For me, finding a decent pair of jeans at a reasonable price is hard to come by. While I was at my parents house this past winter I decided I would take a trip to Wal-Mart as my recent pair of jeans wore a hole in the knee. I really just needed something for the stay, as I have other jeans (Levi's) at home. I was looking for a pair of jeans $20 or less that would just get me through the week. Well I found a hidden gem at Wal-Mart, which were a pair of Wrangler Jeans. The jeans cost me $14.99 + Tax and have been worth every penny.
I am not much for tight fitting jeans, so the pair or wranglers I bought were Boot Cut, Relaxed Fit. They fit great, from the moment I tried them on and even today, they fit great. For the price I could not pass up a pair of jeans that fit that well. I never really considered Wal-Mart to buy my jeans, as I have had other clothing (and shoe) related items I bought from Wal-Mart that just wore out within a week. But I am glad I did not hesitate to buy these Wrangler Jeans.
Not being a stylish guy, I just like jeans that fit and do not have the "pre holed" designer holes in them (why would I want holes already in my jeans when I wear holes in them myself?). I am more of a simple man who likes a lighter color jean with no fancy design. Wal-mart had a few varieties for me to choose a darker color or a lighter. Although, I really liked both designs, in the end I decided to stick with the lighter color, as it seemed to suit me more.
The Wear and Tear
Well 9 months or so later, I am proud to say that my Wrangler jeans from Wal-Mart are still in tact, holeless and going strong. I tend to wear my clothes into the ground and can be very hard. However, these Wrangler Jeans that I bought from Wal-Mart have lived up to the challenge and still holding up. So the next time you are in the market for a new pair of Jeans, and do not want to spend an arm and a leg on a pair that will only last maybe a year of normal usage, I would suggest going and checking out Wal-Mart's Wrangler jeans, who knows, you may find that you been over spending on Jeans this whole time!
Ever since I got my HP Touchpad I have been trying to find different uses for it. Today I successfully set up my HP Touchpad to stream Movies, Shows and Audio over my SAMBA share. This is thanks to the guys over at Pre-Central who figured out the Ubuntu Chroot environment. As the first step, you should head over there and work on installing the Chroot environment (I setup the Debian because I prefer that, but either or works).
Mounting the SAMBA Share
After the Chroot environment has been installed, go ahead and load it up in Xectuah. Once in you should be in the root directory by default. I made a directory called "Media". Notice the captiol M, since Linux is case sensitive, this will create that directory. There is already a "media" directory, but that tends to be used for other items. I find it best to just do the capital M instead of messing with that directory.
After you have the directory created, you will need to map your SAMBA share. (Note: Windows 7 Shares are different and may not work / need tweaking. I do not have a Windows box, so I will not be posting the directions on doing that). To map the samba share it is a simple command:
mount -t cifs //SERVERIPORHOSTNAME/Share /Media -o username=user,password=pass
Make sure to replace the "Share" with the actual name of the share and set the username/password if you need to. Once that is done, pop out of the card (do not close it). Go into Preware and install TouchPlayer. Open up TouchPlayer and Browse for Media. By default it should open under /media/internals we need to go up one directory and enter into ext3fs. Once in there enter the debian or ubuntu chroot folder (whichever you setup). And then enter the "Media" directory, and as long as the share connected you should be able to stream any file on your server just fine! I have not tried any 720p or 1080p content but it works great for my 480p videos and shows.
And there you have it. You can now easily stream your network media to your Touchpad. I have not tried this from a remote location yet, but I plan to setup an SSHFS or OpenVPN and try to connect to my home network and see how that streams. I figure it will be fine as long as the network can handle it. As always I will report my findings.
I tried a 720p Video I had, and it is streaming, it is a little choppy, but it does stream. If I come across a 1080p file and try it, I will report how that runs.
I have also found that using SSHFS yields a lot better performance over Samba. So if you have a linux File Server setup with SSH, this is deinfately the way to go. Even better, using the SSHFS remotely over a 1Mbit connection streams the 480p content perfectly. So it has the upside of being able to stream from almost anywhere!
During the HP Touchpad firesale, I was one of the lucky people to pick up a 32GB HP Touchpad for $149. For the price you really cannot beat it, especially since the estimated cost of just the Touchpad hardware is $300. Now that I have my Touchpad, I really am not into paying an insane price for an HP specific case / keyboard. So I ventured over to Amazon.com to see what other items were being sold for the iPad 1 (since the iPad 1 has comparable dimensions). I came across a case / bluetooth keyboard set that was $38 shipped and it finally came!
Getting the Keyboard to Work
The real point of this blog is to help others pair a Bluetooth Keyboard (of any time whether it be from Dell, Microsoft or Apple) to the HP Touchpad. The process threw me off guard because most Bluetooth keyboards pairs ask you to type a key on the keyboard itself instead of asking for a pair key. This threw me through a loop. I searched all I could to figure out how I could get the keyboard to pair, fearing that I would have to bog down and return this nice case and buy an HP specific setup, until I decided to try something that I did not even think would work and to my surprise it worked.
Edit: Thanks to anonymous comment, it was found that a 1 numerical code is all you need.
The process is simple. When you pair the Bluetooth Keyboard to the touchpad it will ask for a passkey, enter any 1 numerical code (I just used 1). After you do that, and the icons are spinning and it says, "Pairing" enter the same passcode used on the Bluetooth keyboard Edit: and then press the enter key on the keyboard (thanks to anonymous for correcting that). Voila, you now have your Apple, Microsoft or Dell type Bluetooth keyboard working with the HP Touchpad. Now you can use your Touchpad for other items much easier!
Yay, it worked!
I was so excited to get this working, and relieved that I did not have to go through an RMA process and spend more money for an HP Specific Bluetooth keyboard. Hopefully you find this entry useful and easy to follow. If you have any other tips, please let me know.
EDIT: For those wondering about how the HP Touchpad fits into this iPad case, the fit is nearly perfect. Nothing is blocked all buttons and ports are available and the screen fits everything. It is a little tight at first, but either or it works great!
For the past 5 years I have been battling an auto-immune disease that attacks the Thyroid, called Hashimoto's disease. Since I am not an expert by any means on Thyroid diseases, I will let you do the research on that, but the basic gist is my auto-immune system attacks my which causes my T3 and T4 levels (also recorded as TSH levels) to be low and causes a ton of side affects to my body, such as weight gain, numbness, hair loss, fatigue, and many other symptoms. I found my thyroid problem when I was having Body Numbness back in 2006 and forced a doctor to check my Thyroid levels, as my genetic line has had a history of Thyroid problems. Low and behold, my TSH levels were dangerously low. Well 5 years later, I am doing better, still not my old self, but that could be for a number of reasons, including the Thyroid. But what I really want to talk about is my experiences with the different Thyroid Medication I have been on for the past 5 years and how they made me feel, so lets get to it!
