April 22, 2007

What 50 Cents At A Book Sale Got Me

"Devices such as thin films, cryotron, parametron, twistors, and tunnel diodes are just a few [storage devices] which will be used in the computer of the future."

Fundamentals of Digital Computers by Weinstein and Keim, 1965

Incidentally, the book also came with a punch card labeled "Star Trek" hidden inside it.

22:52 | Nerd , Nerd , Quotes | Comments (1)

What 50 Cents At A Book Sale Got Me

"Devices such as thin films, cryotron, parametron, twistors, and tunnel diodes are just a few [storage devices] which will be used in the computer of the future."

Fundamentals of Digital Computers by Weinstein and Keim, 1965

Incidentally, the book also came with a punch card labeled "Star Trek" hidden inside it.

22:52 | Nerd , Nerd , Quotes | Comments (1)

March 4, 2007

News Flash: Pong Is A Hit

From the March 3rd BBC News Front Page:

Does the BBC understand video gaming?

Judging by that 90s-era graphic, I'd say probably not.

17:18 | Nerd | Comments (0)

February 11, 2007


I decided today would be my geek-out day and upgrade Hulihee, my Windows XP computer, to 64-bit Windows Vista Ultimate. I was sure to run the Windows Vista Upgrade Advisor to make sure my hardware was supported (all but my SoundBlaster from 1997 was), and back up all my important files, should anything disasterous happen.

Since I was going from 32- to 64-bit, an OS upgrade was not an option, so I took the opportunity to format my C: drive, ridding myself of any legacy bits, and clicked Install. Half an hour later, I was up and running. Since Vista discovered my wireless network card, I was on the Internet and downloading patches immediately. As of this blog post, it's been two hours, I have Office 2007 installed, and am running from my own low-priviledge account (natch).

So far, my Vista experience has been great. We'll see how long before I hit a snag.

13:51 | Nerd | Comments (0)

November 6, 2006

Another Paycheque Spent

It's insane how much money I can drop in one trip to Fry's. That's why I told Bonnie to monitor the cart and take my wallet away if I was spending too much.

I managed to walk out spending less than $200 (video card, card reader, headphones), mostly by avoiding lingering in the DVD section. Already the video card has made a huge difference. Bonnie had pointed out that ever since I bought my LCD monitor that the colour wasn't quite right. (I noticed something was a little off, but to her graphic-design trained eye, I might as well be colour blind).

It's nice to be able to go to the electronic store and buy yourself a present under the guise that you're doing your girlfriend a favour.

00:07 | Nerd | Comments (1)

September 25, 2006

First Post From My Mac

Well, it's been about two weeks since my MacBook Pro had arrived. First thing I did was buy a two-button mouse (partly because I hate using touchpads, and partly because I find being able to use context menus with one hand is essential), then installed Firefox.

Ok, jokes about me turning my Mac into a PC aside, I've been pretty impressed with my Mac experience. I haven't yet taken it out into public (despite the 1000 wifi-enabled coffeeshops within a block of my apartment), but I have been taking advantage of the laptop's mobility. Right now, I'm writing this blog entry while sitting on my loveseat in front of my desktop's new 22-inch LCD monitor watching my latest Daily Show download (from iTunes, incidentally).

ASIDE: yes, when I went to Fry's to buy an extra GB of RAM for the laptop, I picked up a new monitor. This is why I don't go to Fry's more than twice a year.

Stay tuned for a Windows user's analysis of the Mac experience. So far, thumbs up!

21:59 | Nerd | Comments (0)

September 12, 2006

My Mac Has Arrived

After an excruciating day of checking my shipment status online, my most unlikely of purchases arrived at 5:20pm, unceremoniously dumped in the front lobby without waiting for a signature. Thanks UPS.

But that's all in the past now. I opened the (very nicely designed) box to find my MacBook Pro and all attachments inside. The computer itself was used as a demo machine in a Pennsylvanian Guitar Center, so the touchpad was a little dirty. I'm reinstalling Mac OS X (10.4) right now, since the Guitar Center thoughtlessly forgot to send me the local administrator's password. Besides those small things, it's looking great!

In case anyone is interested, here are the specs (in sum, Intel Core Duo 1.83 GHz, 512 MB RAM, 80GB HDD). Contrary to Phrogman's comment, it is in fact a MacBook Pro, and I got one hell of a deal on it.

Stay tuned for accounts of my adventures into Mac Land, and the possibility of running Windows Vista (RC1) on an Intel Mac.

17:47 | Nerd | Comments (0)

September 4, 2006

The Most Unlikely Of Purchases

Yesterday I accompanied my friend Matt to our local Guitar Center while he picked out speakers, mics and other audio equipment. Having no background in music, I wandered the store aimlessly, occasionally touching a dial on a mixing board, or bumping up against a display keyboard, surprising myself, and those around me, with the crash of virtual cymbals. The store was overstaffed, so I was asked if I had been helped by a different person every ten steps I took.

When Matt was ready to pay for his purchases, I began chatting with the store manager. Apparently this Labor Day is a big sale at Guitar Center with low low prices that can't be beat. I had nothing else to do, so I listened to his spiel. He then told me they were getting a limited supply of Apple MacBook Pros. That's when he got my attention.

I have been in the market for a laptop for a few weeks now. I'm tired of being chained to my desktop at home, and would love to pursue my digital hobbies (such has contribute to this fine weblog) outside the confines of my apartment. Sitting outside one of Seattle's legion independent coffee houses, sipping espresso, and typing away sounds like a great way to be anti-social in a public place. So I began looking around, and came up with four different classes of laptop:

Middle of the road laptop.
Has the advantage of being not too expensive, and general-purpose enough to satisfy my needs.
Super-chap laptop
My boss recommended this to me. His logic was that in a year, whatever I buy will be obsolete anyway, so dropping $500 now, and $500 a year from now isn't a big deal. Plus, it's not a huge loss if it gets dropped or stolen.
Tablet PC.
This is where the nerd in me comes out. Tablet PCs look like normal laptops, but have a touch-sensitive screen that swivels 180° and becomes essentially a digital pad of paper. Very cool, albeit unjustifiable, since I can't think of many practical applications of the pad.
Apple MacBook.
But won't I get fired for owning a Mac? No worries. The new MacBooks are Intel-powered, and with a nifty utility called Boot Camp, I can load both MacOS and Windows on this little guy. This gives me the advantage of high-quality Apple hardware, the familiarity of Windows, and an opportunity to play around with MacOS. The disadvantage is the price: about twice as much as the Tablet.

