And even more Macintosh parodies

August 25, 2007

I think my fascination with these homegrown parodies of Apple’s Macintosh ads has to do less with the fact that I work for the "other" company and more to do with the fact that none of these parodies are in any way generated or encouraged by Microsoft.  I mean think about it:  The public have taken the time to completely produce these parodies & digs on their own.

See, the irritating feeling that we vendors have is that there’s a company out there that’s persistently & publicly pissing on their competition – a tactic that most professional companies view as low brow.  While everyone mutters things behind closed doors, bashing your competition in public is essentially negative campaigning and there’s an unsaid agreement between vendors that you just don’t engage in these tactics because it creates he-said-she-said fingerpointing between vendors that ultimately hurts and frustrates customers and distracts from their real needs.

Take for instance their stab at Windows Vista’s User Account Controls.  Y’know, the whole "Allow or Deny" ad where PC guy is asked insistently whether to allow or deny an action.  They make a big deal about this except their naturally fail to mention that:

  • This doesn’t happen if you’re running signed, authorized software
  • This clearly informs users of what level of rights/ability the application requires before proceeding to do it… like, I don’t know, FORMATTING YOUR HARD DRIVE
  • Windows Vista is the only consumer operating system to provide this facility in an insecure world

While slamming your competition might be what you’d expect, what’s annoying is that it’s similar to the run-and-gun guerilla tactics that you see terrorists take to get people’s attention.  Blow up building, distract people from the real issues, and defocus on your own inadequacies.  (This also sounds like a certain prominent politician’s tactics around addressing a domestic agenda, but I digress.)

From an inexperienced computer user’s viewpoint, the fear, uncertainty, and doubt generated by these ads act as a deceptive "shiny object" that defocuses their attention from their personal computing goals. "PCs have to add on cameras.  Macs have them built in.  PCs have user access controls.  Macs have no such ‘annoying’ protection."  From a experienced computing customer’s perspective, it’s usually a sign that a vendor is desperate – after all, if no one’s talking about you,

But it’s admittedly effective.  People pay attention. 

What’s been entertaining about all of this however is that so many people have watched these ads over and over again that it’s generated a backlash.  So much so that there’s an entire COUNTER CULTURE around Apple’s ads.  Just take a look at the oodles of 3rd party Macintosh ad parodies.  And I haven’t even listed HALF of them:

There’s also the "historically interesting" videos that have been sprouting:

And then there’s the "avant garde" videos:

COOL: The lowest power light bulb ever!

August 25, 2007

dragon fish bulbImagine having a light bulb similar in size to a normal 60W light bulb, except:

  • It lasted 13 years of continuous usage
  • It used only 15 watts of power
  • It delivered the full spectrum of light, unlike most fluorescent bulbs.

Introducing the LED light – "The Dragonfish":

Here are some comparisons to fluorescent and incandescent bulbs:

There’s only one litttttttle tiny problem:  The bulb isn’t available yet and it costs around $120.

The Story of Pablo, the Katrina rescue dog – and his court case

August 25, 2007

Check this out:

  1. A dog, Pablo, is forcibly left behind in Katrina.
  2. He is found by a rescue organization called Best Friends and handed over to an Arizona shelter to care & feeding.  The Arizona shelter, stupidly, has the dog adopted by a couple even though there is a clear 6 month moratorium on adoptions of dogs found from Katrina because of the possibility of their family searching for them.
  3. Sure enough, a woman from Louisiana who was displaced and lost Pablo returns two months later after searching for Pablo and eventually finding him through Best Friends.
  4. The couple that adopts Pablo moved to San Diego and refuses to give up Pablo claiming the woman ‘has the wrong dog’ and that Pablo ISN’T ‘Pablo’ despite marking identification, the fact that Pablo responds to the name Pablo, and other identifying evidence.

    Then this couple does the unthinkable and communicates through a 3rd party that, despite their claims that Pablo isn’t the woman’s dog, that they’ll give up the dog for $10,000.

    Yes, you read that right:  These low lifes held a dog hostage from a victim of Hurricane Katrina.

  5. Woman takes the couple to court for 4 months.  Animal enthusiasts the world over funnel their unmitigated loathing for this couple.
  6. Katrina Dog Goes to Court

  7. The judge rules in favor of the woman.

  9. Woman tells her account of leaving her life behind but fighting to get back Pablo.
  10. Pablo’s Verdict: Firsthand Account

  11. Pablo returns home.
  12. Pablo Goes Home

What I found most interesting was the anger that clearly seeped through Best Friends reporting on this issue.  Best Friends is notoriously positive and clear-in-spirit when it comes to talking about animal matters… however in this case, it sounds to me that for the first time that I’d read, the reporting was VERY CLEARLY ANGRY about the matter.  Heck – it sounded like the folks from Best Friends were looking for some old west justice in the whole matter, from the screw up in Arizona, to the selfish, heartless idiots in San Diego.

I think that’s probably why there was so much reporting done on their end.  It was probably cathartic.

One things sticks in my mind: 
There’s a very special place in hell reserved for this money grubbing San Diegan couple.

Dog Talk… a podcast for folks that like dogs.

August 25, 2007

I know what you’re thinking… and you’re probably right.  Maybe I like dogs a little more than I should.  But I don’t care.  I’m sure it has something to do with having gone to 6 different schools from K-12  and finding solace in talking to the family pet while growing up, (in case anyone’s wondering why I became a touch typist at the age of 11, it may have something to do with the arrival of an IBM PC in our home with 64k of memory) but those are the things that make us who we are, aren’t they?

