Front Row

I was given a copy of Front Row recently and decided to try it out on my Mac mini. It’s really nice and fast considering it is designed to run on the faster iMac G5. Music, Videos, and Picture functions all work great with the exception of the DVD player. Still, its pretty impressive to show off to friends and to use when I have people over.

However, I did have a problem come up. The strange issue with Front Row I experienced was after I use it once I subsequently get an error from communication problems with iTunes. When Front Row opens, I have to press Esc for a few seconds to show the media center and press D to exit to the desktop where Front Row hides itself. I noticed that if I quit Front Row manually after I use it and restart it again, Front Row has no problems with iTunes. So I wrote an AppleScript to do all the work for me which I have mapped to a media key on my keyboard.

tell application "System Events"
if (name of processes) contains "Front Row" then
if (name of every process whose frontmost is true) contains "Front Row" then
keystroke "d"
end if
tell application "Front Row" to quit
tell application "Front Row" to activate
key code 53 using command down
end if
end tell

If the script isn’t working for you, make sure you have “Enable support for assistive devices” checked in the Universal Access control panel in System Preferences. Enjoy!

Categorized as Apple

Free Friday

Tomorrow I don’t have school (3-day weekend!) so I’ll spend the morning at work and spend the night watching local band Gimme 5 perform. If you’re in the Carbondale area, you should definitely check them out: they are going to be performing in Longbranch Café at 10pm on Friday in the back room. They always put on a awesome show. I’ll probably be helping out with sound and I’ll take some pictures.

Saturday is the annual Oblong Spooktacular Field Show & Parade competition for the CCHS Band and is our last performance. We’ll be staying overnight at Oblong, IL which should be fun… I’ll probably bring my Xbox and beat my friends at play Halo all night. (Sleeping is near impossible, so why not make the best of it?) Preview
I launched yet another website: this time, for the Carbondale Community High School Band. Introducing It’s a community website powered by CivicSpace to host pictures, music, video, discussions, blogs, and more relating to the band. Check it out if you get a chance and if you’re interested then sign up: everyone is welcome.

Killing Background Music in Firefox

Many of my friends use Xanga to publish their online journals. That’s all fine and well given that most of them use relatively tame color schemes and such (but not all).

However, something that has always made me angry is when I’m reading a entry and suddenly out of nowhere music starts playing. You see, Xanga offers it’s users the option in its settings panel to add music to your Xanga site. I want to strangle the guy who added this ‘feature’. It’s almost always crappy sounding and there’s no way to turn it off because the player is always hidden. I’m nearly always listening to music of my own when surfing the web, so I don’t need your music to make it any better, thank you very much.

I’ve seen makeshift solutions such as using Adblock to ban media files but this can also cause problems because it also blocks some websites at the same time (not to mention Adblock currently doesn’t play nicely with Flash 8.0). I’ve also tried editing my userContent.css file to nuke offending embed’s, but that didn’t work for me either.

Then I discovered BGM Conductor, which is a Firefox extension to control the playback of embedded sounds. You can either leave sounds on by default and selectively choose when to turn the sound off or just disable background music completely. This was perfect, but it wouldn’t install on anything higher than Firefox 1.0. Plus, it didn’t work for the audio format everyone on Xanga seems to love: ASF.

So I decided to modify this great extension to work on newer versions and to aid my music problem. The result is here:

Download and install BGM Conductor 2.0.3a.

This version is Firefox 1.5 ready and also effectively silences ASF media from ruining my iTunes selections. I’m a happy camper.

Categorized as Internet

Promotion, SIU Homecoming

On Thursday I got “promoted” to the Production department at SchoolCenter. This means I’ll be doing programming instead of general system administration. Right know I think that staying a sysadmin would be a better job, but I was offered a bit more money ($8/hr as opposed to $6.50/hr) and the ability to work longer and have a more flexible schedule. So I took the new job. I haven’t worked on programming PHP, the language SchoolCenter is written in, in a while… the last major PHP project I did was their telephone logging system I developed for them last summer. However, I pick up anything technology-related pretty quickly, and looking at the training manual it looks like I’ll have no problem.

This last Saturday was the SIU Homecoming Parade, which we didn’t do too well in this year. We only got 3rd place and we have won the last 2 years. I mean, the competition is in our own town… we have to win. It was fun though, even if I had to get up at 7am on a Saturday.

Later that day I met up with alot of friends (the Stevens, KC, Kate, Kris, Cameron), had wings at Applebee’s and watched the stupidest horror movie on Earth. It was so predictable and bad we laughed at alot of it.

I have not had alot of time to be online much lately, between school, work, and friends. I hope that will change soon… lately it feels like I have way too much stress even though I really don’t have anything to really stress about. I really hope that will change soon. We do have a nice long weekend coming up…

School’s tomorrow, so I’m off to do a few pages of homework (maybe).

Passport, meet CarChip E/X

Yesterday, to my dismay, my Check Engine light in my 1998 Honda Passport SUV came on yet again. Lately, the light has kept coming on and going out every so often, and last time I took the car in, the mechanic determined that the car’s computer gave him a “EVAP” code and so he replaced a gasket to fix the problem. Total cost: $70 for the diagnosis, and another $40 for labor. The price of the part was $4.98.