I was all ready to buy the boring old run-of-the-mill PC laptop, when the store manager at Guitar Center offered to put a $1000 MacBook Pro on hold for me. $1000 for a Mac?! I didn't need much time to think about this. I gave him my number and told him to call me if he could secure one. He didn't have nay in the store that day, and all the East Coast stores were closed for the evening at the time of our conversation, he told me he'd call me at 7:30 this morning to let me know. For those of you who know me, it takes a lot for me to get up at 7:30am on a holiday, but for a such a deal, I traded sleeping in for a new toy.

Sure enough, at 7:35 this morning, the store manager called telling me the laptop was available and would be shipped to me within the week. And that's the story of how Chris bought a Mac from a guitar store.

09:06 | Nerd | Comments (2)

July 20, 2006

Technical Difficulties

I upgraded my blog software to Movable Type 3.31 the other day, and it unfortunately didn't go so smoothly. If any of you loyal readers experience any problems reading, searching, or commenting on my blog, please drop me a note so I can get it fixed.

Oh, and if any of you know how to fix the following error message, I'd appreciate it (I get it when I try to view comments):

maketext doesn't know how to say: _USAGE_COMMENTS_LIST as needed at lib/MT.pm line 917

Update:: fixed the problem. I forgot to copy over the MT\tmpl directory.

08:19 | Blog , Nerd | Comments (1)

July 8, 2006

Mr. Glitch's Retirement

I was walking down my street last night when I was confronted face to face with an enemy from the past. There, a metre tall, is the face of the ill-tempered Mr. Glitch, who will eat you if you are wrong. For those of you who didn't watch Square One Television, it was my favourite math-themed TV show as a child. Mr. Glitch was Mathman's arch-nemesis in a math-related PacMan-ripoff videogame. So what was he doing plastered on the side of a bus in Seattle?

It looks like since finally defeating his life-long enemy Mathman (who was finally eaten after guessing 9 was prime), Mr. Glitch's life has been somewhat devoid of purpose. With no big football helmet to grumble at, Mr. Glitch has moved out of the math business altogether and became a spokesperson for Beacon Plumbing.

The Ill-tempered Mr Glitch Beacon Plumbing Mascot

22:22 | Nerd , Seattle | Comments (3)

April 28, 2006

It's Hard To Blog Without A Computer

After six years of hacking away at the same old Pentium III desktop, Bonnie and I and took a trip down to Fry's (the Mecca of Electronics shops), ready to buy components for a new machine. They had a motherboard-CPU combo for one low low price, so I picked up an AMD Athlon 64 3500+ (running at a cool 2.2 GHz), 2 GB of RAM and a case. The motherboard has onboard video and sound, and I was able to cannibalize my old machine for a wireless network card, DVD RAM drive and 250 GB hard drive.

After putting it all together and installing Windows (32-bit... I'll wait for Vista 64 before making the great leap into the world of large address spaces), something was wrong. Disk access was unusably slow, and any disk activity meant sound would come out garbled, and even the mouse pointer would be jerky. I scoured the Internets for people who had similar problems, but no luck. I tried reinstalling drivers, defragging my hard drive, and even lighting scented candles, in the hopes to get the computer "in the mood", but nothing worked. Finally, I bit the bullet and formatted my C drive and started over.

Things seem to be working alright now. I haven't finished installing the myriad of software I use (Office, Visual Studio, Civilization II, etc), but I was sure to throw on a web browser so I could bang out this blog entry so my sister would stop nagging me.

But what about my old computer? Luckily, I had enough ambient computer parts lying around the apartment to keep the old Funkbox up and running. I plan to make it into a server of some sort, perhaps even use it to hone my mad web programming skizillz and serve up some dynamic self-indulgent tripe.

My first computer, a black rack-mounted Pentium 166 MHz I got at Corel's fire sale for $20, was affectionately known as Blackie. My second was the self-assembled 850 MHz Funkbox. Today I announce to the world: Hulihee.

07:42 | Nerd | Comments (0)

February 15, 2006

When Will We Be Able To Replicate Love?

For all you Next Generation fans out there, here's a funny day-in-the-life of a replicator repairman.

I am such a nerd.

19:02 | Nerd | Comments (0)

October 19, 2005

A Time-Honoured Tradition

I hit up Fry's Electronics over the weekend, and like every time I go there, I ended up dropping several hundred dollars and coming home with DVDs (The Wrong Guy and Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas), software and computer accessories. This time I bought myself a DVD burner for my computer, strictly for backup purposes (no, really). Which will come in handy this weekend, when I perform the time-honoured tradition of formatting my C: drive and reinstalling Windows.

The last time I did this was in 2003, when I got back from my internship at Microsoft with a boxed version of Windows XP. After over 2 years my installation has begun to show its age. Applications are running really slowly, startup time is measured in minutes, and a curious thing has happened to my taskbar: the current application buttons have disappeared. All that's left are the toolbars I have turned on (QuickLaunch bar and MSN Search Toolbar). If I disable these toolbars, my entire taskbar vanishes. Hitting the Windows key makes the Start Menu appear in the top left corner of my screen. And now the latest thing: occasional lock ups, requiring a machine reset (or "warm boot" for those who remember the term).