On Levothyroxin, which was the original thyroid medicine I started taking, I was feeling great. It took about 3 years to fine tune it and the .88 dose was where it was at. Well it figures that right after we get the Thyroid medicine fine tuned, and I am actually feeling normal and like myself for the first time in years, they stop making the medicine. I had maybe 3 months of joy until my prescription for the drug Levothyroxin could not be filled anymore due to it not being produced. This was extremely depressing for me, as I felt great on Levothyroxin. Well it figures. I guess talking with my Doctor it is not uncommon for non-brand names to stop producing a pill on the whim, either due to the economy or not enough demand for the product. Now I needed to find a new brand to help get my thyroid under control. Thinking that I would go with a major brand name, I decided to try Synthroid next.
Brand Name Synthroid
Perhaps the most popular thyroid drug of choice is Brand name Synthroid. I started Synthroid after my Levothyroxin was no longer being produced. The first 3 months on Synthroid was hell. Since we were switching prescriptions my Doctor wanted me to come back in 3 months. Well I was glad that we had an appointment so close (its usually 6 months to 1 year checkups). On Synthroid, the best way to describe how I felt was I just wanted to rip off my skin and crawl out of it. It was pain to just get up by 8:00am let alone stay awake all day and then finally trying to have the energy to do anything outside of sleeping / sitting on the couch. Synthroid did not bode well with me, and perhaps if I had stayed with it for a bit longer my body would have adjusted, but to me it was not worth the time to try. Once my Doctor found out how I had been feeling he immediately gave me a few options of medicines to choose from and I chose Levoxyl. He said it would be the next closest thing to Levothyroxin so I decided to try it.
I am currently on .75 Levoxyl and I can say that I may not feel the best all the time, and I still have problems with fatigue and getting up in the morning, but it does feel a ton better than Synthroid did. I am pleased with Levoxyl, although it took about 2 years to get the dosage tweaked. Since I was still feeling tired I wanted to try something different, so my last checkup in May I asked to be put on Cytomel, it is a T3 synthetic thyroid drug. The Cytomel is suppose to give you a quick energy boost, unlike the T4 which can take weeks or even months to start taking affect, Cytomel is generally instant. Well unfortunately for me, Cytomel really has not made much of a difference for me and I am probably going to go off of Cytomel after my next checkup. However, my Levoxyl is still working decent, if I could just get more energy I would be extremely happy. That left me doing a bit of research, as I know my vitamin levels are below normal I decided to look into what vitamins may help with my Thyroid levels.
Vitamins I am Currently Taking for Thyroid
Taking Vitamins on Thyroid, in general are fine (consult your Doctor) as long as they are 4 hours before or after you take your Thyroid pill. I have heard from friends and from online forums that there are a few Vitamins that can help your thyroid and give you a bit of an energy boost. From that I gathered that taking Selenium, Vitamin B, Vitamin E and Vitamin D, can all play an essential role in assisting with giving you more energy and removing "the fog". I have been on my Vitamin Regime for the past 2 months and I can say it has definitely helped. I do think clearer, I have a bit more energy and the best part is I think more rationally. For $45 every 90 days that is a small price to pay for feeling better. I plan on talking to my Doctor more about this next visit and maybe get a prescription written for some of the vitamins, so my FSA account can cover it. If you do have a Hypothyroid and need more energy or help clearing the fog, I would suggest talking to your Doctor about those vitamins, as they may help you.
Well ending it up, I have had my ups and downs over the past 5 years. I am finally on something that seems to be working somewhat decent. I am still about 20-30lbs overweight and trying to lose that. With the extra energy I am getting I am starting to hike each weekend 9+ miles, and hopefully that will help kick start my weight loss. The vitamins do seem to help, its not like a night / day change, but I do notice a difference in my mood and my energy. Hopefully this can help you a bit if you do have a Thyroid problem.
Having received a Google Music Beta invite and finding out that Google Music Beta supports linux, I decided to venture down the path of getting Google Music Beta to run on my headless Linux Server as a daemon. In an attempt to not have to copy my music off of my RAID Array just to upload it to Google. Luckily this process was actually really easy. My server is Debian based, so the instructions are for a Debian based Linux server (Ubuntu distros should work as well). The first thing to do is to download Google Music Beta Linux version. There is a .deb or .rpm, since this is for a Debian based distro I opted for the .deb. I have heard rumors that in order to get the Linux download file, you need to have a Linux User Agent setup in your browser. If you are not using Linux, google your browser and how to change the User Agent. I have provided an Agent string that should work: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; Linux i686; en-US; rv:188.8.131.52) Gecko/2008102920 Firefox/3.0.4 (Splashtop-v184.108.40.206) Let me know of any problems with it and I will find another one.
Installing the Google Music Beta Manager
The first step will be to obviously install Google Music Beta Manager, this will require a few pre-requisites on the Server. Since my system is headless the main package that needed to be installed was X11 (I already had X11 installed for other items I do on my headless linux server). If you do not have X11 installed, the process may take some time to install, so be patient with it. Next I ssh'ed in to install few extra packages that are required by Google Music Manager Beta. Running a: sudo apt-get install libqtgui4 libqt4-network libvorbisfile3 xdg-utils should install the packages required. Once those are installed, cd to where you downloaded the Google Music Beta Manager to on the server (I used wget to download the .deb) and since I have a 32 bit system, I grabbed that version, here is a link (this may break at anytime and could change, so I would suggest getting the link from Google Music Beta's site.: wget http://dl.google.com/linux/direct/google-musicmanager-beta_current_i386.deb. Now that the file is on my server and the pre-requisites have been installed, it is time to install Google Music Manager Beta! Luckily this is pretty simple: sudo dpkg -i google-musicmanager-beta_current_i386.deb (again that may change if you are on x64 or a different distro so use that file name instead). Now Google Music Manager is installed, but how will we access the interface on the headless?
Accessing Google Music Manager Beta on Headless
Of course, if you do not want to run Google Music Manager Beta as a daemon (running the background) then all you have to do is setup X11 forwarding over SSH and you can stop reading here (ssh -X servername), however, if you want to leave it running as a daemon like process, we have to get a bit more creative than that. First up let's install the pre-requisites for this part. sudo apt-get install xvfb Xvfb is a VNC server, which we can setup on a headless linux as a display and run the Google Music Manager Beta inside of it. Once that is installed, we will want to create a bash script, the script is very simple:
Edit: Thanks to anonymous, I updated this with a cool option so you do not have to vnc in and enter your password! Thanks again!
