Thursday, February 02, 2006

Drawing a Good Logo

Drawing a Good Logo
A great analysis of logo-making.
I just finished reading Lea’s great three part series on the Art of Self Branding (1, 2, 3). I thought I would share a bit about how my own thought process works. Specifically, I will talk about the influences and factors that went into branding the Godbit Project. At first, I wasn’t sure how well recieved the Godbit website would be, wondering if it would be percieved as just another cheezy Christian endeavor. However, since it seems to be getting a lot of attention from various design galleries, I figured I’d talk a more about it.
Initial Attempt:
I must admit, that when I started planning for this site, I had two words in the back of my head, “Christian Stylegala.” I had initially toyed with the idea of having a logo done in a script font, not unlike that of Stylegala or the now defunct Screenspire. I even considered juxtaposing one shape, to create a lowercase g and b. You can see the result of that failed attempt below.


While this design is visually appealing, after asking around (without saying what it was for), I found that it conjured up two things in people’s minds. The first was that of a yin-yang, the symbol for the balance of good and evil in Eastern cultures. Secondarily, people associated this yin-yang and inversion of similar text to the number “69” as used in the 1960-70’s to symbolize drug use and liberal sexuality. I decided this was not going to work. I also had a gut feeling that curisve was not the best choice for a site about coding. So, I started visiting other design sites, and began thinking about it purposfully.
Branding Influences:
It’s been said that art does not exist in a vacuum, and we are all influenced by what we have seen. Nowhere is this more true than on the web. So, before I talk about the actual process of designing Godbit, I need to give due credit for where I drew my branding inspiration. When I first started out, I knew I wanted this site to appeal to geeks, a demographic in which I include myself.
If you’re from my generation (or older), you’ll no doubt remember computers such as the Apple II. Cutting edge for their time, these dream machines had only a two-color monitor. Well, it was really more like one color: green, with the rest of the screen black. It was this type retro look I was considering, because I wanted the site to be about getting back to basics, past the snazzy designs and back to the foundations of good machine language: code.
This is also a reoccuring theme in the Matrix, which also drew its inspiration from the old console input of light text on black background. To the younger crowd, I knew the color scheme of Godbit would remind them more of this movie. I really liked the underlying theme of those films: Fighting the status quo. That is something that I also wanted to represent with Godbit, to raise the bar of coding standards beyond where the Church is at today. “We wrestle not against flesh and blood,” but against apathy, bureaucracy and mediocrity.
Paying Homage:
—› Jonathan Snook
In my opinion, one of the better web coders out there is Jonathan Snook, and I have always been fond of the way he uses dark grey and neon green on his blog. He is a wizard of CSS, JavaScript, PHP and probably a myriad of other languages. I figured, if my design was reminiscent of his, then all the better.
—› Design by Fire
Another thing I wanted to take into account was an article written awhile back on Design by Fire, entitled Rebranding the W3C. While it was just a simple example exercise, I knew I wanted to revisit some of the concepts covered there. The reason for this was twofold. First, the author Andrei Herasimchuk is a great designer, so when he talks about branding, I listen. Second, it is the very standards of the W3C that Godbit is trying to promote for the church. In his design, he emphasizes the < > bracket symbols. I wanted to revisit this.
—› Pixelgrazer


Lastly, I love the logo for the design group Pixelgrazer. At first glance, it might not appear like much, but I assure you that it is genius. While I haven’t dialoged with them specifically about it, I will give my best guess as to the design process that went on behind the scenes. I think they wanted to represent the word pixel as simply as possible, in a pixel font, no doubt.