So for the past three days, I've been attempting to backup my hard drive and preparing for the pain that is reinstalling the OS. If all went well I'll be blogging again on Sunday to let you all know how it went. If it went badly, I'll be posting from work on Monday.

19:23 | Nerd | Comments (1)

September 22, 2005

Slashdot Now Standards Compliant (Almost)

News For Nerds site Slashdot upgraded their webpage to HTML 4.01 and CSS, coming very close to compliance. Well done!

I always found it somewhat ironic that the website that geeks flock to in order to bash Microsoft for their lack of following standards was itself not standard compliant.

07:44 | Nerd | Comments (0)

September 15, 2005

Stop calling me B.M.

Yes, it's nerdy, but damn it's funny. For anyone who uses iTunes and/or Mac OSX, read The iTunes 5 Announcement From the Perspective of an Anthropomorphized Brushed Metal User Interface Theme.

07:57 | Nerd | Comments (0)

May 9, 2005

Spam Fun

I got an email with the following subject line directed to my Junk Mail folder: Screw the Cops!!! Let's make some Money!!!

Gee, I hope this isn't an ad for a police-themed prostitution ring. Because I'm not falling for that again.

22:16 | Nerd | Comments (2)

April 28, 2005

1337 H4X0R Hacks Own Computer

This is a hilarious transcript of an IRC conversation between a moderator and a so-called hacker who ends up hacking into his own computer and erasing his hard drives.

Highlights include the moderator telling the hacker his IP address is (thanks Shawn!) (which always points to the computer you're currently using) and the hacker believing it, the hacker comparing the moderator to his grandmother for using a firewall and, my favourite quote: "i don't wanna hack like this if he hides like a girl behind a fire wall".

17:55 | Nerd | Comments (2)

March 30, 2005

Win2K3 SP1 RTM

For those of you who can't decipher the title of this post, today Microsoft announced the release of Service Pack 1 for Windows Server 2003. As well, Microsoft announced x64 versions of Windows XP and Server 2003, to be available in April.

When I decide to retire my home computer (dubbed Funkbox) that I assembled in 2000, I'll seriously consider getting a 64-bit machine. It's kind of cool being on the cusp of the transition between computing platforms. Well, if you find computing platforms with large addressable memory spaces cool, that is.

22:24 | Nerd | Comments (2)

March 24, 2005

Dijitaru Fyuchuru

A fascinating series of articles about the history and evolution of the Japanese written language, and how it is adapting to the digital age. Includes photos of the first Japanese-language typewriter.

This series of articles compliments well the Library of Congress series on The Digital Future I'm currently listening to.

07:44 | Nerd

February 17, 2005

Mom And Dad Are No n00bz

Hey parents, concerned that your children are sending secret messages over the internets? Wondering where they picked up such bad grammar and spelling? Well this handy Microsoft page, A parent's primer to computer slang can help you decipher your kids' new writing style.

Some good tips include:

And my personal favourite:

I hope parents don't take this stuff too seriously. The day my mom sends me an email telling me that my "bl0g t0t4lly roX0rZ!", is the day I call the ISP and cut off her Internet access.

19:55 | Nerd | Comments (2)

January 12, 2005

But Honey, It's Only $500...

I'm so tempted to buy new Mac Mini, for no other reason than it's an affordable Mac, and I know nothing about Macs. And it's so darn cute!

I don't care much about the new iPod shuffle (except that according to the web page, you shouldn't eat it). Speaking of eating, it looks like John Gruber is going to have to eat his words.

07:41 | Nerd

September 23, 2004

Good And Bad At MS

Things have been both good and bad for Microsoft in my blogging absence.

Windows XP Service Pack 2 (SP2) has been released. If you haven't gotten it yet, please go get it now.
A flaw in the way some Microsoft product render JPEG images can, and has been exploited.
I started a technical blog all about the .NET Garbage Collector.
I'm sure only a fraction of my readers care. That's ok, I'm sure only a fraction of my GC blog care about my rants.

07:04 | Nerd

May 13, 2004

iTuning In

I've been trying to fill it my new 250 GB hard drive up by ripping all my CDs and turning my PC into a 21st-century jukebox. I've been using iTunes to rip and organize my music, and so far have been very happy (before you ask, I'm not using Windows Media Player because I can't rip music as MP3, burn CDs or organize my music as well as iTunes can).

iTunes is great for scaling to handle this amount of music (so far, 9 GB of music, over 1830 songs. I could listen to music for 6 days straight). But there are a couple of issues that aren't making my music digitizing experience all it can be:

Duplicate songs on multiple albums. For example, soundtracks or compilations that contain one or more songs I already have on full albums. Do I need to have two copies of the same song in order to be able to play both the compilation and the artist's album in full? (not that I'll be filling up that hard drive any time soon...) I can't find a way to properly file music by multiple artists, for example "Bug Powder Dust" performed by Bomb The Bass and Justin Warfield.

I realize these may be issues with the underlying MP3 ID3 tag technology more than iTunes, but they're issues that people with large CD collections will run into. Maybe if Longhorn's WinFS lives up to its promise, applications like iTunes will be able to leverage much more than just ID3...

20:17 | Nerd

April 2, 2004


Yesterday the .NET CLR Test Team (that includes me), took the afternoon off for a morale event at Illusionz, an arcade about twenty minutes outside of Redmond. I played some lame racing and shooting games, avoided DDR like the plague, and had a good time.

I found it interesting how the arcade industry is adapting to the popularity of home console systems: they're making games that you can't get for your console. For example, I played a boxing game, where you put on these special gloves and the game would track your movement, so you could duck or dodge your virtual opponent. Very cool. They also had a slew of musical games, equipped with keyboards, drums and electric guitars. Of course, all the games are Japanese, and yes, I've already seen a lot of them four years ago, but I was still impressed.

For the nostalgic folk, there was a wall lined with early-80s games, like Ms Pac Man, Tron, Centipede, Donkey Kong, Joust, and my personal favorite, Arkanoid. Good to know the classics can still bring the kids in.