Xvfb :2 -screen 0 1024x768x16 &
google-musicmanager -p mypassword &
x11vnc -display :2 -bg -nopw -listen localhost -xkb
I named the file googlemusic.sh. After that I did a chmod +x googlemusic.sh to make it executable. Once that has been done, I simple did a ./googlemusic.sh When this runs you will see a lot of output on the screen, do not worry about it. Press enter and you should be back at the command line. A ps aux | grep google should tell you if google-musicmanager is running. Edited instructions, given the -p command line option.
After doing this myself I learned a couple items. Edited instructions, given the -p command line option.
That is pretty much it. Hopefully Google offers a Command Line Interface mode or daemon option in the future for the Music Manager in Linux, that would be awesome and extremely helpful. If Google does not well at least the method I described above should work just fine. If you have any tips, problems, etc please let me know, I am all about improving the article and getting a better performance for myself as well. For now, enjoy your Google Music Manager Beta running on a headless Linux server!
A few months ago I was in dire need of a way to backup my server, effortlessly and efficiently, as a down server does not generate any income! Since the server is running headless (meaning no monitor attached to it and it had no X Server), the backup software needed to support Linux headless. A friend of mine turned me onto CrashPlan Backup Software, I was intrigued and did a bit of research. The research turned up great results and CrashPlan appeared to be the backup solution that my server required. I decided try the 30-day trial of CrashPlan Pro, as I wanted a Central Backup for my files. Setting up CrashPlan on Linux was pretty effortless (at least for me), just had to download the binary file from CrashPlan and run it on my server. The next step was a bit more difficult, accessing the CrashPlan interface to setup the backups on my Headless Server. Although it took some reading with trials and errors, once I figured it out, I have never second guessed the $5/month I spend on CrashPlan Pro to make sure my server stays backed up. In fact CrashPlan has saved me a few times from stupid mistakes.
Setting up CrashPlan Pro on a Headless Linux Server
The CrashPlan Backup Software setup on a Linux Headless server was actually pretty simple. Once the backup program software has been installed you need to install CrashPlan Software on your personal computer, as the method to access CrashPlan remotely requires an SSH Tunnel over a port, which will give access to the CrashPlan daemon running on your server. If you have ever setup SSH Tunnel's it is a fairly straight forward process. Basically you will take a local port on your own computer, setup the CrashPlan on your computer to use that port, which then connects to port on the server that the server's CrashPlan backup software is running on.
However, before we can tunnel the port we need to make a change to the %CrashPlanInstallDIR%/conf/ui.properties file. Go ahead and open that file up (remember to change the first portion in %'s to be the actual path) and we need to edit the portion that says: #servicePort=4243. Remove the # sign from that line, and then change the port to what you feel like. Just make sure the port is above 1000. I just changed the 4243 to be 4244. The final step is creating a simple SSH Tunnel: ssh -L 4244:localhost:4243 %YourRemoteServerInfo% The 4243 port is the port that the CrashPlan daemon is running on at the server, so be sure to modify that if you setup CrashPlan to run on a different port. Now just open up CrashPlan Backup Software locally and it should be pointing to your server, and you can now setup the backups how you want!
Restoring Files from CrashPlan Pro Backup
Unfortunately, I have had to restore a few files, even a database from the CrashPlan Pro Backup my server does. This was actually a very easy system to use, if you are using the Software with the port Tunneled, you can have it restore the backup right to your server. However, I was not using the CrashPlan Backup Software over a Tunnel and needed to restore a file (as I was on a different computer). The CrashPlan Web Interface, although lacking a bit in functionality, provided me the means to download the file to my local computer, where I was able to SCP (Secure Copy) the file to my server and have it restored within minutes. The Web Interface saved me a huge hassle of trying to find a good backup of the file, which would have taken hours. Fortunately, CrashPlan also versions the file. So even if the backup has overwritten the latest file, you can still go back to clean version of the file by date! A major advantage for when you accidentally copy the wrong file over and overwrite the good file. Needless to say, this made me happy and completely justified the money I spent on the CrashPlan Pro backup!
Want a Means to Backup Amongst Friends?
CrashPlan offers it Backup Software free of charge. What comes with the free version of CrashPlan? Well you can easily setup a cluster with your friends and backup to them, and vice versa. CrashPlan allows you to do backups from Computer -> Computer effortlessly and easily. This feature is extremely handy, especially for families, where their data is not necessarily important enough to do a Central Backup, but want it backed up remotely else where. You just install the software on your families computer and your computer, and viola, you can easily synchronize files between the two (pictures and such) and everyone can have a backup of everyone else's data in case of a fire, flood, hardware crash, or any other type of disaster you can think of. I am extremely impressed that CrashPlan allows you to use their software, free of charge, to backup to other people, friends and family. As well as being a reasonable price for a Central Backup of your highly important data.
If you cannot tell yet, I am extremely satisfied with CrashPlan's Backup Software and Backup Solution as a whole. It puts my mind at ease, in case of any hardware failures, human mishaps or even natural disasters, knowing that I can easily get my data back and restored. The CrashPlan service has many benefits, one is perhaps a "Send us a harddrive we will copy your data and send it back" system, it costs quite a bit of money to do, but if you need your data back as soon as possible, this option eases your mind a bit more, as you can get your data back up and running in a matter of a day (if overnighted) vs multiple days of file transfers. The multiple options of retrieving and uploading data the CrashPlan offers, mixed in with being able to backup to friends and family, really sets CrashPlan apart from most backup software and to me puts CrashPlan as a must have in my book.
Ready to Dance? Well neither was I, until at my parents house for Christmas, my sister brought Just Dance 2 for the Wii. Well, I still cannot dance, but I did have a blast at trying! Just Dance 2 for the Wii Nintendo Entertainment System is a great game to getting you up off the couch and moving with even a bit of a cardio workout if you let yourself get into Just Dance 2. The variety of songs are not the best, but Just Dance 2 does have some fun songs and decent dance songs. So let's take a deeper look at Just Dance 2!
Is Just Dance 2 a Workout?
Well this all just depends on you. If you let yourself go and dance for 30minutes +, yea it can be a heck of a workout, I know I work up a sweat! How great of a cardio workout is it, I am not sure. I do not think I ever really lost any weight with it, but it was fun. I could play Just Dance 2 for hours, and I did, many nights. The game has a high replay value, in my opinion, because the game is fun, and I always wanted to try and beat my high scores. Just Dance 2 also has a "Just Sweat" feature, where there is a weekly plan for you to do, and all you have to do is get enough "Sweat Points" for the day to hit your mark each week, to promote doing a workout each day. The sweat meter is judged by how much the remote shakes, so it is easy to trick the system, but if you are doing it, why trick it? Well let's move on to the music.