From there, they needed to add in the second word in their combo, grazer. Drawn with as few pixels as possible, that gives you a lowercase p and g, with a 3×5 pixel shape to work with for each letter. What I think happened next is that they overlapped the two letters (accidentally?), and thought: ahah! This resulted in a blocky, pixel-esque logo that also hints at an exclamation point.
Deity + Data:
To recap, I now knew I wanted to have a site that was primarily dark, with lighter font, preferrably with green for accentuation. I knew I wanted to highlight a “bit” of data, the best visual representation of which is a single pixel. I also knew that I wanted to emphasize the importance of standards, and revisit the concept of using code. So, I thought, what if I put a dot to represent a bit, inside brackets? That of course looks like this: <•>. I shelved that idea for a bit while I re-thought the actual lettering.
I really liked the Pixelgrazer approach, but knew that God’s name deserves to be capitalized, so a straight overlap was ruled out because a capitalized pixel-font G has greater dimensions than a lowercase b. I decided to just draw the letters as small as possible, and then it hit me. By turning the G -45 degrees to the left, and leaning the b 45 degrees to the right, I had a perfect overlap. Plus, it also cut out a perfect square to represent a bit of data! Not only that, but it retained the diamond shape formed by two code brackets.

"Besides being a really nice site I think Godbit has the most awesome logo I’ve seen in a long time. The idea is just brilliant!• Marco van Hylckama Vlieg – (source)


Well, I hope you found this article informative. If anything, it should help you realize that usually nothing works out on the first try. So, if you’re getting discouraged on a project, seek some objective outside input, take a break to clear your mind, and then come back to it later with a fresh perspective. Michael Jordan said it best: “To learn to succeed, you must first learn to fail.”


Sunday, January 29, 2006

Dual-Booting Windows XP on a Macintel

Dual-Booting Windows XP on a Macintel
The Problems

  • Macintosh uses a different MBR
  • MacBooks use EFI, XP x86 uses BIOS
  • The modified Darwin Bootloader is made for EFI w/ EFI supporting operating systems

OK… So step by step.
Where is the BIOS used? For what? How?
The OS sends low-level calls to the BIOS that tell it exactly how to deal with the hardware. Now I don’t have the Windows XP source code at hand.. so all I can tell you for a fact is that NTLDR uses it to access the drive at first to boot Windows, and Windows uses it at *least* once more when it is mounting the drives.


The Required Programs and Stuff

  • Acronis Disk Director Bootable CD
  • Acronis True Image
  • Another computer with a clean install of XP. No programs installed at all.
  • A MacBook obviously!
  • A Windows Vista DVD (not for installation purposes!)
  • Vista boot files
  • bcdedit.exe
  • BCDedit restore file


Most of the problems can be theoretically quickly dealt with.

  1. Using the Bootable Acronis Disk Director CD on the MacBook, shrink the Mac partition.
  2. Create a new partition of type NTFS/HPFS in the remaining space.
  3. Setup a clean version of XP on a PC.
    Extract Boot.7z to the root drive of your XP installation.. So you have C:\Boot\
  4. Copy bcdedit.exe to the root drive of your XP installation. C:\BCDedit.exe
  5. Copy MacBook.bcd to the root drive of your XP installation
  6. Use sysprep to “reseal” your XP install and remove all hardware info from the setup (thanks Kristan for pointing that out!).
  7. Use Acronis TrueImage CD to make an image of your XP install.
  8. Use the bootable Acronis True Image CD to recreate the image on the partition you just made on your MacBook.
  9. Use the Bootable Vista DVD to boot on the MacBook.
  10. Select “Repair Startup” -> Next -> CMD -> Run too.
  11. Browse to drive C:\Boot (which is the partition you created on the MacBook and then extracted the Acronis TrueImage file to). (cd C:\boot)
  12. Run “fixntfs.exe -lh” without the quotes
  13. Browse back to drive C:\ (cd \)
  14. Run “bcdedit.exe /import MacBook.bcd” without the quotes
  15. Eject the CD and restart.
  16. In Mac now, hack the Darwin Bootloader to add another entry that chainloads Drive(0) Partition(2). With GRUB it would look something like this… I’m not sure if Darwin is the same, but this step is very simple, and has nothing to do with EFI.
    title Windows XP
    rootnoverify (hd0,1)
    chainloader +1
  17. Restart
  18. By selecting “Windows XP” on the Darwin Bootloader you should be chainloaded to the Vista bootloader, which should in turn boot the entry “NeoSmart Windows XP”
  19. If everything has gone well, XP will boot!!