07:09 | Nerd | Comments (4)

March 9, 2004

SLACCing Off

The Internet is really good at keeping the past from fading out of our collective memories. For example, I was doing an innocent web search, when I came upon this: The SLACC website. Oh goodie.

SLACC was a student organization started by Rafi, Mark and myself for the Coop students working at Corel back in the summer of 1999. As an organization, we didn't really do anything, but we did have a crappy website.

One day, probably during one of their binges, Mark and Chris decided that the co-ops needed an internal website. Nobody was really too sure what it was to be used for, but it seemed like a neat idea at the time. After putting in a request with HR and Legal, everybody went happily back to school.

I was the "webmaster" for the internal website, but it appears that after I left Corel, someone posted a modified version on Fortunecity, where it was promptly forgotten. Archeologists of the future may one day dig up this site, examine it closely, then hopefully bury it back in the ground.

07:15 | Nerd | Comments (10)

February 2, 2004


For a version 1.0 product, I've really been impressed with Microsoft OneNote. I use it all the time at work to keep track of various random scraps of information. I use it at home to keep lists, and even organize my blog ideas.

Chris Pratley, Program Manager for OneNote has a blog all about the product.

Why have I suddenly turned this website into a commercial for Microsoft? I dunno. I guess it's not often I get excited about office software.

20:28 | Nerd

January 24, 2004


Lately I've been fighting off the urge to rush out and buy myself an iPod, despite recommendations from various sources. I figured with my digital camera and my Smartphone, I had spent enough money on high-tech gadgetry. But I still wanted to be able to make my music collection portable, not to mention feed my technophilia. So as a compromise, I bought a 256 Mb Secure Digital card (which holds only about 3 hours worth of music, but was 1/8th the price of the iPod I was eyeing), copied a few albums on it, and stuck it into my phone, which conveniently has Pocket Windows Media Player. The whole bus ride home yesterday I managed to drown out the other passengers and ambient bus noises with Pink Floyd's greatest hits.

Although Pocket WMP is lacking most of the features of a full-fledged media player (equalizer, playlist editor, shuffle), and the earbuds that came with the phone are pretty uncomfortable, for a mobile phone I was pretty darn impressed. I think we've finally caught up to where Japanese cell phones were in 2001.

11:46 | Nerd | Comments (2)

December 16, 2003

5 = Love

Justin Frankel and those crazy cats at Nullsoft have done it again. Today they released Winamp 5, an utterly fine media player. I've been using Winamp since my first co-op job in 1998, and haven't been disappointed (well, except for Winamp 3, which we will never speak of again).

08:21 | Nerd

November 28, 2003

Naked War Driving

According to this article, you could be charged as an accomplice if you run an unsecured home Wi-Fi network that gets compromised.

Anyone who runs a wireless network or likes driving without pants should read this article.

18:01 | Nerd

November 5, 2003

New Phone!

I finally had it with my old cell phone (which the good people at AT&T gave me for free), and went out and bought a new one, the Motorola MPx200. It seems more advanced than my home PC. I wonder how to place a call...

Now to throw my old one into the sea.

07:04 | Nerd

October 13, 2003


My website seems to be up and running error-free now. It appears my host uninstalled a key piece of software (the Perl DB_File module) required for my blog's back-end (Movable Type) to run. It looks like they reinstalled it and everyone's happy...

Except for the fact my internet provider's service has been flakey all week. The intermittent Internet connection has made blogging even more slow and painful than it usually is, so forgive my terseness.

21:43 | Nerd | Comments (2)

August 18, 2003

Three 50000 Mail 50 In The Mail

One of the mailing lists I'm on at work recently got spammed with the strangest piece of unsolicited email I have ever seen. It's not porn, it's not herbal Viagra... I actually have no idea what this email is supposed to be about. It looks like it was written by a Chinese-speaking person with a very loose grasp of English. As far as I can tell, it's a cross between an offer to sell an email list, and an offer to launder money. You be the judge. (The only thing I changed about the email is the removal of the bank account numbers.)

My favorite line is "I may be living very quickly, and the bank checks and verify on the net, and confirms the queen, and swiftly issues the datum". Maybe I should consider a bank with queen confirmation...

23:10 | Nerd | Comments (2)

August 16, 2003

Bow Chicka Bow-Wow

Since pointing out the other day that I'm the #1 Chris Lyon according to Google, I got to wondering which of my namesakes was the least popular. After 67 pages of search results, I found my answer:

Chris Lyon, adult film director. I can't help but wonder what my life would have been like had I followed that path...

12:30 | Nerd | Comments (3)

August 13, 2003

Still #1

One year ago today, Google ranked me as the #1 Chris Lyon on the Internet.

Looks like I still got it.

08:23 | Nerd

August 12, 2003


Please, take a moment and update your antivirus definitions and (if you're running any version of Microsoft Windows) please visit Windows Update. The MSBlast virus has been hitting people all day, and I'd hate for my loyal readers to get burned.

19:16 | Nerd

July 28, 2003

Don't Shoot The Messenger

Robert Scoble once again praises MSN Messenger 6. I do like it more than previous versions, but it's still lacking 4 out of the 5 ICQ features I pointed out in February (you can now log conversations). I must admit, the custom emoticon feature is an abundant source of immature fun.

00:00 | Nerd

July 5, 2003

The Intern Wars

Yet another reason I'm glad to be done school and have a job: The Intern Wars.

00:00 | Nerd

June 30, 2003

The War On Spam

This will be the last thing I have to say about Bill Gates' solutions to spam, I guarantee. In this USA Today article he touches on the pay-for-email scheme Ryan and Matt brought up, and even hints the Microsoft is implementing something like this. I don't have any first-hand knowledge of this strategy, but it will be interesting to see how it plays out.