Anyway, I digress.

image I found this really cool podcast for dogs the other day.  It’s actually an NPR radio show of sort, and while I’m not exactly a fan of NPR, this is one of those rare exceptions.  The radio show broadcasts from WLIU 88.3FM in Long Island and Connecticut and features a woman named Tracie Hotchner who wrote a book called "The Dog Bible:  Everything your dog wants you to know"

For example:  In a recent broadcast, she talked about tear stains on a dog’s eyes.  She goes over what causes it and what remedies exist for it… and which ones to avoid – and that part was particularly interesting because it technically opens her up to litigation being that she’s making accusations about what makes a product bad or good or even dangerous as she sort of insinuates.

Even more interesting is that it would appear that outside of the folks she invites on the show, she herself is not a veterinarian or "dog trained".  She’s an investigative journalist with a long history with dogs but not necessarily a specific expert on dogs or dog behavior.  It would appear she gets her information from experts and he own research before she broadcasts.  In any case, she certainly makes an interesting podcast. 

The web site is here:

Annnnnd here’s the podcast link:  If you’ve never used a podcast receiver before, basically all you do is load up Juice for Windows (), and add the URL below into your Subscriptions list (on the "subscriptions" tab of the program) and it will automatically reach out and give you a catalog of all the previous podcasts and allow you to automatically download any new podcasts whenever they’re available by checking every 4 hours.  And if you have a Media Player of sorts like a Rio Carbon or a Zune you can use either Windows Media Player’s sync capability to automatically sync the content to your player, or if it’s a Zune, you can use that client to do so as well.  (Or do whatever the analogous action is with the iPod software if you own one of those)


August Discounts for Las Vegas

August 23, 2007

I stole some of the discounts available from PS Love’s blogsite and added some markup of my own.  God bless ya, Pam.

All RSS Feeds for MGM Mirage locations are available here:

Isn’t BluRay superior technology with it’s 50GB capacity? OH HELL NO.

August 21, 2007

So a good friend of mine, who likes to goad me on to start ranting asked a question similar to this:

Just because a technology is ‘superior’ doesn’t mean it’ll win.  Just look at BetaMax. Why is HD DVD any different?

Well, define ‘superior’.   Back in the days of BetaMax versus VHS, ‘superior’ meant better picture, higher density tapes, smaller packaging.  And it failed.  Why?  Because BetaMax tapes were more expensive as were the players and while they stored much higher quality video, they didn’t provide the ability to trade that fidelity for length of recording.  VHS did and was cheaper… and that was history.

When it comes to HD video, my definition of superiority is one in which the players and the discs are cheap.  My definition is one in which consumers like me get the option of Managed Copy.  My definition is one in which the Interactive experience of the disc is SUBSTANTIALLY DIFFERENT from what I get from standard definition.

And that last one is hugely important:  People bitch about how "HD" doesn’t look that much different from today’s standard definition DVD’s, and that’s because they aren’t looking at the menuing, the extra features, the Internet-connected interactivity, and the additional capabilities that the new format provides.

Get it?  IT’S NOT ABOUT STORAGE OR THE MEDIA CAPACITY.  BluRayheads want you to believe that the BluRay’s purported 50GB/disc is relevant compared to HD DVD’s 30GB/disc, and it’s just not. 

  • If it were, wouldn’t BluRay discs look better than HD DVD discs?  But they don’t.  Just check  These folks are experts and they’ll tell you, "Meh – there’s no difference".
  • If it were, you’d expect the extras on BluRay discs to be so much more bountiful and richer.  But they’re not – to the contrary, HD DVD extra content and interactivity is always better and more plentiful.  While some HD DVD discs are chock full of content and extra clips, its BluRay counterparts are often barren and virtually bereft of any additional content. 

    Just what are they planning on using all that extra space for anyway?

Take a look at the reviews of ‘Blood Diamond’ for HD DVD versus BluRay, and look at the ‘Extras’:

…HD DVD has 4 stars for Extras; BluRay has 1 1/2 stars.

How about ‘300’?  Again, take a look at the ‘Extras’:

…3 stars for HD DVD, vs ZERO-NIL-NADA stars for BluRay.

Here’s a funnier one.  Compare ‘Black Snake Moan’ and this time look at the Audio rating:

…how does a format with greater storage somehow suck ass when it comes to recording audio?

Again – ‘Happy Feet’.  Check out the Audio rating and the Extras rating:

And again, even with it’s supposedly superior storage, the HD DVD version had better sound and more extras.

And yet again – ‘March of the Penguins’.  Check out the Extras rating:

NEWS: Paramount declares ‘No more BluRay; We’re HD DVD only’

August 20, 2007

Oh snap.  Quoting my coworker, Andy Pennell:

An important day in the next-gen DVD format war: Paramount have announced that they are going HD DVD only, an important change from their previous neutrality. "Blades of Glory", "Transformers" and "Shrek the Third" are the initial announced titles. The press release quotes "market-ready technology" and "low manufacturing costs". Looks like they figured out that HD DVD is the more advanced format. Cool! Who is next I wonder to see through the BD Emperor’s clothes?


Wow.  3 new HD DVD exclusives:

  • Transformers
  • Shrek the Third
  • Blades of Glory

This joins other major HD DVD exclusives including Harry Potter movie series, The Matrix series, Heroes, Batman Begins, Battlestar Galactica, Oceans 11/12/13, and Blood Diamond (which has exclusive content on the HD version).

