Monthly Archives: December 2009

Happy new year – go ‘Clones!

That was a pretty uninspiring win, but I think the ISU Cyclones will get them however they can take them.  They looked good for about five minutes of the game, but that was enough to put the inept Gophers behind by one too many points.

As we head into 2010, its amazing to look back on how much has changed.  New jobs, new schedules, new classes.  What is great is how much has stayed the same – great family, gracious friends and wife who loves me despite my numerous and likely very annoying shortcomings.

Here is to 2010;  happier work situations, watching more movies, reading more books, creating a more complex home network and playing some more video games while magically becoming more physically fit.  Beyond and above that, enjoying life and marriage!

It is going to be a great year 🙂


Whew, finally done installing 7

All of the PC’s in the Juchems Blaine household are now on Windows 7.  Most of the ones in Plainfield are as well, only one left there!  Windows 7 is great operating system that really takes away many of the reasons to be a rebel and stick with XP or be lazy and stay on Vista.  If not having the most secure and feature rich Windows operating system out there so far isn’t enough to get your rear in gear, here are a few more reasons to move.

First off, if you have Vista, upgrading to 7 is a complete cinch.  Get the same version of 7 that you have of Vista (ie, Ultimate to Ultimate) put in the disk and away it goes.  I have done this several times with no ill effects.  Be prepared to free up some space on your C: drive and reinstall your video drivers.  It might take a bit, but it is so easy its almost criminal.  You don’t have to pay someone to do it 🙂

With XP, you need to be prepared to wipe it out and start fresh.  Also, if your PC is older than Vista (late 2006) you should be prepared that things like wireless cards and printers may not work.   Look for drivers before you go for the upgrade.  Beyond that, make sure you have your media and keys for things like Office are at hand, back up your important data to a couple different places, put the DVD in and enjoy!  It will preserve anything in your “my documents” folder if you choose to not nuke your XP partition when installing but you shouldn’t rely on that.  In my experience, installing 7 plus running windows update once after the install will catch an incredible amount of diverse hardware.

Lastly, avoid buying a retail copy of 7.  NewEgg OEM is the way to go. Buy the 64 bit if you can, only buy the 32 bit version if you have to.  If you buy it now, you can expect to have a solid five year lifespan on that Operating System. Might as well jump in early!


Cheap Toner & Ink

I’ve always appreciated Monoprice for their cheap cables and they are widely known around the internet as the place to go for decent quality cables at low prices.  What I didn’t realize is that they have such a great selection of toner and ink for printers at approprately low prices as well.  Many of the toners I looked at received good reviews, so I won’t hesitate to order from them the next time I need ink.  Check it out!



The Christmas break gave me a chance to get back in the movie watching groove.  Kristin and I saw a couple together, then we watched a couple back at the farm with my mom and dad.  Don’t the let “the farm” fool you, “the farm” is more technologically with it than my own home theater setup.  I only have a bigger screen.

Bolt, DVD @ home

This is fantastic movie that Disney released last year.  It was always sorta-kinda on my list to see, but we had never made a priority out of it.  Seeing the backlog of 150 movies in our two movie a month Netflix queue, it is amazing that we got it for Christmas.  Kristin must have bumped it to the top, so I’ll give her the credit for the excellent selection.

The story of Bolt is relatively simple – a dog (Bolt) thinks he has super powers because a studio has been using him in a TV show and has always kept him in the dark to preserve his method acting.  An evil exec shows up on set, shakes it up and Bolt ends up getting mailed across the country because he thought that his Person, Penny, was in trouble.  As Bolt journeys back from New York to Hollywood, we meet several amusing groups of pigeons that stereotype each region, a cat with some emotional issues (aren’t they all crazy?) and the most awesome hamster ever in a movie.  I don’t even need to see G-Force to reach this conclusion.  Amazingly, there is some pretty witty and laugh out loud funny dialogue that results from this setup.  Paired with the technical prowess showed in the gorgeous CGI rendering, this was an incredibly easy movie to enjoy.