00:00 | Nerd

June 29, 2003

Paying For Ads

Yet another take on the spam problem: Matt Langeman pointed me to a 1998 Bill Gates article about opting to pay to read spam. Here's what Matt thinks about it:

I think it has the potential of working. If you could adjust the payment amount you should be able reduce the financial incentives of spamming. Maybe even each individual could set the amount that must be paid in order to send them an email. Of course micro payments would need to be easy and integrated into email clients etc.

Like Joel Spolsky's idea, this requires that all email move to a pay system, otherwise why would spammers ever use this when they can send you mail for free?

Does anyone remember All Advantage? It was a company that would pay you to look at ads online. This site seems to be all that's left of the "great new Internet company that pays its members to surf the Web". If a pay-for-ads system is to ever work, we would have to learn from the mistakes of All Advantage and its ilk.

00:00 | Nerd

June 26, 2003

Mail Bag

In response to my spam post, Ryan pointed me to this article by Joel Spolsky. Ryan then had this to say about it:

Unfortunately it requires a "boil the ocean" approach. You'd have to say, I'm not going to accept email from anyone outside this new system.

And I'd raise the cost: if it's a legit email, the cost will be returned anyway. And if you're not a spammer & the receiver keeps your dime, then chances are you won't be emailing them much anymore.

I'm going to have to go ahead and disagree with Ryan (and Joel) here. Let's use telemarketers as an example. They have to pay for the phone calls, not to mention people to do the phoning. And despite legislature, call display, and other dubious technologies, people still get calls from telemarketers (I used to get two calls a week from AT&T while at my temporary apartment in Redmond. It didn't matter to them that I was only a temporary tenant and couldn't give permission to switch long distance providers. It also didn't concern them that I requested to be put on their "Do-Not-Call List" every time they called, since whenever they called back, they told me they had no record of such a request).

00:00 | Nerd

June 24, 2003

Spam, Eggs, Bacon and Spam

Today Bill Gates sent out a company-wide email (I still get a kick out of seeing an email from billg in my inbox) and press release about how bad spam is. I'm sure most of us didn't need an email from Chief Software Architect of the world's largest software company to tell us that spam sucks.

What I find interesting is that spam isn't a technological problem. What I mean is, spam isn't a problem caused by insufficient technology (like the insecurity of PINs instead of, say, retina scans). It's not a problem that's easily fixed by technology, but held back for political or business reasons (like instant messenger interoperability). It's not even a matter of the government not investing enough money into the problem.

The problem, as stupid and low-tech as it is, is people. It's people who are sending out the one million bulk emails about printer cartridges, or penis enlargers every day. And as long as they keep getting a response rate of 0.01%, it will be cost a effective and successful business.

One "solution" is email filters on the user level. This may stop 99.99% of the spam that reaches your inbox, but it doesn't solve the problem. It doesn't even slow it down. In fact, spammers try innovative ways to slip past filters, like by putting periods in the middle of words ("Sa.ve mon.ey on stuf.f"), purposely misspell words, or giving really misleading subjects ("I missed your call..."). Why they think tricking people into reading their emails will make them more willing to buy their herbal Viagra is beyond me.

Despite how much spam you're stopping, the spam is still out there, literally clogging the Internet's pipes, forcing businesses to invest time and money dealing with it. Recently Microsoft has tried a very low-tech (and very American) way to help curb the flow of spam: lawsuits.

So what's the "magic bullet" to stop spam? Spam filters? Paul Graham thinks so. I personally don't share his optimism, especially if spammers keep getting sneakier. Is litigation the answer? Not if spammers move their operations to countries that don't have any such laws.

I don't know what the solution is, but I personally don't see an end to spam anytime soon. Now to go clean out my inbox.

00:00 | Nerd

June 10, 2003

Thanks Joe

Thanks to Joe Bork who's helping me with my MT and database woes. And congrats on his one year at Microsoft. I think on my one year anniversary, I'll bring in a kilogram of Smarties, just to be different (and Canadian).

00:00 | Nerd

June 9, 2003

My Most Hated Of All Bases

Does anyone have experience with Movable Type? I'm trying to set it up, but my provider has no database support (actually, I don't want to pay twice what I am now just for MySQL plus a load of useless features). Is there a way to have archiving without a database backend?

Where's Dave when you need him? He's my go-to guy when it comes to web site stuff (including my upcoming redesign... but perhaps I've said too much). Dave has helped with the colour schemes and layouts for the last two site designs, and has been really helpful with my MT questions.

By the way, I realize the irony of a Microsoft employee inquiring about Open Source solutions, so don't bother pointing that out. Read my obligatory disclaimer if you're still confused.

00:00 | Nerd

May 18, 2003

Penguins Cannot Fly

After 30 hours of sitting in a conference room teasing my brain and eating pizza, I'm finally back home and ready for bed. The Puzzle Hunt was great fun, and as a team we did quite well. Out of the forty teams that participated, our team (inexplicably named "Penguins Cannot Fly") came in seventh. Of the six teams ahead of us, four of them solved the two "meta-puzzles" (puzzles made from the solutions to all the other puzzles).

Somehow I became the team expert on solving cryptic crosswords, despite the fact that before yesterday I had never solved a single cryptic problem in my life. I think now I'm hooked on them.

Brain tired. Work tomorrow. Need sleep.

00:00 | Nerd

May 16, 2003

Gone Hunting

Have a good weekend everyone. I'll be spending mine locked in a conference room on campus pushing my brain cells to their limits trying to win Microsoft's Puzzle Hunt. I'll be sure to tell you all about it, assuming I have enough brainpower left to find my way home.

00:00 | Nerd

May 11, 2003


On Saturday I spent a few hours with my roommate Andy and ten of his friends preparing for next weekend's Microsoft Puzzle Hunt. It's like a scavenger hunt for Mensa. Teams are given cryptic puzzles to solve, and the first team to solve them all in 48 hours wins.