Yes, folks… it’s true.  HD DVD is a more consumer format, not to mention a more consumer friendly format.  I’ve written my own comparison/diatribe about why this is so, much to the behest of the "BluRay-stores-more-data-and-that’s-why-it’s-superior" crowd but Andy does a great job on a post here:

So why would a Microsoft geek push HD DVD?  Here’s a hint:

  • It has nothing to do with the XBox 360 HD DVD drive
    (We could just as easily make a BluRay drive available for the Xbox 360 since it’s all USB connected.  This is a quote from the XBox 360 product team.)
  • It has nothing to do with Microsoft’s war with Sony in the gaming console front
    (Recall that this is just a storage & organizational format.  We don’t have a bias toward magnetic Western Digital hard drives versus Seagate Hard drives… why would we care about optical disc formats?)
  • It has nothing to do with Microsoft’s historically good relationship with Toshiba
    (While Toshiba is the primary proponent of HD DVD, we have no skin in the game with regard to the format and it’s development.)

So why?  Why would Microsoft push HD DVD over BluRay?

  • Cost
    Each HD DVD disc costs less to manufacture, costs less to produce and master, and it’s players cost less to build by an average of $200 compared to BluRay.  Microsoft has a history or leveraging low cost, high volume technologies and HD DVD falls in line with this philosophy.
  • Managed Copy
    Managed Copy, or the right to make a limited number of copies of the movie to things like Zunes or Home Video Servers or XBox 360’s is a mandatory facility within all HD DVD players.  It’s completely optional on BluRay and as a result, it’s virtually never implemented because the studios are paranoid about people making copies.  This is also the reason why there’s more studio support behind BluRay than there is HD DVD.

    BTW:  This is the reason both Dell & HP ‘jumped ship’ and joined the HD DVD side of the house.  Once they realized that HD DVD provide more utility to their home PCs, HD DVD looked a lot more interesting.

  • Programmability
    HD DVD leverages iHD, a programming technology that enables extremely rich experiences – stuff like fancy menuing, interactive games & picture in picture video frames, video overlays that allow two videos to play side by side at once… and all use a DHTML development toolset that is universally guaranteed to playback and be 100% compatible on every HD DVD player.  Just ask a BluRay player owner if they’ve run into compatibility problems.  If they say no, they’re lying.  Half the BluRay players can’t even play traditional interactive menus without ROM upgrades because they leverage a derivative of Java that is frequently different depending on what player is being used – even with Sony’s own players!
  • Experience
    This is the big one:  HD DVD has outstanding interactive and visual elements that you expect to get from a next gen DVD technology.  Stuff like on screen editing & markup by the movie director, ‘circling mistakes on the screen’ or ‘show two clips side by side kind of like a before & after’ during the extras.  It’s all due to the programmability of HD DVD – a technology that Microsoft helped to foster and build.  BluRay has NONE OF THIS.

    As for performance and end user experience, just watch this video clip.  This is representative of the BluRay experience.
Video: The BluRay Enhanced Mode Experience

Two otters holding hands

August 19, 2007

The jaded & cynical person in me watched this for the first minute or so and said to myself, "Oh for crying out loud, they’re animals.  The contact is purely just incidental.  They probably just got their paws tangled."  And then they separated and everyone got sad. 

But as they approached each other again… well, just watch.

HOWTO: How to get an edge in Blackjack in 10 minutes (part 2)

August 18, 2007

[This is a continuation of the original post, "HOWTO: How to get an edge in Blackjack in 10 minutes (part 1)".  Please read Part 1 before reading this post.  Also I have to acknowledge that Fred Renzey is the individual that came up with this technique.  He wrote the book, "Blackjack Bluebook II" in which I believe he describes the A10 Count… however I’ve never read the book so I can’t really say much more than that.  I’ll let everyone know what it’s like as soon as I buy it.]

So now you know how to ‘count cards’.  Anyone can do it.  Simply by counting the A’s & 10 cards and watching to see that 2 decks have been dealt, you can knock the house edge from a typical .5% to an edge in your favor by as high as 1.2%.  I have to admit something however:  I left out some ‘advanced’ or ‘upper division’ information from the first post. 

The fact is, that having a A10 count of 36 and below doesn’t happen very often.  In fact, you’ll find that you only get a 36 count or less ONCE every FOUR shoes dealt.  That’s only 25% of the time.  Ouch.  So you can be playing for 3 entire shoes and never see a A10 rich shoe – i.e. a 36 count – for a while.

Even worse, you’ll find that 50% of the time, the shoe will result in in a count that’s 40 or higher and if you recall, the A10 Count rules state that when the count is 40 or higher, you should "wong out" i.e. leave the table or ‘go to the bathroom’ while the dealer watches your seat.

Overall, the fact that you’ll be playing through few decks where you have an edge means that rule #2 of Advantage Blackjack play is especially important when using this count: 

"Play within your means:  Always play with a bankroll of at least 100 betting units – optimally 150-200 betting units – and set your betting unit appropriately.  Compute your risk of ruin using any number of tools out there."
(I’ll list out all the rules I adhere to someday in another post)

The edge doesn’t really hit the high side for you until you start to apply some modifications to basic strategy depending on the A10 count after 2 decks.  Sure you can play without these and get an edge simply through your propensity to increase your bet at optimal situations or leave the table during bad ones however with these modifications to your play, you get a much better edge.

