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Topics - Ralf Maximus [ switch to compact view ]

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Coding Snacks / IDEA: Windows Desktop Refresh Message Eater
« on: December 01, 2008, 04:16 PM »
Here's my issue...

I have an ill-behaved application that I am forced to use, and one of its annoying bugs is that whenever it loads data into its grid, it fires a refresh message at the Windows desktop for EVERY ROW.  So, if I wish to view 1000 records, the Windows desktop goes nuts with refreshing -- icons flicker, child windows redraw.  1000 times in a row.

Needless to say, performance is in the toilet during this time, and I am almost having siezures from my strobing desktop.

Would it be feasible to have a tiny tray applet that, when turned ON, intercepts and disposes of all refresh messages sent to the Windows desktop?  Obviously, if left activated severe cosmetic issues would result... but I anticipate using this hootchie briefly, like only during times when I know my app's grid is going to load records.  So I'd double-click the thingie to disable Windows desktop refresh, then double-click it again to re-enable it.

Any ideas?

Living Room / Top 10 Ways Not to Cook a Turkey
« on: November 27, 2008, 06:52 AM »
10. Flaming bucket of gasoline.

9. Under the hood of the car, on the way to grandma's house.

8. Plastic Wal-Mart bag method.

7. Wishful thinking.

6. The forward antennae array of an Aegis cruiser.

5. Give it to the Myth Busters.

4. Set oven to 1000 degrees for 30 minutes, at 5:00 PM on Thanksgiving day.

3. 500 chemical hand warmers jammed right in the gibblets.

2. Dishwasher on "pot scrubber" mode.

...and the #1 way not to cook a thanksgiving day turkey:

1. Let Ralf Maximus anywhere near the damned thing.

Living Room / Where the hell is Ralf Maximus?
« on: November 27, 2008, 06:34 AM »
Short answer: Here again.

After a long hiatus, I remembered how to spell and found this place once more.  FireFox even recalled my password for me, which is good, because I have *no* idea.

I haven't looked around, haven't read anything, haven't posted anything nor replied.  Yet.  But know this, my friends, I will.  Oh yes, I will.  Fear it.

For those of you who don't recognize the name, Hi.  My name is Ralf.  At one time I cluttered the hallowed bytes of DC with irreverence, Top 10 lists, and observations about my penis.  There was laughter, merriment, and more than one restraining order.  I've written some code, fawned over my gorgeous and talented spawn, and posted moderately interesting snippets of crap from the greater internet.

Those of you who DO recognize the name: I've missed you.  Lots of stuff has happened in my life, some bad, but mostly good.  I'm pretty much the same Ralf, but with fancy new battle scars and even more opinions to share about EVERYTHING, regardless of my level of knowledge on a particular subject.  If anyone really cares about the seedy underworld of Ralfland, feel free to drop me a line.  I have no secrets.  But I shan't post them here lest I scare the kids.

One thing I have been doing is writing.  Fiction, that is.  Mostly small doo-dads that amuse me, some science fiction, lots of horror.  I maintain a gallery of nonsense at DeviantArt where I hang out daily.  It's a fun crowd there, but not as tech-crazy as this place.  I miss the hardcore geek factor around here, the stench of burning midnight oil, the tangy flavor of new software reviews, the happy birth squeal of coding snacks being born.

If you'll have me back, I promise to behave.

But promises are made to be broken.  :)

PS... Special thanks to Cranioscopical for kicking me in the ass.  Thank you, friend.

PPS... Deepest regrets for dropping out on you, Nick.  No words are necessary, but please know I writhe in agony over the ball I dropped, and hope you are well.

PPPS... Anyone have a topic for a Top 10 list?

Living Room / Help! Send Physicists Quick!
« on: December 21, 2007, 11:57 AM »
As some of you have observed, I operate under the delusion that I can write short stories and whatnot.

Currently I am writing a little something, but have gotten bogged down in theoretical physics.  Help!

I need some simple(?) questions answered about sub-atomic particles, both real and theoretical.  If you yourself have physics in your background, or smash things together in a collider for work, please drop me an email:

[email protected]

I know a LOT of people read the DC forums but never post; this plea goes out to you as well.  If you don't want to break cover, that's fine -- all correspondence will be offline.

And while I'd love to see a thread here on physics, I'm keeping my own project quiet for now until it's complete enough to show around.  Rest assured, if anything comes of it I'll share with the DC community.


General Software Discussion / Product Key Explorer
« on: December 21, 2007, 11:06 AM »
Product Key Explorer scans your computer and locates activation keys, serial numbers, and registration information for software you've installed.



Once it populates its list (from a database of over 200 common applications) you can view, recover, or backup your keys.  Perfect for migrating to a new computer, or recovering from a crash.  It's not free ($24 USD) but there's a 15 day free trial if you're curious.

Other product-specific solutions exist, many of them free, but I've never seen a single comprehensive solution like this before.  If anyone tries Product Key Explorer out, please post your experience -- I'm very curious.

Living Room / TOP 10 DonationCoder Threads in the year 2017
« on: December 19, 2007, 11:37 PM »
10. "GemX: Missing in Action"

9. "Church of Cody Meeting: Date changed from MouserDay to CodyDay."

8. "BUG: FARR has hijacked my checking account again."

7. "Since Apple merged with Microsoft, which company is it okay to hate now?"