Grade: A-

Avatar, AMC 3D @ Roseville

You’ve heard about this movie.  I tried to go opening night but the sellout crowds were a put off seeing as my parents and sister were up and we wanted to also get in some family time.  When Kristin and I tried to go again on Christmas day, the show we wanted to see was sold out, so we got tickets for the next one and got in line, 3D glasses in hand.  It was definitely worth the wait and the $13 per ticket it cost to see.

The movie was fantastic on several levels.  Technically, in 3D it was gorgeous and it was one of few movies where I felt like the big theater experience was worth the coin.  Check this movie out in the nicest theater you have available to you.  You’ll be getting immersed in a new world, and you owe it to yourself to do that in the best environment possible as it is a nearly three hour time commitment.

Next up, the story was a great chunk of sci-fi.  Maybe it was watered down a touch for more general consumption but I still thought it was engrossing.  This a brand new world, brand new story and originality was refreshing and it was nice that they didn’t feel the need to use an existing piece of sci-fi and then vulgarize it for a movie.  It is very accessible and yet you can ponder the movie afterward if you so desire.  To anyone who wants to discuss the question “How does it feel to have betrayed human kind?” I’d be more than willing to engage.  The drive to Iowa on the 26th gave me a great opportunity to reflect.

This is a technically advanced Braveheart (which I also loved) that puts you literally onto a different world.  Its a sensory experience that you’ll be sorry to have missed that you don’t need to be a science fiction fan to get into.  That said, this movie is going to be in theaters a long, long time.

Grade: A

Inglorious Bastards, Blu-Ray @ The Farm

A fictional movie that is set in World War 2 France, this movie is a testament to Quent Tarantino’s film making prowess.  Lightning paced, viciously meticulous dialogue and astounding set and camera work layer the experience of this movie.  Yet, like our beloved Ogre once pointed out the Donkey, not all layers make everyone happy.   And if everyone truly loves cake and parfait, this movie is more like an onion.  Its violence and parallel universe type story line might be very off putting for some.

Inglorious Bastards is the type of movie you should prepare to watch.  The lights should be low, your cell phone off, your popcorn and beverage set before you.  Then hit play and and pay attention to all the detail.  If you do enjoy the movie, I am imagine you’ll be seeing it several times as there will be new details, new implications and foreshadowing in the dialogue and a host of other minutiae that are impossible to catch in one pass.  Sadly, I own this on Blu-Ray but have no player of my own.  I guess I’ll have to wait a bit to view it again, but that is OK.  I have other movies to see for the first time.

I’m torn on grading this movie.  I typically really enjoy Tarantino’s work… yet I didn’t find this movie supremely entertaining.  On the flip side of that, I appreciate its cinematic quality.  When you are up for a “good” movie versus a “fun” one, this would be an excellent choice.

Grade: B+

District 9, Blu-Ray @ The Farm

Another day, another alien movie about a guy who becomes an alien who has what humans want.  This one is quite a bit different than the Avatar experience, however.  It is done in a documentary fashion, in which live action scenes are played out interjected with interviews from the future about “the incident.”  A story about a simple yet ambitious man who loves his wife who is the head guy in charge of an alien relocation program that doesn’t go quite as planned, there is plenty of action, violence and gross out there for the summer action crowd.  At the same time, there are a lot of heavy themes pertain to individual rights, greed, and the ability of humans to act inhumanely that are also there in Avatar but played out much more forcibly and with greater emphasis.

Instead of relying purely on the concept of humans wanting the ground the aliens inhabit, ala Avatar, District 9 reveals that the aliens have technology that humans desire as well.  Weapons, to be exact, the kind that make people explode and that can only be operated when held by an alien.  Well, our good(ish) guy is infected by an alien fuel container and quickly starts to become a alien himself.  Handily, in his metamorphosis  state he is able to operate the alien weaponry which makes his body quite the valuable commodity and it is decided that his body should be donated to science post haste.  He doesn’t quite see it that way, as most people could empathize with, and takes off.  That’s where the movie puts the action into high gear and the bodies start splatting.