40 or more (-.5% or greater)

  • "Wong out" – i.e. leave the table

39, 38, 37 – 1 unit bet (-.2% to .2%)

36 or 35 – 2 unit bet (.4%)

  • 9 vs 2 – DOUBLE DOWN
  • 11 vs A – DOUBLE DOWN
  • A8 vs 5 – DOUBLE DOWN
  • A8 vs 6 – DOUBLE DOWN
  • 16 vs 10 – STAND

34 or 33 – 4 unit bet (.8%)

  • All modifications for 36 or 35
  • 8 vs 6 – DOUBLE DOWN
  • 12 vs 3 – DOUBLE DOWN

32 or less – 6 unit bet (1.2%)

  • All modifications for 36 or 35
  • All modifications for 34 or 33
  • 9 vs 7
  • 12 v 2
  • Take insurance

If you want a greater edge than .4%, .8%, and 1.2%, it’s possible to do so simply by increasing your bet spread.  In other words: 

Instead of betting 1 unit, 2 units, 4 units, and 6 units depending on the A10 count… change your spread to 1 unit, 3 units, 6 units, and 10 units. 

This will give you a bonus +.4% edge above and beyond the existing edge so the total edge for each bet level are .8%, 1.2%, and 1.6%.

One of the cool benefits of the A10 Count is that the casino simply can’t tell you’re using it.  Ever.  This is because you never vary your bet more than once a shoe and card counting is traditionally based on bet variation based on a running measure of what cards have been dealt.

The consequence however of this increase is that your standard variation or fluctuation in betting losses will grow respectively – i.e. you’ll lose more money faster during bad shoes.  In fact as Fred Renzey says, it’s possible that you could lose 4 hands with 10 units each so be aware of the risk.  Thus, it’s especially important that you heed Blackjack rule #2, and "Play within your means".  Make sure you have a large enough bankroll to weather the storms of bad luck.

Microsoft: Why do I work here?

August 16, 2007

I really like this video. 

This is a collection of clips from speeches given by our executive management.  And for those wondering, this is what our company meetings and global sales summits are like:  Executives excited and passionate about the work we do, individuals that are focused and relentless about their goals, and leaders that understand that, like Paul Flessner says: "If you’re going to play – play to win."

"…Microsoft ALWAYS plays to win."

Las Vegas Podcasts: What is it that I’m listening to these days?

August 13, 2007

UPDATED (8/27/2007): 
So Steve Friess chimed in the comments section and noted that he’s never written for the New York Post, so that’s been edited out.  He also noted that I made a snarky "two snaps up" comment which wasn’t necessary, and in the end I agreed so that’s been edited out as well.

Not that anyone actually cares about what I listen to, but if you’re like me and you love hearing about what’s going on in Las Vegas in an entertaining yet well-informed way, there’s a really easy way to stay in the know… and that’s via podcasts oriented around Las Vegas.

Yes, yes, yes.  I know.  95% of all podcasts are utter rubbish.  And you’d be right:  That’s why I’m going to list out the Las Vegas podcasts that I listen to so at least you have one ‘filter’.  And for the record, there are some real stinkers out there – most of them have disappeared but there’s still a couple left which you may assume are the one’s not listed below.


  • The Living in Las Vegas Podcast  (
    OMG.  Married couple Scott & Melissa "Madame Secretary" Whitney need to be institutionalized and by that I mean, in a double entendre sort of way.  They both should be enshrined as well as sent to a sanitarium because their podcast is one of the funniest things I’ve listened to in a while.  Although it helps if you’re married, because clearly these two fall into this category.

    Scott and Melissa talk about what it’s like to live in Las Vegas and what’s going on in the city from a married couple’s point of view.  And believe me – this is VERY DIFFERENT from the other podcasts.  I should warn you that most of the podcast is about them and their travails in Las Vegas as opposed to Vegas itself, however every minute is gold.  Sheer 24 karat, baby.

    Scott has regular segments to the show including "The Pool Report" where Scott & Melissa discuss the temperature of their home pool relative to the whether, which might not sound funny right now but believe me, it’s such weak sauce at times it’s actually funny… oh, and something called "Hot and Horrible" which I’ll leave you to discover.  In the end, I consider this to be akin to the Comic section of the newspaper, whenever I load up my Zune for playback in the gym.  It’s probably my favorite podcast at the moment.

  • The Strip:  Las Vegas Podcast (
    Steve Freiss, a journalist for the Vegas Magazine, and the author of books including, "Gay Vegas" along with his partner Miles, does a fairly serious, information packed, and extremely opinionated podcast on the events going on in Vegas, and in particular, includes conversations and interviews with celebrities in Sin City. 

    Boy, Steve has the hook up.  He interviews Vegas regulars… for example, recently his interviews include the likes of Billy Bob Thornton, Jon Lovitz, the Amazing Johnathan, Mel Brooks, the Killers, Steve Wyrick, Paul Anka, Lance Burton, Paula Poundstone, and Jamie Gold… just for starters.  So there’s undoubtedly going to be content in the podcast that you’ll find interesting.  With all the Hollywood types and famous folks speaking on his podcast, it’s kinda hard to avoid.

    The thing to note is that Steve is very opinionated and frankly one of the more arrogant people I’ve listened to.  But I think that his snide, "I’m-right-and-everyone-else-can-just-f-off" attitude creates an immediate dialogue in one’s head polarizing your thoughts on whatever it is he’s talking about and that frankly makes for good listening and good journalism… so good for you Steve.  And let’s not kid ourselves:  You, the listener, get the last word all the time since you don’t actually have to listen to the podcast if you don’t like it, and more importantly, you get the satisfaction of deleting his god-awful rubbish off your media player if you think he’s being an ass. 

  • Five Hundy By Midnight (
    image I have a special place in my heart for the two that do this podcast – Tim & Michele Dressen.  In case you’re wondering, it’s called ‘Five Hundy By Midnight’ because of a quote from the movie "Swingers". And they have the best intro of all the Las Vegas podcasts, for certain.

    How do you describe Tim & Michele?  Well, their low key demeanor and affable banter make these folks nominees for the "most likely to get a show on NPR".  It really does sound like two somewhat mellow NPR commentators going back and forth with the occasional "drunk dialing" listener phone call.