Decent Music Variety
Just Dance 2 has a pretty decent dance music variety. From the Outkast's Hey Ya! to the Jackson 5's I want you back, to my Favorite, Rasputin they all are a blast. Although were a few songs that I did not really care for, like "Big Girl you are Beautiful" or "Cosmic Girl", mainly because it was for me to get into the groove with those songs, but over all most of the songs are easy to get into and have fun with. The Wii Store offers a free song, Fireworks. My wife seems to love this song, again another song I could not really get into, but now anytime we hear the song somewhere, shes gotta start bustin' out the Wii dance moves. Overall this has been a fun game for the whole family.
A Great Game
Overall, I feel that Just Dance 2 was a great game. It had a great re-play factor and is even funner in a big group where you have "Dance off" competitions and try to stay in the game as long as possible. It allows you to be creative and to have a great family game to play, even my 10 year old niece had a blast and my 1.5 year old daughter even got into Rasputin (I guess that shows how much I played Just Dance 2). I have been very happy with Just Dance 2, and if you are looking for something a bit more fun and exciting for the grown ups on the Wii, that has a great replay value and will have your family laughing and dancing, you cannot go wrong with Just Dance 2!
Looking to do complete backups of my computer systems at home, I ventured into buying a new Hard Drive for Storage. I wanted a simple harddrive, that was external, built tough, and would hold up for the long haul. Since Newegg.com generally has the best deals for anything computer related, in my opinion, I checked Newegg first. I came across many different brands, and the brand that struck my eye was one I had not seen before, Cavalry. Cavalry had a 1TB External Harddrive for $80 plus a $20 Mail-in Rebate. Of course a $60 1TB external drive really peaked my interest, since the last backup drive I bought was a 500GB Fantom and it I/O'ed on me the week previous so I decided to buy the Cavalry Harddrive from Newegg. A year later, I can say that I am still extremely happy with my Cavalry drive.
To my surprise that Cavalry 1 TeraByte drive came with an eSata PCI card, included in the price. The inclusion of the eSata card was awesome, as I did not have an eSata port on my old Pentium 4 PC, which only has 1 x AGP and 4 x PCI. The PCI eSata card works flawlessly, and the speeds are great, especially since it is running over PCI. Backing up from the wired network was giving me about 40MB/s which I was ecstatic about. The performance of the included eSata card went beyond my expectations, as many of the competitor drives, such as Western Digital and Seagate, were way more expensive and either did not have an eSata port or come with the eSata card.
The Harddrive Itself
The Cavalry Harddrive has been awesome. I do S.M.A.R.T. checks on it every week or so and it is still running awesome. The drive does get a little hot, but for a 7200 RPM harddrive transferring at decent speeds, I do not blame it. The spin-up time on the drive is nearly instant, since it is just a backup drive, the spin-up time is not hugely important, but nice all the same, since I set the idle timeout at 30 minutes (again because it is a backup drive, I only backup nightly). For the past year, knock on wood, I have not had the drive do any type of clicking, no errors, and the SMART check comes back clean weekly. I am extremely happy, as with harddrives you never know if you are going to have a drive that works for a week or a year or 10 years, I am hoping this is a 10-year drive. I have never opened the case, so I do not know what brand of HDD it is rocking, but whatever it is, the drive is awesome.
I am extremely satisfied with the price of the drive, and the performance. I was worried there for a while, because Cavalry was a brand I had never used before, for such a cheap drive. I am glad I decided to give the harddrive a try, as I have never once regretted buying that drive, even a year later. This is my new trustworthy drive, although I do backup remotely as well. So if you are looking for a new harddrive, I would definitely look into Cavalry, I have been extremely happy with my Cavalry Storage harddrive purchase!
I have recently occurred a rare $15/year Low End BuyVM Virtual Private Server (VPS) from BuyVM.net (aka Frantech). I say these are rare as when BuyVM has stock, usually within 15minutes their stock is depleted. I got extremely lucky with my purchase. I have been very pleased with BuyVM's support, their staff and most of all the VPS Server.
My 128MB $15 per year BuyVM box is used for a Vitrual Private Network (VPN) tunnel for my Phone. I like having the secure tunnel for my phone, especially when you are doing banking transactions etc. The extra layer of security through the VPS puts my mind a bit more at ease. I have used dedicated VPN servers in the past and never had any luck. Earlier this year I was looking into VPS's to create a test site and saw that BuyVM advertised the use of VPN tunnelling, this totally intrigued me, so I signed up for their mailing list and bought one 3 months later (yes I was waiting for 3 months!). For a $15 per year VPN Server, this box is doing everything I want!
Irssi and GNU Screen Please!
To say that I only use the box for a VPN would be lying. I love IRC and I love to keep chat in context without having to join / part all the time. Luckily Linux has Screen and Irssi. This allows me to leave my IRC connections on all the time (well as long as the VPS box stays online), and removes all the annoying parts / joins that usually show on IRC servers. I can access the IRC from my Android HTC EVO with Irssi Connect Bot, so I have IRC at home easily and anywhere with my phone. Perhaps my second favorite part of my BuyVM Box.
Another bonus to BuyVM is that Frantech is a Canadian company. The servers are not based in Canada, as they are located in Fremont, California. But Frantech does offer Candian IP's. Having a VPN to another country is extremely handy, as it can avoid country set filters like seen in Europe. This allows you to see the full web, in case some sites are blocked, from your home connection! Browsing "anonymously" is something that I love and now I always do. The other awesome part is, if I just want to browse and not have my full connection over VPN I can using SSH Tunnelling. Having all these options for security and privacy is great.
Over all I am extremely happy with my BuyVM.net Box. The Frantech staff is awesome and fun to chat with in IRC and they are extremely helpful and speedy at resolving issues. I have had some downtime, which for the most part was not Frantech's fault. At one point I was going on 40days uptime, then my VPS rebooted for some reason and was restarted, unfortunately. However, since this VPS is not used for any major websites of mine, and I generally just use my BuyVM VPS for SSH Tunnelling, VPN and Irssi / Screen (for IRC) I got a steal of a deal for $15 per year. I do not think I will ever let go of this box, just too great of a deal. Thank you Frantech for offering great and cost-friendly services!
