The Mysterious Origins of a Windows Desktop Image

Autumn Wallpaper

Here’s a great read from Nick Tosches, a contributing editor at Vanity Fair.

The wallpaper on Nick’s WinXP desktop was the classic ‘Autumn’ seen above, and it was a welcome scene when we returned home each time from his travels around the world including the hurried pace and fast lifestyle while away covering world events.

This story is about Nick’s absolute obsession for a year trying to track down the photographer and location of this photograph. The level of difficulty in finding information on the mysterious origins of the photo and the number of people involved in the effort makes for an interesting story. Here’s a snippet –

Every member of Team Autumn begins as I did, confident that finding the location pictured will be a quick and simple matter. As the months pass, many of my volunteers, rather than admit defeat, resort to the exculpatory “maybe it’s a computer-generated picture” premise and retreat to their real lives.

Some have tried to console me: “Hell, it’s probably next to a toxic-waste dump.” My buddy Bruce suggests there’s a sinister element: “It could be like Blow-Up. Something bad could be happening at the end of the path. Maybe that’s why they won’t tell you anything.”

But—toxic waste, dead bodies—I don’t care. Autumn awaits me. Somewhere. Yeah. Over the rainbow. Yeah. And I’ll find it yet.

Read on…

XP on 8 MHz Pentium w/ 20MB Ram

Slashdot is reporting:

The guys over at managed to get their Windows XP Professional running on a very minimal box: an Intel Pentium clocked down to 8 MHz with 20 MB of RAM. (The installer won’t work with less than 64 MB, but after installing you can remove memory.) The link has plenty of pictures of their progress in achieving this dubious milestone. They deserve a Golden Hourglass award for ‘extreme waste of time.’ What obscure hardware configurations have you managed to get Windows running on?”

One of the funnier comments to this /. post was:

I for one welcome our new masochists overloards

Click over to the link above in the /. post, they’ve got tons of pics of the machine and screenshots of the XP image.

New Nanofilter, 50 Atoms Thick, Sorts Individual Molecules

The latest issue of Nature announces the details of a membrane developed by the University of Rochester that opens new design possibilities for better dialysis, fuel cells and neuro-stem cell cultivation.

At more than 4,000 times thinner than a human hair, this 15 nanometer membrane is very similar to the slices of silicone seen in every-day microprocessor manufacturing plants.

Read the details here.

Nanofilter array

[Found on]

New Taskman Hotness on Vista

OK, it’s not really Taskman, but sort of related. Task Manager is one of the admin’s or power user’s favorite tools. In Vista’s Taskman you can see from this pic below there are two easily discernible differences.

One difference is the ‘Services’ tab. In Windows XP you had all the other tabs, and the ‘Processes’ tab was probably your favorite, now your time will likely be split between Processes which contains most of the info you were looking for before, and the Services tab shows all services on the box, the parent group it’s a part of, the current state (Running, Stopped) and the process ID number. In Services, if you bring up the context menu for a service you can try to stop it, or you can ‘Go to Process’ which will take you to the owning process for this service in the Processes tab. Cool.

OK, that was one difference, here’s the second. See the button below ‘Resource Monitor’? Click it (ok, if you’re running Vista, go click it :smile:), this launches the Resource Monitor tool you can see farther below…

Task Manager

The Resource Monitor tool is new in Vista. It’s also known by the more cumbersome ‘Reliability and Performance Monitor”. This is the tool you wished you had in the box for XP or Win2k3, it’s like a poor man’s Perfmon with realtime data but no logging capability that I can find in it.

Besides launching it from Taskman you can also get to it:

  • From the ‘computer’ context menu under ‘Manage’
  • You can go to “Start – system tools – Reliability and Performance”
  • Or from a CMD window you can type ‘perfmon /res

This tool can track and allow you to monitor all activities for CPU, Disk, Network & Memory.

Under CPU, not only do you get the typical ‘PID’, process, # threads, but also see ‘Average CPU’ usage.

For Disk, you can view read and write in B/Min, IO Priority and Response Time.

For Network you can view the net address a process is connected to or using and the Send/Rec/Total B/min.

Lastly, Memory shows process/PID, Hard Faults/min, Commit/Working Set/Shareable/Private memory usage.

Resource Mon1

Upgrade Your Car to a Recreational Tank.


Feeling like your SUV blends into the crowd? In need of something to transport your groceries by day and a mobile party or arsenal by night? Meet the Badonkadonk, a one-of-a-kind “armored land cruiser/recreational tank”.

To look at it, one might think it’s a hovercraft, but in fact it runs on four off-road wheels, concealed by a unique industrial-strength rubberized flexible skirt that shields and protects the wheels to within an inch of the ground, while still allowing for enough flex to give clearance over bumpy and uneven terrain.

It looks like something out of Mad Max.


What’s the Deal With Adobe Reader on Vista?

I built out a new PC last weekend and promptly installed Vista Ultimate. The next night I needed Adobe Reader so i started making my way to to get the latest version. As i was loading their site I thought back to the RC build and the trouble i had installing Reader then, you had to hack it in because of several problems with its installer.