    This always makes me laugh:  They’re major Sigma Derby fans – particularly Michele.  For the uninitiated, Sigma Derby is a old fashioned gambling machine in a table format in which 5 mechanical horses physically race around a track and people win based on the horse they select.  It’s a got a whopping 12% house edge on it, but fans don’t seem to care.  They just love Sigma Derby.  And the sad part is that Sigma Derby is almost extinct:  One of the few remaining machines in Las Vegas was in the Frontier which recently shutdown leaving only one more machine in MGM Grand… and that’s it.

    Here’s the other thing:  They have tons of fans that are drunk dialers.  I mean we’re talking LEGIONS.  They get all pissed drunk then call up the podcast’s answering machine to leave a message.  And did I mention there’s a lot of these folks?  This gives Tim & Michele a lot of podcast fodder and an infinite source of laughter.


And in case you don’t have a podcast downloader/manager, here’s what I use:

6 Things I Love about Windows Vista

August 12, 2007

I’ve read a lot of articles on the web explaining what makes Windows Vista great and a lot of articles explaining why it sucks. None of them really seem to fit my state of mind as I drive at the helm of Windows Vista Aero.

So here’s 5 things that I feel embody my experience using Windows Vista as my production machine’s operating system.

  1. No More Operating System Erosion
    No more of that "just reinstall everything to start fresh" mentality.  Windows Vista’s ability to isolate applications, control leakage and memory overruns through hardware data protection, and maintain the system in a state of stability… the value just can’t be measured.
  2. A Feeling of Protection & Safety
    Besides data protection which completely mitigates the entire class of malware based on buffer overruns, the introduction of ASLR or address space layout randomization in Windows Vista means the virtual elimination of any and all virus attacks by ‘carefully placing virulent data are certain locations in memory’ based on OS components that are usually in the same location in memory on every load.  No virus, trojan, or spyware will ever know where to place itself in memory to ‘latch on’ to the OS, completely eliminating an entire class of malware.  That and having
  3. Control & Understanding of What’s-going-on
    The introduction of the Resource Monitor in Windows Vista is gold.  I used to use purchased products just to accomplish the same thing.  Basically, the Resource Monitor now provides you with the following at a bare minimum… and if you don’t know the value of this, then, well, never mind:
    1. What applications are currently chewing up CPU time
    2. What applications are making the hard drive go nuts
    3. What applications are pulling data in/out of the Network
  4. Just Plain ‘Designed for Laptops’
    Sleep occurs and wakes up in 2 seconds.  Bitlocker secures everything on the hard drive to the PC.  Out of the box, the OS works with most smart cards.  The security functions all recognize the TPM chip.  The EFS security makes selectable encryption easy.  The Power Management is extremely flexible and configurable without any hardware add ons.  I could go on, but this should be enough.
  5. The Power to Find any Mail or Document
    The existing indexing engine freaks people out because the hard drive light seems to always be flickering…  but that’s a good thing.  It’s the Indexing engine making it possible to search for content on the hard drive during idle cycles, and why not use those idle cycles to make your Information Searching that much easier?  The indexing engine also searches Outlook mail so in a single search you can view either email or documents that exist on the machine.
  6. Empowerment to run Next-generation Applications
    This is the biggie:  Most next-generation applications will be much smaller in size yet much more powerful.  Why?  Windows Vista contains all of the code necessary to make graphically attractive, workflow empowered, communications enabled applications without any additinal libraries.  Most basic applications are 1MB in size and simply leverage all the incredible libraries that come built into Windows Vista.

HOWTO: How to avoid being tracked by Google

August 11, 2007

UPDATE: February 11, 2010

Recent research by the EFF has shown that your browser alone, during it’s negotiation with the web sites you visit, voluntarily give up enough unique information to possibily uniquely identify you.   Your browser hands over traditionally unique information such as:

  • "the exact fonts installed on your machine"
    EXAMPLE:  SWMacro, Marlett, Arial, Arabic Transparent, Arial Baltic, Arial CE, Arial CYR, Arial Greek, Arial TUR, Batang, BatangChe, Gungsuh, GungsuhChe, Courier New, Courier New Baltic, Courier New CE, Courier New CYR, Courier New Greek, Courier New TUR, DaunPenh, … [+150 more installed font]
  • "the user agent string of your browser, it’s version, operating system, etc."
    EXAMPLE:  Mozilla/4.0 (compatible; MSIE 8.0; Windows NT 6.1; WOW64; Trident/4.0; SLCC2; .NET CLR 2.0.50727; .NET CLR 3.5.30729; .NET CLR 3.0.30729; Media Center PC 6.0; InfoPath.2; MS-RTC LM 8; Zune 4.0; OfficeLiveConnector.1.4)
    (This one is really interesting because people on less common machines – SUCH AS MACINTOSHES – are much easier to identify because of their relative infrequency)
  • "the details of each browser plug in loaded & their exact versions"
    EXAMPLE:  Java 1,6,0,16; Flash 10,0,42,34; WindowsMediaplayer 12,0,7600,16415; Silverlight 3,0,50106,0
  • "the workstation’s screen resolution"

…etc. etc. etc.  All these elements combine to make a very unique identifier that can be uniquely traced to you machine.  And this information is transmitted in the clear to every single web site you visit.

For more information, visit:

  • EFF online tool reveals ‘fingerprint’ browsers leave on the Web
  • Panopticlick:  Test your browser to see how unique it is based on the information it will share with sites it visits

UPDATE: December 29, 2008

Well, there you have it folks.  Apparently, it took awhile but the world seems to have figured out that having one company with EVERYONE’S information is a colossally stupid idea.