A friend of mine recently launched a site with the latest trend called, E-Cigs, an Electronic cigarette, in an effort to help people quit smoking. Moving forward E-Cigs are the future of cigarettes! Electronic Cigarettes are starting to become more and more popular as regular cigarettes are becoming more expensive, not to mention extremely unhealthy. In fact millions of people are switching over so why not you? No tar, no smell, smoke inside... With this new trend of ‘smokeless cigarettes’ there are a multitude of different brands. So how do you find the right one for you? Top Ecigs Reveiws site offers trustworthy & quality reviews of the top brands to help you decide which e-cig is right for you.
What is an electronic cigarette?
Electronic Cigarettes typically come in 2 pieces; a battery and cartridge. The batteries last depending on what brand you chose and cartridges are usually the equivalent of a pack of cigarettes. Most companies will offer a wide variety of flavors, from traditional to coke flavored and nicotine strengths, from 0mg to 24mg, so you can match the electronic cigarette taste exactly to your favorite real cigarette.
At Top E-Cigs Review they offer Discount codes Up-to-date specials and promotions (including e-mail and RSS subscriptions) Trustworthy reviews to help you find the right e-cig Tips & Tricks to help you clean and modify your e-cig. So why not quit smoking real cigarettes today and give an E-cigarette a try!
A few weeks ago my sister and her family decided they wanted to visit Thanksgiving Point, UT with us on our way home from a family Reunion. Since we had nothing better to do and had never been to Thanksgiving Point, and of course would be in the area, we decided to tag along. Due to a mis-calculation of my Garmin GPS Unit, my family ended up being a couple hours late. So when we arrived, my sister and I decided to go to the Children Discovery Garden Center, so our little kids (around 2) could have some fun. Well the kids had fun, but to what cost?
I do know that construction is just a temporary deal, but it was very annoying going there, as none of the street signs matched the map provided by Thanksgiving Point. This made the stress level to just visit a place very high. Taking many wrong turns, again due to the street signs not matching up, we finally arrived at the Children Discovery Garden, and to our disappointment, it really was not worth the trip.
Not Worth the Cost
In my opinion, the Children Discovery Garden Center of Thanksgiving Point, Utah, was not worth the money. It cost us $6.00 per adult, the kids, because they were under two, were free. For $12, we got to see sub-par items. Basically it was a quick 15-30 minute stroll around the area with a ship fountain type wading area. There really was not much to see and I expected a bit more for the price. I was very disappointed and not impressed at all for the cost. I understand that items do cost money, but for the $12 with maybe 30minutes of stuff to look at, this was just a major disappointment.
Over all there was much more to Thanksgiving Point then we visited. We just visited the Children Discovery Garden Center, trying to be thrifty. Unfortunately, we felt it was not worth the money paid. If I wanted to just walk around somewhere, I could have got a nice walk around a part with a lake, for my kid to wade in, instead of paying $12 for a walk around...well not much. It really seemed more like an Outdoor lab type setup for field trips over a family garden center. Although we had a decent time, it did not feel like the cost outweighed the experience. Given so, I cannot recommend the Thanksgiving Point, UT Children Discovery Garden center, unfortunately. Please do not let this dissuade you from trying the other areas, my sister said she had fun at the dinosaur museum. If you think I am wrong, well more props to you. This was just my feelings on the exhibit and I felt it could have had more, or at least cost $1-$2 less, for what the Thanksgiving Point Children Discovery Garden Center offered.
For years now I have participated in many coding Forums. Perhaps one of the biggest issues I see is people using $_GET or another unfiltered variable inside of an include, include_once, require or require_once statement. This is a major security risk, and in an attempt to help people stray away from this I have accumulated many different ways this can be done, "properly" (I quote properly because each person has their own preference). Let's get down to the nitty gritty, and see how we can do inclusions in PHP securely without opening ourselves up to being exploited through a remote file inclusion exploit.
First Things First
Most PHP hosts set the allow_url_fopen to be off by default, in an effort to help prevent these exploits. However, not every host does this, and not everyone uses a shared host. If you are on a VPS or Dedicated server, then you may inadvertently enabled this setting or never disabled it. So first things first, go and find your proper php.ini file, and turn this off. If you relied on fopen of remote files or file_get_contents, I would highly suggest switching over to CURL, as it will be much quicker, and allow for security in the event you did not code all the code on your site or using a mainstream item, like WordPress, where it may contain a vulnerability that anyone could see.
Implementing a White List
A common exploitable code that I have seen is basically something in the form of:
If your host has allow_url_fopen enabled, you are just asking to be exploited with a remote file inclusion exploit. Basically, anyone could type in something like: http;//www.yoursite.com/page.php?page=http;//theirsite.com/remote/code/to/execute.php and viola, their code remotely executed and basically just opened up your site fully to them. As you can see, this is a huge issue, and is how a lot of malware and virus's get passed around. Implementing a white list will probably be close to one of the sure fire ways this will never happen. The array can come from a number of sources you want it to, hard coded in the file, from a database setting etc. I am just going to write it in line for simplicity reasons.
$whiteList = array('index' => 'index.php', 'about' => 'about.php', 'contact' => 'contact.php');
As you can see, everything is hard coded, and there is no way for someone to inject their own URL into your site. This would prevent any type of remote file inclusion exploit from being able to be preformed. If you wanted more "security" you could change the names of the files to be something obscured, or include them from a different directory outside of the webroot, so that no one would access them directly. This is generally my preferred method, simply because there is a slim to none chance that you would get remotely exploited.
Using Basename and file_exists
Another method is using the basename and file_exists method. This method I find a bit less secure, given that they can include any file as long as it exists and in the current directory. What the basename does is remove everything but the name of the file. This prevents someone from entering in something like ../../somefile and having that file included, so if your permissions were not setup properly, it could give them access to various stuff, like SSH Keys, logs and other files that you do not want out in the open. The file_exists, make sure that the file exists on the server, this is just an extra precaution. Let's see the code used for this method:
$file = 'your/path/to/file/' . basename($_GET['page']);
For this method, I showed you an example of using a path other then the webroot to include the file. This would attempt to prevent people from just probing for different files, and you can place the pages into their own directory, so only pages meant to be included are included. IE, you could have a 'pages' directory and keep them organized in there. If you are using this method, I would highly recommend using the pages directory or similar.
I am sure there are plenty of other methods, I saw one guy using base64, however, this are the two primary methods I recommend to people for their simplicity. My preferred method overall would be the basename with the pages directory, outside of the webroot. This would mask the pages, and make it more difficult to probe for your pages and remove the risk of a file accidentally being included when it should not. If you have other methods, feel free to post them in the comments.