This is another movie that I didn’t quite get into like I would have expected too.  Be well rested, mentally prepared, and cut out the distractions to get the most out of this movie.  It is worth your time and attention.

Grade: B+
Wrap Up

You might be wondering why I piled this all into one post.  The fact of the matter is that I saw one movie a day for four days and that changed the way I regarded each of them.  As such, it is important to capture how each movie impacted the ratings of the others.

First off, Bolt to Avatar highlighted the growing versatility of CGI.  In Bolt, the computer renderings allow for great abstraction of locals and artsy interpretation of traveling, etc and for that it worked fantastically.  Bolt is a beautiful movie.  In Avatar, a new world literally sprang from the screen, drawn down to the smallest detail.  You were there.

From Avatar to Inglorious Bastards (IB), there was a crazy shift in story detail.  If Avatar is a huge mural that doesn’t have much detail when you stand too close to it but is breathtaking in its entirety, IB is large painting that continues to show more detail the more you scrutinize it.  There is so much detail that IB is broken down into chapters which I think is done to give you a chance to commit what just happened to your brain before it starts to fill your ears and eyes again.  It is a complicated movie and and seeing it backed against Avatar reveals  that while there can be pleasure in these details, it can be very off putting.  Considering Bolt in this mix, you realize that movies nearly everyone will enjoy have a lot of value in the fact that movie snobs and people who like to watch movies can enjoy them together and have a common ground.

District 9 doesn’t stay on rails like Avatar did which adds a layer of complexity and believability that ultimately forces you to consider the issues both movies raise.  Avatar can be considered wide appeal entertainment whereas District 9 isn’t the kind of movie that softens its message for the sake of the audiences enjoyment.  While many will walk out of Avatar impressed by the technology and satisfied they saw a fantastic battle play out before them, District 9 uses its violence and technological prowess to underline the points it is making so that most will leave the movie with more questions than answers.  Humanity has a history of treating minorities and those it considers less educated or capable than themselves as inferior.  Inferior enough to be killed or enslaved, actually.  Regarding that, it is important to keep asking questions.

In all of these movies, there was plenty of greed and human confidence in understanding how the universe works at the root cause of the issues.  Aside from Bolt, there was also an awful lot of human brutality against “aliens” on display this weekend.  In that regard, this was an exhausting set of movies to see.


New Toy!

For Christmas, or maybe just because I’d been asking for one for a long time, Kristin gave me the go ahead to pick up a DSLR camera.  I found a really great deal courtesy of slickdeals and was able to make it happen cheaply enough that I didn’t feel super guilty about the investment.

Specifically, I am now the proud owner of a Canon Rebel XS, which is a 10 megapixel camera that you actually need to use the view finder for.  It comes with a lens in the normal kit and Amazon is sending me a telephoto lens via USPS that is supposed to be here sometime in January.  Of course since it came tonight, I had to unbox it and try it out.  Here are some of the pictures I took.  Click on them to get the big images.  And they are big, I am going to need to figure out how to compress them or something 🙂

Let’s hope that I can someday do the camera justice.  I think it is going to be fun trying!


Microsoft DNS

I am willing to bet that most implementations of Microsoft DNS are those that are integrated with Active Directory.  When setting up DNS with AD, setting up multiple DNS servers is fairly trivial because AD takes care of the zone transfers, etc.  I am resisting putting the Blaine-Juchems household into a domain because I really don’t want to have to fight the same fight at home as I do at work.  Frankly, the DNS is more work than it should be, but the fact we are hosting websites that I would like to actually visit inside of our network dictates the need for DNS.  A quick and dirty definition of DNS (Domain Name System) is what turns a site address/name (like into a piece of data that gets you where you want to go on the internet.  In my case specifically, was not a valid name inside of my network and so I couldn’t access my own blog inside of my own house.  Lame.   If you don’t care about DNS, I would suggest you come back when I have a friendlier post.