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April 23, 2003

Nobody Home

If it's 3:00am and you see my Messenger status is online, chances are I forgot to log out, so please don't take it personally that I didn't respond. I came into work the other day only to find a screen full of little windows greeting me.

00:00 | Nerd

April 21, 2003

Lovely Spam

I remember signing up for my free Hotmail email account back in 1996. Since then, the service's user base has grown to the tens of millions, and so has the spam. Over this weekend my inbox accumulated over 30 unsolicited emails for various products and services, most of which are inappropriate for anyone under 40.

This came as a surprise to me, since I had set up an elaborate system of filters (over 30) to weed out the spam. Occasionally some would slip through, but on average I could expect less than 5 a day. That was until this weekend.

It turns out Microsoft has now put a limit of 10 filters, in addition to its inbox size cap, for non-paying Hotmail members. Now, being that it's a free service with an exponentially growing user base, I can understand the need for these restrictions. The problem is, even if I start paying for the service (which I won't), I'll still get inundated with spam. So I guess I have two options:

  1. Stop using Hotmail. This would also mean I would need a new Messenger log-in, and the spam cycle would start anew.
  2. Empty my inbox of spam manually every other day, lest I go over my size limit.

I bet the guys who sold Hotmail to Microsoft are laughing all the way to the bank.

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April 3, 2003

The Under-Privileged

Please forgive this short nerdy rant.

So-called computer security experts advise running one's day-to-day computing activities in a low-privilege account. This makes sense because, as we all know, viruses have all the privileges of the infected user. Also we don't want to be accidentally trashing some important system directory. What's funny is most CS people who run, say Linux, would be horrified at the idea of using the root account for daily work. Yet these same people shamelessly run Windows with administrator privileges (despite the fact that Windows viruses outnumber Linux viruses by about a billion to one).

But I'm not about to rant about those people; my beef is with software developers.

My parents recently bought a new computer. I thoughtfully set up five user accounts on the new computer, one for each member of my family. I heeded the security experts' advice and gave myself the only admin, password-protected account. I taught my parents how to use Windows XP's "Run As" command to perform those tasks deemed admin-worthy. I figured I had thought of everything. I thought wrong.

They also bought an HP Officejet v40 all-in-one fax-scanner-copier-printer. Everything seemed to work fine, until you tried to fax a file directly. A weird, "no connection" error came up. Puzzled, I tried from my account. The fax was sent flawlessly. I tried again from my dad's account: error. Not even the celebrated "Run As" command would work. I checked the manual: nothing. I went to the website: nothing. I scoured the web and newsgroups: nothing. Finally, in a moment of desperation, I phoned tech support, who told me that faxing was one of those holy tasks that only admins could perform.

What is so important and dangerous about faxing that only admins are trusted with the privilege? The tech support guy couldn't answer that, and gave me some bullshit about the registry before suggesting I make everyone admins.

I'm shocked and appalled that software developers, my brethren, are designing software so shoddily. I've seen stuff like this in other pieces of software I use, but there's usually an alternative. But here, it's not like anyone else makes drivers for HP's products.

So I don't know what to do. I've given their tech support a scathing review in an email survey they sent me, so hopefully they'll wise up and update their driver, or at least send me an acknowledgement that their software is to blame, not the fundamental nature of faxing.

In case any of you were wondering, I run as administrator on my own Windows XP machine. Yeah, I'm a hypocrite, but you love me anyway.

00:00 | Nerd

April 2, 2003

Worth 1000 Words

I finally decided to update my photo gallery page. It's a little plain looking right now, but I plan to eventually pretty it up and add more photos.

I have also finally finished my foray into C# and .NET. I give you Shashin, the photo gallery generator I used to generate my photo gallery. Anyone with the Microsoft .NET Frameworks is welcome to try it out.

Can I program as well as I can rant? Only time and my site logs will tell...

00:00 | Nerd

March 28, 2003

Pentium Post-Mortem

My parents got their new computer today. It's a brand new Dell Pentium 4 running Windows XP, which replaces their old Pentium 120 MHz running Windows 95. The old machine had been on its last leg for quite a while now. It would receive occasional loving whenever I came home in between terms at university. Little things like updating the antivirus, or installing the latest service packs were things that extended the machine's life by another few months.

A few months ago the on-board battery died, so the system clock was permanently at 12:00am, January 1, 1980. This didn't prove to be a big problem, except that the web browser would occasionally freak out when web sites would issue security certificates dated over 20 years in the future.

Since I'll be leaving soon, and won't be back to work my magic on the computer anymore, my parents decided to get a new one. I spent all day today migrating documents, bookmarks and profiles from the old computer to the new one. The old computer doesn't have a USB port, so I couldn't hook up my external CD Burner, nor my Compact Flash card reader. I had to resort to floppy disks. Lots of floppy disks.

I expect that with this new Dell, my parents won't be phoning me up when the modem doesn't work, and I have to talk my mom through physically removing, then reinstalling it. Not anymore.

00:00 | Nerd

February 25, 2003

Messenger Feature

Pete pointed out to me that Messenger shows when the other contact is typing, which my version of ICQ doesn't. I do find that feature handy, but I'd give it up for my 5 ICQ features.

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February 24, 2003

Instant Message Woes

The top five reasons I prefer ICQ to MSN Messenger:

  1. ICQ lets you rename your contacts.
  2. ICQ keeps your online status between sessions.
  3. ICQ has an invisible mode where you can still chat with people.
  4. ICQ lets you send messages, not emails, to offline users.
  5. ICQ can automatically log conversations.

The one reason I use MSN Messenger and not ICQ:

  1. All my friends who once used ICQ have switched over to Messenger.

It really makes me wonder what it is about Messenger that is so appealing...

00:00 | Nerd

February 18, 2003


Finally, some acknowledgement for my 2 years of volunteering with Mozilla. Too bad for them I'll be working for their competitor soon.