ORIGINAL POST:  August 11, 2007

Sites like Google track you by placing a unique serialized cookie on your machine.
Deleting Google cookies prevents Google from associating you from your searches.
Better yet:
Deleting all cookies really keeps Google from tracking you by eliminating any Google affiliate cookies from tracking your search & surfing habits.
Even better yet:
Simply don’t use Google… right?  How can they track you if you don’t go to

Oh, au contraire.  Here’s a few of the ways that Google manages to track you… with or without you visiting… with or without a Google cookie.


Even if you never go to, your behavior is probably being monitored.  Remember that every Google affliate (folks using Google AdSense – those banners & context sensitive ads that show up on people’s web pages) is receiving payment for you simply visiting their page and essentially allowing your visit & interest to be indexed into the Google ‘brain’. 

The fact is that the more information Google has associated with your cookie, the more they can tell about you.  A giant profile or ‘virtual folder’ is being built about you and even if you never enter your real name, mailing address, or email while being tracked, a general profile is being created on you individually – this is how advertisement targeting is done. 

And this is the nefarious nature of all of this:  With people signing up for Google AdSense to receive their ‘bounty’, it’s becoming virtually impossible to dodge Google’s tracking engine.

1) Block that cookie.  And selectively clear your cookie cache.
2)  Change your hosts file to block

  • Use Internet Explorer’s cookie blocking/privacy facility to proactively block all first party cookies from  Go to Tools-Internet Options-"Privacy" tab and click the Sites button.  Then set up a rule that Always blocks cookies from anything associated with the domain.
  • Block Google Analytics.  Google Analytics is nefarious because it’s a true first party cookie that exists on people’s web sites that track you back to Google Analytics so even if you’re blocking Google cookies, this 1st party cookie from still allows Google to track you through redirection.   To stop this, you have to change your HOSTS file.  Add the following line to your Windows hosts file


  • If you’re at all interested in protecting your privacy, it’s absolutely imperative that you nuke tracking cookies early and often.  Use CCleaner from to clear out your cookie cache on every boot of your system.  Consider Advanced Tracks Eraser as well from which can clear your cache at timed intervals.
  • Consider trying G-Zapper from  This will help identify any other cookie-based methods that Google uses to track users.  For example, it blocks people from using Google Analytics.

The fact is that you’re being tracked regardless of whether you’re using a static IP address, you’re sitting behind a NAT, or your using an ISP/Cable Network provided DHCP-assigned IP address.

Huh?  Damn right.  Remember that subnets have a limited number of IP addresses and while you might be coming from an assigned IP address, if it’s DHCP, it’s likely leased and simply renewed everytime you visit.  And even if you are assigned a different IP address when you turn on the ol’ PC, it’s coming from what is likely a 256 count address space meaning that all that needs to happen is associate your searches with range of addresses.  Ultimately, reconciiling who you are based on 256 addresses is not that hard for computers to do.

ANSWER:  Use Scroogle

  • Go to for your Google searches.  Scroogle is a middle tier anonymizer for all traffic that goes to Google.  It randomly picks an IP address from a massive statistically irrelevant subnet of addresses and submits that to Google, then receives the results back and saves it without the advertising and all that to a file.  The resultset is presented to you and the search logs and your results are deleted in 48 hours.
  • To use Scroogle in your Internet Explorer 7.0 search bar, paste into the yellow box as described by
  • Hint:  You can delete most spam and blogs by adding -com to your search terms.

This is one that concerns me the most:  Just simply by participating in a conversation with someone using Gmail, your name and discussion interests are getting catagorized, and tracked.

That’s right:  Conversations that take place over Gmail are indexed and there’s no real way to prevent this from happening.  Your conversation implicitly will get indexed and associated with the gmail user regardless of your authorization.

ANSWER:  Filter all Gmail to the trash.  Do not participate in any discussions with anyone using Gmail addresses.

Unfortunately, it would appear that the mere act of a Gmail user sending you an email indexes your email address.  On the high side, not responding keeps them from verifying the validity of the your email address.  On the down side, there’s no way to keep the sender from thinking you’re just blowing them off.

In case it wasn’t apparent, you can’t use Gmail without having a Google cookie installed on your system.  There’s no reason for this functionally other than to make sure that Google can track your search activities – frankly, this should be reason enough alone to not use Gmail.

Tracking isn’t just dependent on your IP address or your Google cookie.  When you visit or a page that’s a Google affiliate, you present your Operating System, your Browser type, and all kinds of interesting information to help the web site present a web experience suitable for your computer configuration.  And that information classifies you, thus narrowing down who you are.  This alone narrows you down to a very small part of the Google using population – even if you’re using Windows XP SP2 & Internet Explorer 6.02.

Now comes the tricky part:  How to identify a person based on what they search for.  Everyone’s search patterns are like a fingerprint:  Your search patterns are unique and unlike that of anyone else’s.  I’ve only read about this a couple times and this is part of the voodoo science I don’t completely understand.  As I find more about this I’ll post it but right now, I’m not completely sure how to cloak this.