Installing and configuring DNS is pretty easy.  Depending on what version of Windows Server you are running, you either add DNS as a network service or as a new role.  From there, you setup a forward zone, which is were you catch local DNS traffic and turn names into IP addresses, and a reverse zone, which turns IP address into names.  I won’t go into extreme details here as it gets kind of messy, I am sure that Google will get you much better walkthroughs than what I feel like providing right now.

What will cause you some grief is that if you aren’t running a Active Directory Domain along side of your DNS implementation is that your hosts won’t have a fully qualified domain name, which will really come into play when you want to setup zone transfers and DHCP with a default DNS suffix.  I was at a loss at how to do this as the trick of configuring the network adapter to have a specific suffix wasn’t working for the DNS services even though ipconfig was showing the correct FQDN.  Well, there is a button for that!

These are the magic buttons!

These are the magic buttons!

Once I had setup the actual DNS suffix in a place so close to where I have been hundreds of times before (almost the same spot where you would add the computer to a domain) the error messages went away and the StartOfAuthority issues I had been seeing went away.

Now, I also made the wise choice of  burning two valuable hours of sleeping time trying to get another zone transfer completed successfully.  Turns out that the zone files had been corrupted in the DNS share of the primary DNS server, so I exported it out to a .txt file and manually recreated the two records.  Once again I added the second DNS server as a name server for the zone and on the second server configured the secondary forwarding zone and poof, it worked.  How does a DNS record get corrupted on a clean server?  How does Microsoft have error codes that they don’t have in their resolution database (DNS error 1501, I feel pretty special…)

It works now and I am ready to enable DHCP on my Windows Home Server and flip my primary router into access point mode, effectively flattening out my network and resolving some lingering port forwarding issues.

Kristin makes comments about how overly complicated our home setup is and usually I brush them off as I am learning a lot as I go along.   Sometimes, though, I definitely agree.  Like at 1am this morning.


Favorite Easy Pasta Bake

This has been one of our favorite oven recipes so far.  You’ll need an oven and a 9×13 pan.


  • 1 pound of your favorite pasta
  • 1 pound of ground beef
  • 1 Jar/32 oz. spaghetti sauce
  • 8 oz. fresh mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 1/4 cup of Italian Style stewed tomatoes
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

Cook the pasta as directed and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Brown the beef, add spaghetti sauce, mushrooms, peppers, onions, garlic, etc.

Simmer the beef and sauce for 10 minutes.

Put the cooked pasta in the pan, followed by the sauce.  Mix well.

Sprinkle cheese over the top.

Bake until the cheese bubbles or 20 minutes.



(I like to add more cheese :))

Frustrations with Hyper V

From the title, you might think I would be griping about Hyper V, Microsoft’s server virtulization technology.  The truth is, I am only frustrated by the prerequisites of Hyper V, one of which is particularly troublesome.  Mainly, that you need to have a Virtualization Technology (VT) enabled processor from either Intel or AMD to run Hyper V.

This effectively makes it impossible to have a virtualized Hyper V test/development environment by ensuring that all of your Hyper V hosts are indeed physical.  With vSphere, it is very possible to run an entire cluster on a machine that has enough enough memory through using a product like VMware workstation.   In that scenario, you are limited to 32 bit guest operating systems on that cluster because vSphere requires the VT bit for 64 bit virtual machines.  In the end, that is A-OK because what you are truly learning about is how to setup and configure the hosts along with vCenter.  Hyper V is a fairly complicated beast, so it would be nice to be able to completely go through its configuration (not too mention testing configuration changes) in a virtual environment.

It’s been a frustrating day at work because of this requirement.  Supposedly, Sun’s Virtualbox could pass along this VT bit capability to the VMs you were running, theoretically enabling the the running of a Hyper V host in a VM.  I am here to tell you that doesn’t work, at least in the latest 3.1 release of Virtualbox.  Other than that, I have no beef with Virtualbox, its actually pretty speedy and simple.