This is just one step you can take to secure your site from being exploited by what we call Script Kiddies and the likes of others. This alone, will not completely secure your site so of course you will need to take other precautions on every other aspect of your site. However, if pulling up pages dynamically using a URL intrigues you, this method will help you to secure yourself from being exploited with a remote file inclusion exploit.
As always, I welcome non-trolling or flaming comments. I will remove any flaming or trolling comments, so please leave positive feedback as all that is being done here is attempting to educate users. If you feel I am wrong, tell me in a constructive way with proof and ways to fix it. Thanks, and hopefully this has helped you!
Harlan Coben is perhaps one of my favorite authors. I love Harlan's Myron Bolitar series as such I read any book he puts out. One of Harlan's more recent book, Caught, reached my eyes and I decided to give it a read. Immediately I became immense in the book, I love a good mystery and I knew that Harlan would produce. I also enjoy how Harlan uses familiar characters from his other previous books and as such it makes you smile just seeing the name when they read.
Dislaimer, This review may contain a few hints and spoilers, if you know Harlan Coben and prefer not to know anything about the book, I suggest you stop here and just buy the book and read it.
A Viral Marketing Thriller
A mystery book about how Viral Marketing tear people's life apart hardly sounded interesting to me, but Harlan Coben was able to take the Internet Viral Marketing and make it into a great mystery. Wendy Tynes, who is a news reporter, has Caught yet another sick pedophile on her TV Show. However, Dan Mercer is not your average pedophile, and something about Dan has struck Wendy Tynes as being "off". While the trial for Dan Mercer is going on, a 17 year old girl comes up missing, Haley McWaid, who is a quiet girl, but also a perfectionist. Wendy decides to do some digging on Dan Mercer and some old school buddies, and what she finds will take you for one awesome ride.
Is everything as it seems? It appears not, and Wendy Tynes is bound and determined to unravel the truth, no matter what road it takes her down. With a bit of help from Win (Windsor Home Lockwood the Third appeared in the Myron Bolitar series) Wendy digs as deep as she can, but will she dig too far?
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. The characters were laid out, in my opinion, great. If you have read the Myron Bolitar series, you will love the few appearances by Win in this book and it put a smile on my face. You will also find some brief appearances by Hester Crimstein, who is a TV Show Judge now. The book, Caught, is far from being predictable, which I love about a mystery novel. Caught also has many twists and turns and takes you for a thrill ride all the way through. In the end, I do not want to go into great detail, as I hate spoiling books, so I would highly recommend if you are a Mystery / Thriller book junkie, or just love Harlan Coben, check out Caught and give it a read, I bet you will find it hard to put the book down (I know I did).
If you would like to see what Harlan Coben thinks about Caught, here is a YouTube video of his review:
When looking for easier way to obtain meals, I often look at fresh solutions, so to speak. When I came across this Omaha Steaks Mailer, I decided to take a look into Omaha Steaks and give them a try. My results are kind of mixed pleasures, but overall I was pleased with the product. What does get annoying is the constant mailers and phone calls. Luckily I can disable the phone calls, however, I cannot control the snail mail mailers. This is a minor annoyance, and some people may not even consider it an annoyance at all.
Overall the quality is decent. I mean you could do just as good with a frozen steak on your own. My wife seems to think it is great quality for a frozen steak / meat and it has a great flavor. I think it is kind of so-so, the quality seems to be by preference. The burgers were very nice and easy to grill. They ship out the times to cook them, however, since we live in Colorado at a higher altitude those times needed to be adjusted. As part of a package we received some twice baked potatoes. They are almost always my favorite part of a steak dinner, and Omaha Steaks did not disappoint me with their twice baked. For coming out of a freezer, they tasted delicious, at least as good as the ones you can buy from your store's Deli section. I am not a huge hot dog / franks, fan, and unfortunately their Gourmet Franks did nothing to change my mind. They looked great, but in the end, they still tasted like a hot dog. I may try marinating them next time and see if I cannot produce a bit better Frank. My wife enjoyed them also, however, my little girl did not, which should not be surprising as she is almost 2 and can be a very picky eater. In my little test run, the quality of the food seemed decent, especially for being frozen and shipped.
The Ordering Experience
From start to finish the Omaha Steak experience could not be called "enjoyable", as when is spending money, and seemingly a lot money upfront, enjoyable? However, the easy of ordering online (I hate talking to sales people on the phone) was pretty simple, like most online ordering. With the optional account setup, I chose to setup an account. The process was basically, select what you want (in my case I just entered a promo code from the mailing). Overall, the ordering experience was simple and what was to be expected by today's standard of online ordering.
Breaking it Down
I think Omaha tends to over price their products, to intentionally "knock" down the price to make you feel like you are getting a good deal. I saw through this and broke it down to what it cost per each serving. Overall it is a decent deal, however, a membership to Costco with a vacuum pack sealer, could easily compete with the cost, and you would probably come out much better going that route. But for a small family, in my case 3, with only 2 adults this seems to be a decent deal. Why for the small family, well everything comes in it's own individually wrapped package. This is awesome as I can easily just make myself a burger and my wife a steak, if we both feel like something different, or if I am home alone watching the kid while my wife is going out. This aspect of Omaha Steaks was very appealing to me. I would imagine this being great for a single person, a small family, or perhaps an older couple whose kids have all left / gone off to college. If you have a bigger family, I would probably go the Costco / Sam's Club route, and I think that you would get more bang for your buck.
In the End
In the end I am buying another item from Omaha Steaks right now to give them another go, and it is a Father's Day special. Hopefully, it is a similar if not better experience. I do really think that this solution is not very frugal for large families and I do not like how Omaha Steaks "knocks" their prices down all the time. I mean really, it does make you feel like you are getting a deal, but it also feels like a scam. I know it is not a scam now, but I think it would present their appearance better having "real" prices and do "real" specials, instead of these constant specials and in my opinion, if you buy anything from them for their "real" price, you are a moron and you deserve to be wasting your money. Hope this review helps you decide if you want to give Omaha Steaks a try or not! Good Eatings!
I love a fresh hot bagel for breakfast. The only thing to trump that is by throwing an Egg on it with some bacon and vegetables, thankfully, Brueggers in Lakewood, CO does just that! I have been a fan of Brueggers for a few years now and will generally have a breakfast bagel from them a few times a month. I am not one for crazy variety, if I find something I like I tend to stick with it. Brueggers offers me everything I need from my Bagel Breakfast sandwich, which I love so much!