Ultimate VNC Setup

Ultimate VNC Setup
January 27th, 2006 in Technology
VNC is a free (mostly) way to control another computer from somewhere else. But there are downfalls. VNC is not very secure. This tutorial will guide you through the steps of using two free programs to connect to another computer and do it securely. The programs are small , fast and not bloated like remote desktop. But this guide will also teach you how to setup encryption so no one will be able to get access to your computers.
The two programs we will be using are RealVNC and Hamachi. Hamachi is a tunneling app that lets you direct connect two computers. It bootstraps the connection and you get a new ip that displays up on the top of the application.
RealVNC is a small VNC application. They have paid versions but for this setup we only need the free version. So go download RealVNC free edition and Hamachi (freeware).
Now you need to install Hamachi first. It is recommended that you go to https://www.grc.com/passwords to get a secure key for using Hamachi. This way everything is encrypted.
It’s a good idea to install Hamachi on the host machine (the one you want to connect to) first. When you get the main menu it will ask for a name. Just put in your nickname or your real name. Then you will want to name the server. Name it whatever you want. It will then give you a unique ip that you will tunnel with. Write the IP down.
Now you need to setup your network. On the bottom left of the Hamachi window there is a button named Create or Join Networks. Click on it and select Create network. You will then name it. Then you need to put a key phrase in. The pass key MUST be from https://www.grc.com/passwords or another security key generating site. You don’t want someone cracking into your network.

Now you need to setup Hamachi on the computer that you will be connecting from. Anotherwards the pc at your work / school / other room that you will use to connect to your home pc from.
On that PC just setup a different username. Now you need to connect to the pc at your work / etc. Just select Join Existing Network.


That’s how you get Hamachi setup. You will now be direct connected to each other. It’s a good idea to plan how you will do this. You need to setup Hamachi and realvnc at home and get it right and then set it up at work. You should email yourself the Pass Phrase or write it down. Then delete it once its setup in Hamachi.
Now for RealVNC. Download it from the link above. Now install it on the “server” (on the pc at your work you need to install the viewer only). Just leave everything in the install default. Run the program and set it up. You need to create authentication.
Authentication in Real VNC is different then Hamachi. This is just a password you use to connect from your work to your home pc. This can be any password. It doesn’t matter because you will be doing it over a secure Hamachi connection.
Now on the server PC you need to turn Hamachi on and RealVNC. Write down the password for Real VNC and the Hamachi Pass Key.
On the PC at your work , etc , you need to download RealVNC but ONLY install Real VNC viewer.
Now you’re ready to get it working! Just open Hamachi at your work. Connect to the PC at home (make sure to use the Hamachi ip not yours! It’s the one with the encryption!).
Once that’s done and you log in with the long Pass Key you can open up Real VNC viewer. Put in the IP of your Home Pc (Hamachi ip) and click connect. It will then ask you for a password and enter the key you made for Real VNC.
All done! Now you can sys-admin over a secure Hamachi connection with a very secure pass key.

Tech Prank: Microsoft Word Voodoo Curse

Tech Prank: Microsoft Word Voodoo Curse



Step 1
Open Microsoft Word on your victim's computer, then go to the program's AutoCorrect feature (Tools/AutoCorrect), which is designed to catch spelling errors and automatically fix them.


Step 2
Instruct the program to replace the word "the" with "thee," "but" with "butter," or "of" with "off." Then really get creative.


Step 3
Look on as Bob from Customer Service sends a company-wide e-mail that reads: "Please forward all requests about greasy duck butter and Slavic cabbage fart to the strange mole on my schvontz. Spank you. Cock balls banana."