Nifty Little Dell

I am really interested in the new Dell Zino HD.   First, I’d like to point out that it starts at under $250 delivered.  It is like the Mac Mini in form factor, but features better hard drive, memory and graphics card expansion and capacity while also featuring slower processors.  With its combination of outputs, its seems to be the perfect little  box for a media center PC that is mainly used to stream media.  Given its lack of expansion slots, one would be limited to USB TV tuners which is less than optimal.  This is not a huge deal if you’re mainly playing back recorded TV as you would be well served to use your bigger main PC in this case to install your tuners and capture drives.  For Hulu, YouTube and Netflix this guy would be awesome.  A front IR port would have been nice for the use of Media Center remotes and the option for blue tooth for nice wireless accessories.

From the front.

From the front.

From the back.

From the back.

Pretty robust expansion with the eSata ports – this thing would be an *awesome* base for a home server with 65W consumption maximum and the ability to attach eSata drives or multi disk enclosures for just mind boggling expansion along with the prerequisite and surprising at this price point gigabit ethernet.   Note you could would need an HDMI to DVI adapter for most digital panels and that you would need a mini stereo to RCA converter to get the 5.1 digital sound (just like the older Audigy cards) which is a bit of a pain, but at least the options are there.

Options go up to 8GB of ram and a 4330 discrete/separate video card.  These are both luxuries as the integrated graphics are fine and you really don’t need more than 2GB of ram in most user scenarios.  Especially as the CPU choices are pretty slow – the dual core upgrade would be a great one at the current price of $65.  For me that would be the only change I would make as I have easy access to more Windows 7 licenses.  If you are looking to make this into a real media box hooked to a TV, I would go for the 7 upgrade.

Bottom line, if you are looking for a little media box or home server, this is a great option.  Even as an inexpensive desktop, the package is pretty compelling.  Maybe I’ll buy one to check it out 🙂


Tagaytay Taal Volcano excursion

Kristin and I were not too adventuresome while I was visiting her in the Manila and for the most part this is because the Philippines is not very tourist friendly.  The island was fairly devastated during World War 2, given how heavily the Japanese defended it, and that seems to have created a vacuum of things and places worth seeing.  Furthermore, the transportation infrastructure is very lacking, it takes about two hours to get out of the city to anywhere and the places Filipinos recommend seeing are typically over ten hours away by car as there isn’t a real highway system.  Or it could be that what you want to see is on another island, in which case your best bet is to go by plane which is fairly expensive.  Even our little trip out to a volcano was pretty expensive due to the fact we had to get a car and driver for seven hours to complete the journey at 1,200 Pesos (roughly $25) per hour.

Anyway, we made a trip out to the Taal Volcano which you can read some more information on here.

On to the pictures!  🙂

That was our big trip.  With sun shining down on us, it was actually still fairly pleasant but warm and we drank a lot of the water we had packed along.  Seeing people from all around the world going up and down the mountain was interesting as we saw folks from Europe, the middle East, Asia and of course the U.S.

It took about 40 minutes and 200o Pesos ($40) to get the horses and 3000 Pesos ($60) for the 20 minute each way boat ride.  On the way back out boat driver was a jerk and we got pretty wet.  I don’t know if we missed a point where we were supposed to tip him or what exactly happened.  A vendor tried to ding us for 50 pesos each at the top of the mountain for “a refreshing drink for our guides.”  Surprised by this, we declined which seemed to upset our non-english speaking guides, but I think we over tipped them with 100 pesos each when we got to the end. It is hard to know when and how much to tip when everyone has their hand out.

We went for lunch at a place a coworker had recommended, Mushroom Burger.  It was OK, but I think we prefer our burgers to only be beef or pork 🙂

On the way out and back we observed the slums, new developments, crazy traffic, pineapple fields and over all congestion that is typical of the area around Manila.  On the way back, we must have looked quite the sight to our cab driver, falling asleep and tipping all over the back seat.  Who knew it would take so much out of us to ride up a hill on horses?  I think it was mainly the heat.  I managed to burn my forehead pretty convincingly.

It was cool to go out of our comfort zone a bit, it would have been nice if more activities like this one had been within reach of the city.