Lo and behold, Reader has the same problem with this Vista RTM build. What the heck? It’s not like Longhorn/Vista hasn’t been available for ISVs to actually *test* on at some point in the last couple of years and be prepared! What gives? 😡

So I had to hack the sucker in again.
What I wound up doing was run the installer up to the point where the MSI failed. Before acknowledging the error and allowing it to rollback the setup, i quickly drilled down to the user folder: ‘C:\Users\Andy\AppData\LocalLow\Netopsystems\temp‘ , copied out the Adobe temp folder to the desktop, then acknowledged the error so it could clean up and remove the temp files in original temp folder path above.

Then i ran the MSI within the copied version of the Adobe folder now on my desktop and this time the installation worked fine. :smile:

Ah well, at least it had a happy ending and we have Reader goodness on the box now. It turned out that the installer couldn’t handle UAC being turned off on the box afterall.

Drawball. World’s Greatest Shared Art Project?

If you haven’t seen Drawball yet, pardon me for being pushy but you should leave here immediately and partake.

It’s a huge social drawing site that allows anyone to draw whatever they want on a massive virtual canvas. Every user is only alloted a certain amount of ‘ink’ per day to prevent any one user from simply taking over, the amount limits you to about 1/10,000th of the surface per day.

However, some sites are getting people to all join in and partake on a campaign to collaboratively generate a logo or some other object of interest. This site also has an animated feature that shows you the site in 40 hour snapshots since it was started, it’s just amazing to watch things appear and get overwritten.

I’m addicted.


Web Economy BS Generator

Looking to beef up your software spec or your resume and want to add a flavor of the Web Economy to it?

Look no further than this Web Economy Bullshit Generator. It takes from a static pool of Verbs+Adjectives+Nouns.

For instance it generated these for me that i think i might actually be able to use: “grow global interfaces” , “incubate one-to-one mindshare” & “exploit value-added initiatives

These phrases are truly something our marketing folks might actually come up with.

Linguistic Geography of the Mainland US

This site has a high level breakdown of the 8 dialectic groups in the United States, identified by region and their linguistic markers.

For instance, the ‘Upper Midwest Dialects’ tend to borrow some Canadianisms while the westward migration has carried typically Northern features into the Pacific Northwest.

There’s no real surprises here, but interesting to see the general borders for the dialects.

Linguistic map1

Spock’s Spacesuit For Auction

This spacesuit costume was featured prominently in Star Trek I: The Motion Picture when Spock (Leonard Nimoy) left the “Enterprise” to conduct a mindmeld with the ‘V’Ger Probe’.

The bidding for this item on eBay is currently at US $4,829.01 and the auction ends on Feb 23, get it while it’s still cheap! There’s lots more pics of the item with many of them closeups. From the closeup photos, time has obviously not done this jewel justice, tsk tsk.

Reference: The massive entity that called itself V’Ger was one of the most extraordinary lifeforms ever encountered by the United Federation of Planets. It generated enormous levels of power and threatened the destruction of Earth until it found a way to evolve.

Spock Spacesuit

Meet the Geek Behind the Vatican’s Website

This is a fun discussion with the Vatican’s Sister Judith Zoebelein. She’s a 57 year old American lady who also happens to be the editorial director of the Holy See that heads the team running the Vatican’s web site and data center.

Here’s the video, it’s about 25 minutes long and is actually 3 or 4 tech reporters asking her questions in an impromptu interview at a recent conference. In case you’re wondering, they’re running Linux on the backend, SUN servers and recently switched to Mac for their PCs.

Just as interesting is this businessweek article ‘O click all ye faithful‘, it’s a behind the scenes tour of the data center by Sister Judith.

Why is U.S. always last in line for new phones?

MSNBC columnist Michael Rogers explains why Americans are the last in line to be served with coolest of cool new mobiles like the example he talks about playing with at the GSM tradeshow in Barcelona last week. The phone is the:

Samsung Ultra Smart F700, a sleek elegant black phone with a high-resolution color touchscreen, slide-out keyboard, a five megabyte auto-focus camera, all operating on an ultra-high-speed wireless network that will download a 4 megabyte MP3 song in four seconds.  The Ultra Smart F700 looks as cool as Apple’s upcoming iPhone — and actually does more. But we’re not going to see it in the U.S. for a long time to come: for starters, we don’t even have a network it will run on. 

Read more… 

Chinese to Send 14B Holiday SMSes this week

The Chinese New Year started over the weekend and the Chinese people generally take a week off to celebrate (I know because the folks I work with in Beijing basically go dark for a week this time each year before surfacing again).

Reuters is reporting (via that China’s mobile operators estimate that their customers will send billions of text messages during the week long holiday. Here’s the numbers:

They are hosting services for approx 400 million susbribers and last year each user sent approx 30 SMS’ a piece during the last New Year festival for a total of 12.6 billion during the week. They’re trending towards an additional 1.4 billion for this year’s festival for a whopping 14 billion SMS’ exected during an 8 day period this year!

My gawd, imagine if you could insert an advert into each one of those messages, you’d make a killing. 😈


Virtual PC 2007 RTMs….and is still Free

Download VPC 2007 from here. Yes it’s still free like VPC 2004 and VPC now supports Vista.

You can create and run one or more virtual machines, each with its own operating system, on a single computer. This provides you with the flexibility to use different operating systems on one physical computer. Imagine being able to host Windows Vista, Windows XP, Windows 2000, Win98, NT4 and OS/2 on the same box.

If you’re an IT Pro this is a godsend for the appcompat scenarios. I consider myself a VM newbie, having used VPC 2004 off and on over the past 6 months.