HOWTO: How to remove scratches from CDs and DVDs

August 10, 2007

There was an interesting article posted about techniques for removing scratches in CDs and DVDs posted a bit ago.  Here’s a quick summary of the solutions that were proposed as working:

Here’s the full article:

Apple’s Fine Print: 19 things I bet you didn’t know about the iPhone

August 10, 2007

Check this out.  Doug Ross wrote up this little ditty about the iPhone and the hidden stuff in Apple’s fine print for the iPhone.  Some of these are real humdingers and I’ll be the average iPhone user doesn’t know 9/10ths of these

<taken from Doug Ross’ site>

  • International Messages Are Charged Additional Fees as Are Files Over 300Kbps.
    …While it cost[s] nothing extra to send an email overseas using the Internet, AT&T has decided that all messages outside the US or larger than 300 K should cost extra:
    “International messages not included. Charges for international messages sent from the U.S. are 20¢ for Text Messages and 50¢ for Picture/Video Messages. Additional charges for premium messages and content apply. Messages over 300 KBs billed an additional 50¢/message.”
  • The Current Mobile Email Service Doesn’t Support Attachments.
  • Prohibited Uses and “Unlimited” Sales Hype.
    Even though the service is called "unlimited" they are simply using that word as a marketing concept, not an actual service description. You can’t use the service for VOIP and worse "unlimited plans cannot be used for uploading, downloading or streaming of video content (e.g. movies, tv), music or games." Here are just some of the restrictions [prohibited services]:
    * With server devices or with host computer applications, including, without limitation, web camera posts or broadcasts, continuous jpeg file transfers, automatic data feeds, telemetry applications, peer-to-peer (p2p) file sharing, automated functions or any other machine-to-machine applications…
    * for voice over ip…
    * in conjunction with wwan or other applications or devices which aggregate usage from multiple sources prior to transmission…
    * Except for content formatted in accordance with at&t’s content standards, unlimited plans cannot be used for uploading, downloading or streaming of video content (e.g. movies, tv), music or games. Furthermore, unlimited plans (except for dataconnect and blackberry tethered) cannot be used for any applications that tether the device


AUDIO: Roy Wood Jr… pranks Barbara about her Social Security check

August 9, 2007

ZOMG.  This is one of the funniest things I’ve heard in a long time.

Roy Wood Jr… pranks Barbara about her Social Security check

August 7, 2007

This was forwarded to me:

…which then reminded me of this:

…which again reminded me of this:

HOWTO: How to get an edge in Blackjack in 10 minutes (part 1)

August 5, 2007

Ever wanted to play blackjack recreationally without having to use your brain?

Consider this a quick tutorial on how to minimize the house’s edge on you in Blackjack in just three easy steps.  This is NOT a discussion of using something like the infamous HiLo count but rather one on something called the Ace/10 Front Count – something I’d read about a while back on the Blackjack Insider, a pay-for newsletter at

I’m making the assumption that you already play perfect Basic Strategy.  If you don’t then this tutorial’s not going to help you much.  Playing 99% perfect Basic Strategy is absolutely critical to play Blackjack and win in the long term.  The easiest way to learn is to buy Blackjack strategy wallet cards and simply put them on the table to refer to when you play Blackjack. 
(If you want to learn, check this Basic Strategy exercise program out:

With that out of the way, here’s the easiest way to get an edge in Blackjack without burning out your brain:

  • STEP 1Go to a six deck shoe game with good rules; start playing after a shuffle.
    These games are generally easy to find.  It’s really important to play on tables with favorable odds and rules.  I go over this in another blog entry –!97895BBB8AD10F37!562.entry?&_c02_owner=1.
  • STEP 2Place your ‘low bet’; count the number of A/10 cards for the first TWO decks.
    That’s 104 cards.  You need to be able to simply count the number of high cards that come out of the deck as you play.  On average you should count 40, since there are 4 cards each from 10/J/Q/K/A and you’re counting two decks.
  • STEP 3aDouble your bet for the rest of the shoe if your count is lower than 36.
    If you have a 36 or lower, you have a good edge on the house so you should double your bet and keep it there until the end of the shoe.  The lower your count, the more of an edge you have on the house and the more your bet should rise accordingly. 
    – A count of 34 or less is great.  Multiply your bet by 4.
    – A count of 32 or less is phenomenal.  Multiply your bet by 6.
  • STEP 3bWalk away from the table if you have a count equal to or higher than 40.
    If you have a count equal to or higher than 40, the house has a strong edge on you and you need to stop playing, period.  Grab your chips, walk away, or go to the bathroom and take a break.  If you have 36-40, then you can proceed to play to prevent arousing suspicion and expect on average to break even.

That’s it.  The only tricky part is knowing when you’ve gone through 2 decks.  By checking the discard deck you need to memorize approximately when you’ve gone through somewhere between 100-108 cards, otherwise this doesn’t work.

This works because a game with good rules (Double down on any two cards, split aces multiple times) will generally give the house a .5% edge

  • With a front count of 36 or less, you can get as much as a .4% advantage over the house
  • With a front count of 34 or less, you can get as much as a .8% advantage over the house
  • With a front count of 32 or less, you can get as much as a 1.2% advantage over the house
    (For the uninitiated, a 1.2% advantage is really great.  Think about it:  The casino themselves generally break people’s bankrolls when it only has a .5% advantage.  Some professional card counters don’t get a 1.2% advantage using traditional card counting schemes like Edward Thorp’s famous HiLo count.)

There are some additional rules that you can play depending on your front count to even further increase your edge assuming you have a count equal to or less than 36, however I’ll save that for a later post.

Wikipedia: The Encyclopedia for the Lazy & Uneducated

August 5, 2007

I read this Onion article and it pretty much said it all for me:

Wikipedia Celebrates 750 Years Of American Independence
Founding Fathers, Patriots, Mr. T. Honored

I’ve read numerous accounts of people and organizations having to "aggressively pursue" the correction of entries made about them or on their organization’s behalf because of vindictive individuals looking to libel an individual without their knowledge.