Friday, January 27, 2006

Spider stomping 2k6

Spider stomping 2k6
Getting your email address on the web without opening yourself up to 200 spam messages a day is a problem with many possible solutions. There doesn't seem to be a perfect technique, but there are plenty that suffice. This is another sufficient technique that is perhaps the most esoteric and jerry-rigged of them all, but it works (in decent browsers anyway) and I haven't seen it discussed anywhere else, so here it goes.
Address hiding with CSS
One of the most often overlooked abilities of CSS are it's :before and :after pseudo-elements. This is probably because IE doesn't (yet) support them, but this is my hack and I'm not really concerned about IE. These properties allow you to insert content (text, images, etc.) before or after an element. Still more overlooked is the ability of :before and :after to include attributes from the tag they are modifying.
For instance, let's say you'd like to print the URL of links on your page behind the link text so that users know exactly where they'll be headed when they click. By styling links like so a:link:after { content: " <"attr(href)"> "; }, we get a link like this one. Pretty cool, huh? What if you stick your username in the link's title attribute and domain in the rel attribute?
Plain Jane
We can join the two by applying the following CSS: a:link:before { content: ""attr(title)"@"attr(rel)""; }. With no inner text for the a tag, the link now shows up as the full email address, like so: . In the link's href attribute, you can leave your address with the @ replaced by your favorite spam-blocking string ([at symbol] for instance), so that the user can correct it in his mail client and be on his merry way.
JavaScript magic
That's great, but if you want the process to be completely transparent to the user, you'll have to do a little better. With a sprinkling of JavaScript, we can use the onclick attribute to pull the data from title and rel and place a proper address in the href so that it works like normal: . onclick="this.href='mailto:'+this.getAttribute('title')+'@'+this.getAttribute('rel')" You can even use other fancy tools to add the onclicks during the window's onload event and keep your markup nice and clean.
For the purists
So we have an email address that appears as plain text, works like a normal mailto: link, and is invisible to the evil spam bots. The downside is that the tag is actually empty, and when the browser doesn't support the CSS properties we need (MSIE), nothing shows up at all. The fix is simple: just wrap your link text in a span and hide spans that are children of your designated mail links through CSS. You can then use MSIE's conditional comments to show the spans to IE6 and below.
Caveats, notes, etc.
If you want to take a first-hand look at all of the CSS and JS used in this article, just view the source of this page. Nothing is linked externally, so it should be pretty clear. Even in the worst case scenario (MSIE and no JavaScript), it functions as well as any other alternatives and under the proper conditions, you can have your cake and eat it too. One thing to note is that text generated by the :before and :after pseudo-elements is not selectable (at least in Safari). For a really great study of the under-used capabilities of CSS, check out CSS 2.1 Selectors parts 1, 2, and 3 at 456 Berea St.

Monday, January 23, 2006

XP On Your Thumb Drive

XP On Your Thumb DriveFred
Langa offers a step-by-step and illustrated guide on how to boot XP from an ordinary USB drive.
By Fred Langa
InformationWeek Jan 23, 2006 12:00 AM


Chances are you already either have a USB "thumb" drive, or you will have one in the near future--these little solid-state flash memory devices are inexpensive, nearly ubiquitous, and very, very handy. Not only can they replace floppy drives for casual file transfers, but the larger capacity thumb drives also can serve as the basis for an excellent, fit-in-your-pocket software repair kit, letting you diagnose and repair PCs, including those that might otherwise be unbootable or that are locked by password or other problems.
We've discussed USB drives before in "What's Behind The USB Drive Revolution". We also looked at ways to make a USB drive bootable from DOS in "Solving USB Boot Problems". We've also mentioned ways to boot from Linux (such as is discussed in this HowTo or in this Google search.) If you missed either of those earlier articles and references, this would be a good time to click back and catch up so we'll all be starting on the same page.
But when we left off our discussion of USB drives, there was no good way to boot XP from a thumb drive because of the way that XP takes over USB control as the operating system starts -- in effect, XP tries to take over the USB system it's already using to boot from, with unpredictable results.
Since our earlier discussions, three things have happened that can make it much, much easier to get XP to boot from a USB device. First, Microsoft released new software that can manage the USB handover much more smoothly. The new software is part of Service Pack 1 for Windows Server 2003, but can work fine in booting XP and even Win2K from USB. (We'll tell you how to get free copies of the new software in a moment.)
The second piece involved Bart Lagerweij and his justly famous "BartPE" software: The BartPE software is a free and powerful way to create custom bootable, self-contained XP CDs that are ready-to-run and that come with a full battery of software tools for PC diagnosis and repair. The BartPE XP CDs are like the "live" versions of Linux -- everything runs right from the CD. (See "A Must-Have Repair And Recovery Tool").
Bart produced a new USB installer for his tool, making use of the files that came in SP1 for Server 2003. The installer is actually a highly-automated series of scripts that can build a self-contained USB-bootable version of the BartPE XP repair and recovery environment. This gives you what's arguably the most powerful recovery and repair tool ever -- and a self-contained version of XP -- that can fit on, boot from, and run on a modest 256MB USB thumb drive!
The final piece fell into place when some other software authors helped resolve some of the most common remaining issues, so that XP-boot-from-USB now can work in many, many cases.