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January 24, 2003

Math Shmath

According to the University of Waterloo's Quest site, I officially graduated with a Bachelor of Mathematics in Honours Computer Science.

That being said, I can't even help my sister with her first-year calculus course.

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January 14, 2003


Not much exciting has been going on here in Kincardine. It hasn't stopped snowing since I got here, discouraging me from leaving the house. I've been holed up learning computer algorithms and .NET in preparation for my upcoming interview.

I will be heading back to Waterloo this weekend, then make a quick trip home to collect my interview clothes before heading back to Redmond. Hopefully my clothes aren't virus-laden. Nothing ruins one's chances of employment more than throwing up on the interviewer.

00:00 | Nerd

December 15, 2002

I'll Be In My Ready Room

Who needs TNN and their Friday Night Bonus Treks when I've got my cellphone? Gates McFadden never looked so good.

Picture Dr Crusher on cellphone game

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November 30, 2002

Best Spam Ever

I don't get spam to my Waterloo email account very often, but when I do, it's usually a big occasion. Today I got the funniest spam I have ever seen. This even beats the Become a registered minister email.

WARNING: The following except contains sexual content and may be offensive to, well, everyone. My comments are in italics.

I just want to tell you how about Amanda Lynn.
Yes, I am her fan, and she blows my mind.

Hmm... sounds innocent enough. I guess Amanda Lynn is some sort of celebrity.

If you really want to jerk off, just watch this girl at [address withheld].

Well, he just cut to the chase there, didn't he? I guess that answers my question about what kind of celebrity she is.

If you have adolescents at home, invite them to watch her too, so they can jerk off with you.

Now that's the clincher. Even if I were to go to this website with the sole purpose of masturbating, I seriously doubt I would invite my teenaged roommates/siblings/children over to the computer and make it a group affair.

If you want to send her money by PayPal use Payment Address Or you can visit her at Her web site and send emails to Such a sexy gril

I love it when a woman has a sexy gril.

Yours truly,
Mike Poop

If you can't trust a guy named "Mike Poop", then who can you trust?

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November 12, 2002


I'm mildly annoyed that Microsoft's .NET Framework version 1.0 does not contain a folder chooser dialog. I'm currently working on a side project using C# and .NET (gotta keep the skills fresh), and I don't want to spend my time reinventing the wheel, so to speak.

What is this side project? Let's just say it will have a direct impact on this website. I don't want to say too much, in case I never get it finished, and I get hundreds of emails inquiring about its progress.

Ha! It's fun to dream.

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November 2, 2002

Copy N' Paste

When Microsoft Visual Studio.NET (the program I use to develop my CS assignment) crashes, does it really have to clear the clipboard too? It's kind of like stabbing me in the chest, then pouring salt in my eyes, so if I happen to recover from the wound, I'll be blind.

I had just cut an entire function (a few dozen lines of sweet sweet source code) with the intention of pasting it into another file when VS crashed. When it came back up, I noticed it helpfully deleted my copied text. Thanks!

00:00 | Nerd

October 30, 2002

Midterm Distractions

Before I head off to write back-to-back midterms (who wouldn't want four hours of straight exam goodness?), here's a few distractions:

Phoenix 0.4 is out. Download. Surf. Enjoy.

Find what Google thinks of you with Googlism. According to Google...

Wow, Google knows me better than I know myself!

In web design news, Meryl Evans has compiled a list of websites that use CSS for layout (instead of tables). One Big Rant is number 809. If you have a website, I strongly encourage you to kick the tables habit and join us in style sheet bliss (I'm looking in your direction, Pete). And for those of you who have done away with tables, go add your site to the list.

And finally, as I was munching on some "Giant Lady Fingers" cookies, I suffered a sudden Simpsons flashback:

Homer: (standing under the Statue of Liberty): "We'd like to dedicate this next number to a very special woman. She's a hundred years old, and she weighs over two hundred... tons."
Man in audience: "This enormous woman will devour us all! Aah!" (jumps into water)
Homer: "Er, I meant the statue..."

00:00 | Nerd

October 29, 2002


Congrats to Dav who decided to hop on the bandwagon of accessibility with his new website design. Granted it's not a very crowded bandwagon yet, but give it a year. Especially with all these accessibility lawsuits.

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October 11, 2002


Thank you Dav for pointing out this Wired article to me. As some of you know, but no doubt don't care, it brings a little bit of joy to my otherwise cynical and empty life to see mainstream websites use web standards. This site uses them, and I encourage all my fellow bloggers to use them as well (kudos to Pete and Dav. Rafi has the right idea, but still needs a little work).

Speaking of web standards, I have made the switch from IE as my default browser to Phoenix, the slim and sleek browser based on Gecko, the Mozilla rendering engine. In case you're still reading, I highly recommend it if you like web standards, cool features like tabbed browsing and pop-up blocking, and don't want a built-in mail reader.

00:00 | Nerd

September 24, 2002


I think my monitor woes are due to the poor wiring in this house. Also, every electrical appliance in the basement is plugged into the same outlet, so that can't be good. I notice the picture jiggle whenever someone turns on the TV upstairs.

00:00 | Nerd

September 21, 2002

19 Inches

I finally gave up and went shopping for a new monitor. I've had my current MAG MX17H for 3 years now, and couldn't put up with the pincushioned fuzziness any more. I bought it one cold January afternoon in 1999 at the University's monthly computer rummage sale for $20. It was 8 years old at the time, and the "AS IS" sticker didn't fill me with confidence. I decided to throw caution and common sense to the wind and bought it. With my friend Ryan's help, we carried the 50 lb monster across campus to Angela's car. Imagine my surprise when we turned it on and found out it worked.

That monitor served me well. But today I bought a new one. A ViewSonic A90F. 19" of crisp display goodness. That is, until about 9:00 tonight.