Recently, there was a statement made on a rather popular board that CO2 couldn’t exist in a liquid state – that in fact, Carbon Dioxide was only available in solid or gas states of matter.  The individuals stating this used Wikipedia as their point of reference.  Chemists from around the Internet simultaneously balked:  CO2 is very much available in a liquid state – just not at pressures existing at sea level.

Then one added, "Try reading a book sometime instead of taking wikipedia at face value."

And this is the problem I have and will continue to have with Wikipedia.  The concept is an idealistic claptrap.  When there is no consequence for inaccuracy, accuracy is never the objective:  Opinion is.  A given entry is completely based on the determination and the available time of the editing user. 

Take for example, this comic from Penny Arcade.  

Penny Arcade:  "I Have the Power"

It’s funny but it’s also 100% true.  Skeletor can write anything they damned well want about He-Man and have millions of netizens read this opinion and take it for the truth because, hey – it’s on the web right?  The claim that "people don’t have to use Wikipedia" doesn’t fly because no individual  should have go back to a web page and watch it like a hawk just because someone… anyone… can libel them – i.e. outright lie about them – on a publicly acknowledged reference.

And the irony is that even with a broadly acknowledged lack of credibility, Wikipedia continues to chug along as a the primary reference of choice for millions of kids, adolescents, and moronic adults worldwide.  Take this incident regarding the next generation console wars between Nintendo, Xbox, and Sony:

Wikipedia closes Wii, PS3, Sony entries
Virtual vandalism the latest weapon in the next-generation console wars.

And the thing that makes all of this possible is that if there are any constants in human nature, it’s that people are greedy & lazy.  In this case, they crave information – no matter what it’s accuracy is like – and they are willing to take any shortcut to get it – i.e. use Wikipedia.

And it’s not like the majority of these people verify anythign they read in Wikipedia.  To the contrary, students in school have the <ahem> tendency to straight cut & paste out of the damned thing.

I think Dave Taylor from the Intuitive Life Business Blog said it best in his essay on the lack of credibility of Wikipedia.  (Taken From "What Wikipedia Lost:  Credibility" – by Dave Taylor,

It really hit me [the problem with Wikipedia] as I was editing the student papers and reading passages like this:

"Twenty-five years ago, all computer usage, including the use of Microsoft applications, was accomplished from manual entries at the command line prompt. In addition to the mainframe operating systems there was Digital Research’s CP/M-80 for the 8080 / 8085 / Z-80 CPUs and MS-DOS (or PC-DOS when supplied by IBM) which was based originally on CP/M-80, among others [Wikipedia, 2005]. The ubiquitous commercial off-the-shelf software of today was not to become available for another fifteen to twenty years…"

Now, if you don’t know what’s wrong with the above quote and you’re not willing to go out and find out why… you’re precisely the type of person that shouldn’t be using Wikipedia as a reference.  Why?  Well… the same reason that bloggers like myself are NOT journalists:  Fact checking.  As a blogger, I’m just a guy with an opinion and I ultimately have no accountability, whereas a Journalist has a lot to lose by not doing his/her fact checking.  Again, here’s another great article by Dave Taylor on the topic of the difference between Journalists vs Bloggers:

Journalists versus bloggers:  The Difference is Fact Checking
…one of the distinct differentiators is that real journalists do fact checking.

I’ve heard this naive and ignorant claim about Wikipedia being the "collective" of human kind’s knowledge… about how it creates democracy in how history is documented… about how it binds together the aggregate knowledge of the world… how it makes us all warm and fuzzy and allows us to sing kumbaya.

Let’s get this straight:  If everyone were concerned about the world, if everyone participated in the world affairs fairly with a good conscience, if everyone treated the fellow man like an equal… communism would have worked, crime wouldn’t exist, and Dick Cheney’s machiavellian tactics would have been supplanted by others a long time ago.

But that’s not reality.  Without accountability & consequence, you can’t have accuracy and without that, you can’t have credibility.

Wikipedia in my mind has no credibility.

Who owns what hotel in Vegas?

August 3, 2007

Ever wonder what organization owns your favorite Las Vegas hotel?  With all the acquisitions and shifting going on, it’s hard to tell these days.   Here’s a list of current holdings by the big conglomerates:  If your hotel’s not on here, there’s a good chance it’s independently owned, like The Venetian, The Hard Rock Hotel, The Wynn, etc.

MGM Mirage:

  • Mandalay Bay
  • Luxor
  • Excalibur
  • New York-New York
  • Monte Carlo
  • MGM Grand
  • Bellagio
  • Mirage
  • TI
  • Circus Circus
  • Slots A Fun


  • Harrah’s
  • Imperial Palace
  • Flamingo
  • Barbary Coast
  • Bally’s
  • Paris
  • Caesars Palace
  • Rio  

Boyd Gaming:

  • Orleans
  • Gold Coast
  • Suncoast
  • Fremont
  • California
  • Main Street Station
  • Sam’s Town
  • Joker’s Wild
  • El Dorado (Henderson)

Station Casino:

  • Palace Station
  • Boulder Station
  • Texas Station
  • Sunset Station
  • Santa Fe Station
  • Red Rock Resort
  • Fiesta Rancho
  • Fiesta Henderson
  • Wild Wild West

Tamares Group:

  • Plaza
  • Vegas Club
  • Gold Spike
  • Western

American Real Estate Partners (a Carl Icahn company):

  • Arizona Charlie’s Decatur
  • Arizona Charlie’s Boulder
  • Stratosphere

Bill Wortman:

  • The Cannery
  • Nevada Palace
  • The Rampart (managed only; the hotel is owned by Marriott).

MTR Gaming:

  • Binion’s
  • The Speedway