What Works, What Doesn't
Before we get too far, it's worth noting that there are some kinds of boot-from-USB problems that software fixes can't cure. For example, not all PCs (especially older ones) support boot-from-USB in the first place: If the system doesn't allow it, it's game over. (If your PC supports boot-from USB, it'll be an option in the BIOS setup tool.) There can be compatibility issues with USB 1.0 and 2.0 hardware, and with "High Speed" versus "Full Speed" or "Low Speed" support. And so on.
More subtly, some systems that support boot-from-USB may do so either via hard drive emulation or floppy drive emulation by the USB device; but usually not both. If you try to use a USB drive that's emulating a hard drive, but your system only supports floppy-drive emulation (or vice versa), you may be out of luck. Alas, many PCs aren't labeled as to which forms of USB boot emulation they support, leaving you to experiment. (More on this in a moment.)
And there also can be issues in the USB devices themselves. For a list of many USB drives that are known to work with Bart Lagerweij's tools -- as well as many known not to work, see post #17 in this thread.
Yes, it's a little confusing, but don't worry: If you're not sure that your PC and/or USB drive is suitable, you can simply go ahead and try the full XP boot method we'll discuss: If it fails, it most likely simply won't work. It should do no harm.
But if you want more surety, it may be worthwhile to try any of the simpler DOS boot tools mentioned in "Solving USB Boot Problems". A USB drive that can boot from DOS probably can be made to boot from XP. But a USB drive that won't even boot from DOS probably will be very difficult, at best, to get to work with XP. Thus, running a quick test with the DOS-boot tools can help you decide if it's worthwhile to try the longer, more complex XP boot method we'll now describe.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Sex.com Sold to Escom LLC For $14M

Sex.com Sold to Escom LLC For $14M
By Gretchen Gallen
Wednesday, January 18, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO – The infamous and controversial domain Sex.com has officially been sold to Boston-based Escom LLC for a reported $14 million, XBiz has learned.
Sex.com owner Gary Kremen was unavailable for comment, but a source from Kremen’s company, Grant Media, told XBiz that sales for the famous domain name will still be handled through Grant Media’s San Francisco offices.
While other terms of the acquisition remain unknown, XBiz was able to locate information on the deal through a company called InternetRealEstate.com, which shares office space in Boston with Domain Name Acquisition Group (DNAG), a company that was involved in a lawsuit surrounding the Sex.com domain in September.
InternetRealEstate.com is owned by Internet Real Estate Group LLC Partners, which has been involved in the acquisition, development and sale of domain names like Beer.com for $7 million, Telephone.com for $2 million, Shop.com for $3.5 million, and others such as Computer.com, College.com, Diamond.com, Timeshares.com and CreditCard.com.
A principal of InternetRealEstate.com told XBiz that his company has nothing to do with Escom and has no affiliations with DNAG either, although the company President Andrew Miller and CEO Peter Hubshman were both named as defendants in the DNAG/Sex.com lawsuit and both names appear on the InternetRealEstate.com website.
InternetRealEstate.com’s former name, Deal Jam LLC, also was named in the Sex.com lawsuit, before it became known as Internet Real Estate Group.
The company principal said that while he was aware of the Sex.com sale to Escom, he denied any affiliations between InternetRealEstate.com and the new owner of the Sex.com domain name.
Prior to learning of the sale of Sex.com, numerous adult industry message board postings had already begun speculating on the sale after noticing the radical change in the appearance of the Sex.com website. On the homepage of the updated website, the new owners refer to the site as “the new Sex.com,” and the appearance is radically different from the former site. The site is copyrighted by Escom.
Kremen has been shopping around the Sex.com domain for the past year. In previous interviews with XBiz, he has expressed interest in getting out of the adult business.
The Sex.net domain is still registered under Kremen's Grant Media company.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Forgot your Windows password? No problems : Password resetting and recovering techniques

