below the 20% mark. So which numbers are correct? Should you just take them both and average them? I don't think there's a right answer, but in the interest of putting fuel on the fire I thought I would share my browser usage numbers. Here's a spiffy chart that shows browser usage for BinaryFortress.com in May 2008.
As you can see, Firefox has already surpassed Internet Explorer with Opera and Safari trailing well behind. Take the numbers with a grain of salt though, every site out there will have different percentages.
May 28, 2008
I would like to send a big thanks out to Rolf Beev from Norway. He discovered DisplayFusion in the May 2008 issue of PC World Norge. He was able to send me scans of the cover and article, and in exchange I sent him a shiny new DisplayFusion Pro license. If you would like to find out how you can take advantage of this great offer, just visit the In the News page for more information.
May 16, 2008
Why don't all cars have aux ports? Seriously, our car was made in 2004, I'm pretty sure that MP3 players were pretty standard back then. Why can't I plug anything into the car stereo? Something needed to be done. But first a bit of back-story. Our car's CD player is pretty much crap, and always has been. It's just a plain factory deck and has always struggled with burned CDs. So, my wife and I had two choices. We could either buy a new aftermarket deck with an aux port, or we could buy and iPod and a 3rd party aux port kit. We chose option number two. We recently purchased an iPod, and both of our kids have their own small MP3 players, so we thought it would be best for everyone if we could just add an aux port to the factory deck. After much too Googling I came across a company called "PIE" who specializes in aftermarket aux port kits. Perfect! The kit for my car cost around $50 and simply plugs into the CD changer port on the back of the deck.
It is such a simple idea, and the instruction page had just 6 steps. What could possible go wrong! Here's a quick picture of the Neon's factory deck.
I'm not sure what that gap below the deck is for, I'm assuming it's where the tape player would go if we had one. But, luckily for us, it's almost the perfect size to fit this aux port adapter. Step one was to pry the bezel off from around all the dials and knobs. I thought this would be easy until I discovered 2 hidden screws behind the 2 vent covers at the top. Once I discovered this (and luckily didn't break anything) it popped right off.
Once the bezel was off, the radio and the plugs below it came out very easily and I could see what I was up against. I discovered that I would need drill a big hole in the back of that little tray thing for the wires to feed through. Easy enough, and it worked like a champ.
Unfortunately the aux kit adapter (with it's big cable on the back) was a bit too big for this little tray thing, and it sticks out a bit. Not a big deal though, it's only out about 1cm.
Once everything was screwed back together and the wires were all connected it was time for a test drive.
Success! I'd like to thank my lovely hand model, Mrs. Wife. The sounds quality is as perfect as you can get from an iPod and I'll never have to fiddle around with any of those FM transmitters. I also got a 2m cable that stretches to the back seat for the kids to use. This will work well for road trips, as they will be able to control their own music without bugging us every two minutes. Win-win for everyone. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to install this kit. It only costs a little more than an FM transmitter but the price difference is well worth it. I can't wait for our road trip to Ottawa next weekend to give the whole system a try.
May 13, 2008
Do you love hashes? I do! Well, they're helpful when it comes to checking the integrity of a file. That's the reason I created HashTools back in January of 2007, over 1 year ago. This latest release clears up some long-standing issues and adds some much needed features. The new feature I find most useful is the ability to drag and drop files into the HashTools interface. Another new feature that I find myself using quite frequently is the ability for HashTools to automatically load and compare a hash when checking a file. For example, if you are generating an MD5 hash for a file called "MyFile.iso", HashTools will check for a file called "MyFile.md5". If this file exists, it will be loaded and HashTools will compare the hash contained in this file against the generated hash. Maybe this is a feature that only I will find useful, but I hope at least one other person will too.
Check out HashTools today!