Overall I would say the atmosphere at Brueggers is cozy. Whenever there is a line, I find the process to go quickly enough, as I have never waited for longer then 5-10 minutes from the time I ordered my Bagel till the time I sat down to eat it. I would call that being on the ball with service. The staff is wonderful and it is apparent they know what the are doing. I also truly enjoy their Punch Card system, buy 10 get 1 free. I usually get a "free" bagel every 2-3 Months, which in my mind is not a bad deal if I am going to be eating the Bagel anyways.
My Usual Order
As I stated, I tend to stick to something if it is good enough to stick to. At Brueggers, my favorite breakfast bagel is The Westerner on Jalapeno Cheddar. This is just an awesome bagel, I do get sort of sad when I go in hoping for my Westerner on Jalapeno Cheddar to find out they are out. The next best thing would be to have the Pesto Cheese Bagel, which is basically the Jalapeno Cheddar, just without the Jalapeno.
Overall I really enjoy Brueggers! From the speed of service, niceness of service to the quality of food, they really have their Bagel Shop down to a science. The next time you are out and about in the morning and looking for a great Bagel Breakfast, I would highly recommend stopping at Brueggers. They offer an awesome Jalapeno Bagel and of course my favorite sandwich inners, the Westerner if that is not your cup of tea, I am sure you can find something savory for yourself.
Recently, I wanted to try and sign up to be an Amazon Associate to promote a few books I have read etc. Deciding that this would be pretty trivial to setup, I ventured out to do become an Amazon Associate. Well the process was not trivial at all. When I was trying to signup, Amazon kept telling me that I had a bad state. No other error message. After using 3 different browsers and many different variations of for Colorado, thinking it wanted the state in a specific format, I opted to contact Amazon. Well here is Amazon's response:
Well that sucks for me and Amazon I guess. I just wish instead of blindly blocking Colorado they would have at least put an error message about it. I wasted a couple hours doing this and was not very happy. I of course understand their position, they just need to be more verbose about the situation and not try and hide it and make people even more confused. If you live in Colorado, I would ask you to take a stand, and if you feel the above is wrong, contact the Colorado General Assembly and urge them to change it.
(sarcasm)But hey! At least Amazon still wants to sell to Coloradans. (end sarcasm) They just do not want Coloradans to become Associates to earn a little money on the side. In my opinion, if Amazon wants to do this right they need to man up and not even sell anything to Coloradans and explain why they are not doing it. I highly doubt that blocking people from being associates is going to make the Law Makers change their minds.
Late Sunday night, PBS.org was hacked and a news story was posted saying that Tupac Shakur and Biggie were still alive and living in a small town in New Zealand. Tupac apparently sent his Diary to a family member and the New Zealand city, to be unnamed, was closed down for security reasons. A friend of mine on IRC captured the image of the original site before it was taken down, see the image below.
Not long after the posting PBS.org removed the article.
For more information see Hacked PBS Reports Tupac Biggie Alive
Have a great Memorial Day Weekend!
Last month I was in need of a new laptop. After doing my looking at deals I came to a decision to purchase a Sony Vaio F11. It was on sale at NewEgg and had everything I was looking for in a laptop. Well the laptop was bought, thanks to David, and I have been using it solidly for about a month now. Over the month I have tried various Operating Systems on the Sony Vaio laptop, from Windows 7 to Ubuntu to Arch Linux. I have to say, my initial impressions were not great and my frustration level was very high. To avoid any real negative feedback, I still love my Vaio now that I finally have it working with Arch Linux, but it was rough getting to that point and here is how it panned out.
Let's Use Ubuntu...or Not
I have always had success with using Ubuntu, and Ubuntu is generally a 15 minute install without any hassle, especially on a brand new computer where nothing needs to be backed up. Well the Sony Vaio F11 is not an easy system to get up and running with Ubuntu. Right after the Live Ubuntu CD has been inserted you immediately encounter a problem...the touchpad does not work! Well, having used Ubuntu before and preferring not to use a touchpad, this was easy to work around to get Ubuntu installed, just tab to "Install Ubuntu" and use the keyboard shortcuts to do the rest. Ok, the installation was going through. After the installation and Ubuntu loaded up guess what? The touchpad was still not working. Having a USB Mouse to plug into the computer, I connected my eth0 to get online and do some googling using Firefox. What I found was that for whatever reason Ubuntu does not recognize the Sony Touchpad (I found this eerily weird given Ubuntu's Easy setup reputation) and there is a hack to get it working thanks to the Ubuntu Forums.
Edit /etc/default/grub to include GRUB_CMDLINE_LINUX="i8042.nopnp"
Great, I now have a touchpad to use finally. Thinking it is wise to do an upgrade, I went ahead and ran:
sudo apt-get update
The process goes through smoothly and I decide to reboot because Ubuntu tells me I need to Restart. I go ahead and reboot...wait a second, I was suppose to see Ubuntu show up...it appears the updates broke my system and now all I see is a black screen, which you can tell the system is on (given the green LED on the power button). Well this is the pits. After some more googling (from my wife's computer) it appears that the NVIDIA drivers that are in the Ubuntu repository do not go well with the Sony Vaio. The fix was again, easy, but annoying. I loaded up the Ubuntu Live CD, had my USB Mouse plugged in, went to "Try Ubuntu". Once there I loaded up a terminal (Alt + Ctrl + T) and blacklisted the NVIDIA driver. To do this I had to mount my drive and create a file, during the fdisk -l /dev/sda part, we need to find the sda number that is set for the root drive. This will generally be sda3 / sda4 / sda5, depending on how you set it up. If you did the automatic with a separate home partition it should be sda3. No matter, after you mount it, if it is not the right drive, use `umount /media/sdaX` and then try the next number. To know its the right drive, doing an `ls /media/sda` should come back with folders like `/etc` `/bin`...
sudo su -
That should blacklist the driver. Before we reboot the computer, we will want to go and download the latest driver for the video card at NVIDIA, mine was a 450m Cuda, yours may be different depending on the model. We will want to save them to `/media/sda/opt`, if that is not a directory, go ahead and make it and then using Firefox, download the drivers and move them to that folder.
Once that has been done, go ahead and reboot. Once the Ubuntu Login screen comes up, we want to run a TTY, so hold Ctrl+Alt+F2, this should take you to a terminal go ahead and login, your normal account should suffice (we will just sudo later). Once in the terminal, let's go ahead and install the proper NVIDIA drivers.
sudo su -
Go ahead and follow the prompts, at the end it should say it was installed, at this point we need to enable the NVIDIA driver.