All of the sudden, the picture started shaking at 1280x1024 at 75 Hz. I don't mean flickering, it's like it's quivering on the spot. It was working fine all day. If I crank it down to 60 Hz, the shaking is gone, but then I have to deal with a crappy refresh rate. So I called tech support. A very friendly woman took the call and after 5 minutes told me the monitor was defective and should be taken back to the store for a replacement.

Great. I hope Staples is willing to come here and pick it up because I'm not carrying this thing over on my bike.

00:00 | Nerd

September 8, 2002

The Pain, The Pain Of It All

As promised, a Misc Rambling all out my wisdom teeth extraction and the blinding pain that followed, entitled They Stole My Teeth! Damn, I've been in a lot of pain the past few days. I haven't even been outside to enjoy the 30°C weather. I've just been sitting at home in my pyjamas sweating all day.

Actually, I have been doing something else with my time besides munching codeine pills like they were M&Ms. I decided to dust off my Bugzilla account, download the latest nightly build of Mozilla and start helping out again. Since I've been back, I've resolved about 40 bugs. How the project survived without me for so long is beyond me. I feel another rant coming on...

I finally decided to buy my own domain name. Once I get the necessary server voodoo taken care of, you will be able to access this fine weblog via http://www.cplyon.ca/ (don't bother trying yet, it won't work). It's slightly easier to remember than my current 45-character URL, as well as being a little more personal, and a little more Canadian.

00:00 | Nerd

August 27, 2002

Version 7

In unrelated web browser news, Netscape 7 is out and a rewritten Opera 7 is coming. Still no word on IE 7. If you're using Netscape 6, I highly recommend you upgrade.

00:00 | Nerd

August 13, 2002

I'm #1

According to Google, I am the #1 Chris Lyon on the Internet. Go on, see for yourself. That's right, my web presence has beaten out that of Chris Lyon, High School Wrestler; Chris Lyon, Rock n' Roll Vocalist; and even the Reverend Chris Lyon who survived what he described to be "a serious bun-fight". It takes a special kind of person whose popularity can soar above and beyond these outstanding individuals. Also among the ranks of the lesser Chris Lyons, a real estate agent in Boise Idaho and a female lecturer at Utah State University.

After playing around with Google for a while, I wondered if a domain with my name had already been taken. Of course it had! (now taken down) And what kind of site is it? Some kind of really sketchy chat site (check out the girl in cam 1). I signed up just for fun but haven't got any confirmation email yet. But I'm not worried. I know Chris Lyon the Pornographer won't let me down.

I just realized that now a search in Google for "Chris Lyon the Pornographer" will return this site. Let the good times roll!

00:00 | Nerd

August 5, 2002


Friday night I decided to do the nerd thing and attended a Why .NET? presentation. I won a t-shirt, a book and a coffee mug. For all of you not into computers, you can stop reading now.

In case anyone is still reading, I'll spare you the gory details and just say that this presentation had exactly what I was hoping to find when I took this internship at Microsoft. I got to ask questions about C#, not to some self-proclaimed expert, but to the guys who wrote it (alas, Anders Hejlsberg wasn't there). It's cool to find out how a technology evolves, especially taking business factors into account.

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June 20, 2002


I got a digital camera today. UPS delivered it right to my desk. It's the Canon Powershot S30. Sweet. I'll soon be littering this site with photos of me doing stuff.

How do they expect me to get any work done now that I have my new toy?

00:00 | Nerd

June 14, 2002

My Dirty Little Secret

I guess my dirty little secret is out. The folks at Mozilla now know why I haven't made my usual token contribution to the project in the last few months -- I'm working for the enemy.

Yeah, like they really remember who I am. I remember talking to one of the lead testers on IRC just before I came here. He welcomed me to the Mozilla project and asked if I had any questions. I told him I had been a member for a year already and I think I knew what was going on. Embarrassed, he pretended to remember me and told me what a great job I had done. Now I didn't start helping out with Mozilla for recognition, I did it for the hope of a better Internet (I'm so altruistic it hurts). I know it's hard when you have several hundred (thousand?) people helping out, and I didn't really expect anyone to pat me on the back and say "Hey Chris, good job finding that bug, and by the way, thanks for the hours of triaging you've done," but I had hoped someone would have at least recognized my name.

Life is hard, I know.

00:00 | Nerd

June 7, 2002

Nerd News

Mozilla 1.0 has been released. And there was much rejoicing.

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February 22, 2002

Loneliness And Cheeseburgers

So I'm sitting at my computer, working hard on my Computer Networking assignment, when I read the course newsgroup and find out the assignment has been postponed by almost a week. This is usually a good thing, except in this case it totally shattered my will to continue working. This was supposed to be Hell Week Part Deux, with no less than three CS assignments due, but ever since reading that posting, the procrastination gremlins (who until now, I had successfully fought back) bound and gagged my determination, rendering me a useless mass who would rather watch Star Trek:TNG reruns than even glance at the assignment again. (Oh Data, will you ever learn to be human?)

As if that wasn't bad enough, I have the whole apartment to myself tonight, the perfect environment for late-night programming and shouting profanities at my computer. Instead, I sat for a night of watching the Tee-Vee with the knowledge that even if I wanted to drag my unshaven, homework-clothes-wearing self out of the apartment, all my friends would be home with their parents for reading week.

I think I'll just curl up with a book and go to bed. Am I the only one who's actually reading during Reading Week? Am I that much of a nerd? Oh yeah, the Star Trek thing. Never mind.

00:00 | Nerd

February 6, 2002

Google-Whacking Off

Googlewhacking, the lastest sensation sweeping the nerd nation! It's the new best way to procrastinate. Here's what you do:

  1. Think of two completely unrelated words. Word that you would not expect to be in the same web page.
  2. Plug those two words into Google.
  3. Make surprised face when you see just how many pages use the words stereophonic chicken on the same page.

The object is to get one single search result. Read the Googlewhacking website for rules and regulations. So far I've found a bunch:

Have fun, and play safe!

00:00 | Nerd