Bogus. They might as well call the light the “Check Money” light.

CarChip E/X
Today, I decided to put an end to this outrageous price just for diagnosis by buying the CarChip E/X by Davis Manufacturing. This little device plugs into your car’s OBD II port located under the steering wheel and continusly logs data about the car’s speed, RPM, coolant temperature, battery voltage, air intake, engine load, oxygen sensor status, fuel system status, and much more, up to 5 at a time every 5 seconds. It also reads trouble codes given by the vehicle’s computer. The device can hold up to 300 hours of this data. The CarChip E/X lists for $179.99, but I was able to get a cheaper serial-port only version at my local AutoZone for $139.99. The reason why it’s cheaper is becaue it does not support the new CAN protocol used in some cars after 2002. That’s okay, because I have a car made in 1998. My family was interested in using it to avoid the high price for diagnosis for their cars and we split the cost 3 ways, so I get to use it for only $50.

As soon as I got it I put it into my car and let it begin logging. I really just wanted to know what was causing the Check Engine light. When I got home, I installed the software and plugged the CarChip into my computer. Seconds later I found the cause of my problem.

CarChip Problem 1 Focused

I had a trouble code P0440, which the CarChip software told me was a malfunction in the “Evaporative Emissions Control System”. Wow, that sounds really familar with what the mechanic told me, EVAP. A quick Google search later tells me that it is the system that keeps gas from venting to the atmosphere and it is usually caused by a loose gas cap.

I go outside and check the gas cap. It was somewhat loose. I bet you last time the cap was loose and I was charged over $100 to have a part replaced that was really not necessary. Probably only a quick tightening of the gas cap was required.

I instructed the CarChip to clear the Check Engine light next time I use my car. Hopefully it won’t come back…

The CarChip E/X, like I said before does more than find trouble codes: it also collects a wide array of other cool stuff. Here’s the information it captured as I drove home from work today:

CarChip - First Run MPH GraphCarChip - First Run RPM GraphCarChip - First Run Coolant Graph

Nice looking, right? Too bad it only runs on Windows.

Categorized as Technology

First Band Performance, Work Update

I’ve been really busy lately with school, work, and band. On Saturday the Carbondale Marching Terriers had our first and second competition on the same day in O’Fallon and Belleville, Illinois (near St. Louis). We didn’t do as great as we hoped; nevertheless, we were able to beat Marion, a local rival, in both competitions. The other bands besides Marion and us were perdominately from the St. Louis area and therefore very big and well-funded. Most of them used semis to transport their stuff to the event, we just used a relatively small delivery truck.

Historicially, our band doesn’t do too well in the first couple of performances; then we begin to do very well after the newcomers to the band have lost their nervousness and major problems have been addressed. I’m anxious to see how well we will do next time.

For an example of just how big some of these bands are, here’s a picture of a band from around St. Louis performing at our first competition (this picture was taken from the rear of the field):

Image Hosted by

If you look near the rear of the field you can plainly see the generator and orange power cable that powered their amps, speakers, and other audio equipment they needed for their pit! Crazy.

For some pictures of our band (as usual, not alot of drumline pictures are up) you can visit the official site’s picture gallery.

At work, we finished moving to the new building on Friday. It went suprisingly well given not too many problems have come up, at least not yet. The server room and our office is a mess, I’ll be able to get pictures after all the dust settles. It’s really nice though.

I’m really tired, so I’m off to get some sleep.

Categorized as Band, Work

Band, Steak n’ Shake, Server Move

On Friday we had another field show exhibition at a home football game. It went alot better than last week but we still have work to do… on Tuesday we have Media Night where we perform a exhibition of our show, Mask of Zorro, for anyone interested. We invite the media in particular; thus the name Media Night, but anyone can come. If you haven’t seen our show yet you should check it out at 7pm at the CCHS football field.

After the show Friday I went to Steak n’ Shake… had a good time with friends. They have the best milkshakes around. Here’s me with my buddy Caitlyn:
Caitlyn and Me

Yesterday I had to go to work to assist migrating all of the servers where I work from our old building to the new one across the street. The situation at the old building was getting bad because we were running out of room, espicially in the server room. Observe the horror that is our old server room:
Old Building Server Room
Yikes. The lack of cable management makes this a nightmare to work in. Note the cheap K-Mart fans which help keep the servers cool.

Today, shortly before we started physicially moving servers, I managed to snap this shot of the new server room:
Unfinished New Building Server Room

Visible are the mostly empty racks, patch panels, and switches. By the time I left around 11:45, these racks were filled with about 25% of the servers from the old building. I would have stayed, but due to local curfew laws I can’t drive home after midnight. Which sucked because I am getting great on-the-job experience in setting up a datacenter from scratch… not many people my age can say that. As I write this the rest of the staff there (5 others) were still racking up servers… the rest won’t leave until it’s all done. By sunrise about 99% of our servers will be in the new building.

My department will probably move to the new building on Monday, and I’ll get some pictures of the new finished server room when it’s all done.