Forgot your Windows password? No problems : Password resetting and recovering techniques
A lot of people think that after having lost their Windows admin password, they absolutely have to reinstall their OS. Let me tell you something: They are wrong! There are a couple of free utilities on the internet that let you get back in your system without a sweat (or almost). Some risks are associated with the procedure, but who cares? You do have to get back in right?As a system administrator, I've tried a couple of these utilities through the years, and my personal favorite is the Offline NT password & Registry editor. This utility is used to reset the password of any user that has a valid and local account on any NT based system: NT4, 2000, XP and 2003. If you need to reset a password stored in active directory, stop right here, this editor will not allow you to do it. Follow this marvelous guide instead (Page won't load in IE, the author doesn't seem to like Internet explorer). You could also try to unravel the password using a brute-force hacking technique, but it could take a while.The editor works offline. This means that you will have to shutdown your system and use the utility on a bootable media. A fully functional automatic bootdisk creator can be downloaded via the author's website (on the bottom of the page). The created disk has everything you need to start working on your inaccessible system. The bootdisk supports IDE, most SATA controller and also some SCSI controllers. You can also access the editor via the Ultimate Boot CD. UBCD is a very good product that gives you access to a lot of essential freeware tools to help you diagnostic various computer problems.







How does it work? Just follow the instructions provided by the author. They are pretty straightforward, with minimal interaction required by the user, so most default choices will get you through.WARNING: If you have some encrypted files (EFS) saved on your system and you reset a password, all the files for that user will become unavailable. You could always recover them using an EFS recovery software like the Advanced EFS Data Recovery utility from Elcomsoft. This utility works great, but it is not free. To prevent this from happening, you can also consult this detailed article from Microsoft about Data Protection and EFS Recovery.







If you want to try your luck with something else, you may want to check Austrumi out. Austrumi is a live Linux distribution CD that allows you, amongst other things, to reset your password the same way the Offline NT password & Registry editor does. Just create a bootable CD with the provided ISO, and boot on it. When you get at the prompt, type boot: nt_pass. This will start the utility and display a menu that let you modify any user's password on the current system. NT_pass is only included in version 0.9.2, so be sure to get this distribution if you want to use this feature. Another technique to recover your password would be to use a software that let you do some brute-force hacking on your SAM database

Make an Invisible person in your photo

Make an Invisible person in your photo

Tutorial
Quite a few people have emailed me to ask how I create the Invisibilia pics. At first I didn't want to reveal my mystical secrets, but then I saw the light and decided to share the wisdom. It's actually very easy. I am not a great artist after all.

Step 1: Find a photo that you like, such as this one.
























Step 2: Open the photo in Photoshop (or another similar graphics program). You need to have a white base layer, then another layer with the photo in it and then a transparent layer above it. Three layers, ok? You're going to trace the photo in the top, transparent layer. To make things easier to trace, you might like to reduce the opacity of the photo layer (but remember to click back on the top layer or you end up tracing in the photo layer, which is very annoying).























Step 3: Right. Now trace the layer with a small brush. Use whatever style you like, but leave no gaps!























Step 4: Right. You've traced the photo. Well done. If you want to see what the tracing looks like, turn off the visibility of the photo layer.






















Step 5: Use the magic wand, and in the top transparent layer, click outside the tracing, so that everything except the tracing is selected. Then, go to Select > Inverse. Now, only the tracing should be selected. See below for exciting results.






















Step 6: Now, click back on to the photo layer.






















Step 7: Press delete or cut, and hey presto! You've deleted the area in the photo directly below the tracing!






















Step 8: Deselect everything, put the photo layer opacity back to 100% and you've done it. Now you too can rip off my style and impress your friends.

























Cor! It's so simple.