Leave the nouvea driver blacklisted, but delete the nvidia line. Once this has been done and saved, type `reboot` and the computer should restart and you should have a working version of Ubuntu with the Sony Vaio F Series. Caveats, never upgrade NVIDIA from the Ubuntu Repository, it will ask you to, do not or else you have to go through this mess again. You cannot change the brightness etc without doing some modifications to the xorg.conf, if you would like this feature check out Vaio-F11 on Linux. Finally, under Linux, in order to get proper power management for a Vaio Laptop, you will need to compile a custom kernel (see the Vaio-F11 Linux site above for how to do that). Compiling a Kernel is not easy, but after you do it a few times it get's easier, given I need to re-compile mine I may write a blog about how to do it. But all in all, you now have a working Vaio F11 Series laptop on Ubuntu Linux! Congratulations (now aren't you glad you found this blog!).
Conclusion for Ubuntu on Sony Vaio F11 Series
I would not really recommend running Ubuntu on the Sony Vaio F11 series, until Ubuntu or Sony can address the major issues. If you do run it, at least you know the hacks / work around's to fix it. It is very unfortunate that the drivers are not compatible, and I do not blame Ubuntu in the slightest. Sony is notorious for having it's own set of drivers that use proprietary software which is not available on Linux except through hacks. It is workable, but just beware that it takes a lot of effort to get Ubuntu working on the Sony Vaio F11 Series. For me it took a good 5+ hours to find all this information and get everything "working". I formatted a few days later to see how the Sony Vaio F11 Series laptop ran on Windows 7..
I will write a new blog in a few days about my experiences with the Sony Vaio F11 series laptop under Windows 7 and another on Arch Linux, given the extent of the information I have. So please check back, or better yet, subscribe to my RSS feed! I will update this blog with links once I post those items.
Recently I acquired a pair of Sketchers Shoes from the Sketchers store at Colorado Mills in Golden, CO. I am a huge fan of Sketchers for a few reasons, my first is I really like their designs they just suit me. The second reason and perhaps the main reason; they have "WIDE" shoes available. The WIDE shoes that Sketchers offer I find much more comfortable for my feet, in other words, they actually have room to breathe. Let's dive a bit further into the shoes themselves.
Comfort Levels of Sketchers
The new pair of Sketchers I bought are mildly comfortable. They are not nearly as comfortable as my older pair, probably because I bought them to look a bit nicer for work. After the first week of wearing them and breaking in my new shoes, they became quite a bit more comfortable to wear. It just took that initial time of wearing them to get them just right. Now I love those shoes, and it is too bad I want to keep them nice looking for work, because I only wear them to work and nothing else (unless a fancy dinner comes up). All in all the new Sketchers I bought were not very comfortable at first, but after breaking them in they have become much more comfortable to wear daily.
Price vs Value
The Price of the Sketchers that I paid was reasonable. They had a deal going on Buy One get the Second Half Off. Of course my wife was with me when I bought my shoes and I gave in and let her pick out a pair for her. So for around $70 we walked out with 2 new pair of Sketcher shoes. Hers are more relaxed wear, but she loves how comfortable hers are. So given that I paid roughly $35 for my shoes, I would say that we came off with a pretty good deal. I am not one to spend a ton of money on shoes, and I was pretty happy with that price. For the price, I would say I got a great value on my new pair of shoes.
Sketchers WIDE Fit
I am not seen many brands that make a "WIDE" shoe for fat feet. But before I started buying Sketchers, it seemed no matter what shoe I bought my big toes would end up being sore, even after they were broken in. This was annoying to say the least, as having sore toes are not fun. Then one day, I was looking at shoes and saw the Sketchers with the "WIDE" tag. I tried them on and just fell in love. Since then I have kept my eye out for "WIDE" shoes in different brands, like Nike's. And I have yet to really find a "WIDE" shoe that fits me as well as Sketchers and maintains a great Price to Value ratio.
Sketchers at the Colorado Mills Mall
The Sketchers store at the Colorado Mills, seemed a bit high priced to me. The higher prices could have been because the store was in the Mall. Luckily they had the Buy one Get one Half Off deal going on, or I probably would not have bought my shoes. The last Sketchers I bought, before these ones, I found at DSW Shoe Warehouse on Clearance for $30 or so. I probably just got lucky to find them there at the time, but that seemed very reasonable to me for a pair of shoes, so I bought them. I was sad to say that I did check out DSW Shoe Warehouse and other places before going to the Sketchers Store at the Colorado Mills Mall, and was unable to find a pair of Sketchers that I liked for a reasonable price. For comparison, the Sketchers Store at the Colorado Mills Mall was about the same price as the Sketchers at DSW Shoe Warehouse, not on clearance. My take, if you cannot find a good deal at another place, you might as well just go to the Sketchers Store and buy from them directly. However, if you are lucky enough to stumble upon a Pair of Sketchers on Clearance that suit you, you are probably better off buying them from that store.
Overall I am satisfied with my Sketchers purchase, not as satisfied as I was with my last pair, but still satisfied. Their comfort level is decent and the WIDE Sketchers are just awesome, given I do not get sore toes anymore. The Colorado Mills Mall Sketchers Store is not the cheapest place you can find Sketchers, but they do have deals that go on throughout the year, which may make your next pair a decent deal. Their stock may not be the best, but they had what I needed. So if you are in the Golden area and find yourself needing a new pair of shoes, go ahead and stop by the Sketchers Store at the Mills, who knows, you may find your next good pair of shoes there!
I stay at the Ft. Collins Colorado Marriott Hotel when I travel. Throughout my travels I have had a hit or miss with the TV and Marriott's "Jack Pack" which has Composite / VGA / HDMI inputs to go to the TV. This is to make hooking up your own electronics (such as a DVD Player) easier to do. Unfortunately, it seems the system is still buggy and likes to lock you out. This can be very annoying and disheartening if you were looking forward to watching your own media. Fortunately, I have found some great information on how to get past this annoyance of a hit or miss depending on your room. Well look no further, here is the much needed information to get your Computer / Laptop / Media Player / DVD Player / Wii / PS3 / XBox / XBox 360 to work in your Marriott Hotel room using their Jack Pack panel.
The concept is rather simple, turn the TV on. Get out of the On Command menu (click Channel Up). You should be on Channel 2 or something similar. From here, Enter a Channel between 90-96. These are the channels set aside for the Jack Pack, you should be able to find the general input Channels (AV1 AV2 HDMI Composite DVI) etc. And it should pull up the right connection when you go to it! If that fails, check the side of the TV for the AV2 inputs etc and you should be able to directly connect to those (pending if the Marriott Hotel has them locked down, the Ft. Collins Marriott does not). And viola, you should be able to watch your own media!
Hope this helps you out, it sure helped me out and took me a long time to find this information. If you have questions or extra tips, please add a comment!