6. "NANY Challenge 2017: Code an Antiviral to Extraterrestrial DNA Infection"

5. "Process Tamer explodes when installed on my 4,096 core Pentium-7"

4. "Poll: Should Artificially Intelligent SpamBots be allowed to post?"

3. "IDEA: Need an app to keep my robot lawn mower out of the house."

2. "Has anyone else noticed Google is now indexing your thoughts?"

1. "Anyone know when Vista SP3 is coming out?"

Living Room / Jurassic Park: For Real
« on: December 19, 2007, 08:39 PM »
Well, sort of.  If you like robots.



Scheduled to open in 2008 for a cost of $1.1 billion, the Restless Planet theme park in Dubai will feature 500,000 square feet of recreated prehistoric landscape, inhabited by 109 robotic dinosaurs representing more than 40 species.

And it's not silly Rainforest Cafe stuff: these machines are designed by Kokoro Company of Japan, makers of museum-quality animatronics such as those found in the Natural History Museum of London.  One T-Rex is programmed to track people in the crowd wearing red -- as prey.


To insure accuracy -- because what could be more accurate than mixing together 40 different species representing 500 million years of evolution -- Palaeontologist Jack Horner has been consulting on the project, as well as the production team from the BBS's Walking with Dinosaurs series.

And if dinosaurs aren't your thing, it has a monorail too.

The only thing it's missing: an audioanimatronic Michael Chrichton being eaten by a T-Rex.

I need a small utility that, once activated, displays a frame I can drag around on the screen to visually compare its size to other objects on-screen.  The idea is that while I'm developing forms for an app, I want to stay within a customer's known max screen resolution, e.g. 800x600, 1024x738, etc.

I have various rulers and other tools, but they only work in one x/y axis at a time and are cumbersome.

My forms are all dynamically resizable (they can be resized to be bigger/smaller) but by default I try to shoot for a form that's no bigger than their available screen real-estate.

So, I imagine a tiny thing that sits in the tray and responds to a double-click.  Once activated it shows a 3-pixel wide black frame with a transparent center preset to 1024x768 pixels.  I can click on the black part of the frame and drag it around, placing it over my forms for testing.  The frame itself is fixed in size and cannot be changed.  Double-clicking the tray icon again dismisses the frame.

Nice to have: Right-clicking the tray icon displays a context menu allowing selection of preset frame sizes... 640x480, 800x600, 1024x768, and 1280x1024.

Playing of MP3 files is not a requirement.

Any takers?  There's a few DonationCredits in it for you if so.


Living Room / Top 10 Signs Recursion May Be a Problem In Your Life
« on: December 19, 2007, 02:40 AM »
10. You bump into yourself at the Time Traveller's convention.

9. Stack overflows when you try to brush your teeth.

8. Overwhelming feeling that you've felt Deja Vu before.

7. Freeway cloverleafs take you six hours to negotiate.

6. TOP 10 Signs Recursion May Be a Problem in Your Life

5. Past-life Hitler keeps picking on past-life Jesus.

4. Your klein bottle explodes.

3. All mirrors show your reflection times infinity.

2. You program in Lisp.

1. See Item #1

Living Room / The Beatles Cover Stairway to Heaven
« on: December 19, 2007, 02:10 AM »
It's true.  Really.  And possibly the coolest video I've ever seen.

Living Room / Hello World
« on: December 19, 2007, 12:12 AM »

What's the first program just about anybody writes in a new language?

Why, Hello World, of course.  And now, you can be Hello World fluent in 300 languages.  Including Shakespeare:

 Speak YOUR mind! You are as bad as Hamlet! You are as small as the
 difference between the square of the difference between my little pony
 and your big hairy hound and the cube of your sorry little
 codpiece. Speak your mind!

Just a snippet, mind you.  There's more to the "program" but you know how the Bard's code always needed optimization.   RedCode also looks a bit bloated, but what do I know?  I'm a VB guy:

Private Sub Form_Load()
Print "Hello World"
End Sub

Living Room / Tanaka Auto-Door
« on: December 18, 2007, 11:39 PM »
You want doors in your house that swoosh open as you approach, just like Star Trek.  Of course you do:


The Tanaka site is in japanese, but I found an older article from 2005 describing the thing in English:

The Tanaka Auto Door opens automatically when you stand in front of it. Even better, it only opens just enough to let the individual person come in.

The Auto Door consists of individual slats that slide open and closed from the side of the door. Each slat is half the width of the door; each slat has a sensor. If you stand in front of the door, the sensors determine how much of the door needs to open to allow you to enter.

Okay, so no swooshy sound effect, but I bet it makes a cool clattery sound as it operates.  The first thing I'd buy after having one of these installed would be a case of tennis balls, just to... you know...  anyway:

ou may be wondering what is so great about a door that opens only just enough to let a person come in or out; it minimizes the amount of heating or air conditioning let out of a building, as well as minimizing the entry of pollen or other pollutants from the outside.

Ding!  Justification.  I now *need* one of these to keep from wrecking the planet and dying from pollen overdose.  Where's the checkbook?

Video of the thing in action here.

Living Room / Robocat
« on: December 18, 2007, 09:59 AM »


Next up: Robotic cat field hockey.

Developer's Corner / Physics in a GUI
« on: December 13, 2007, 01:44 PM »
Found an interesting article at CodeProject: An experimental user interface with real physics.


let's get physical.jpg

The example is simple but compelling.  By stringing objects/icons on a clothesline thingy the user gets interesting feedback, potentially about the "weight" of the object (how large the resource) or maybe different objects have different physical attributes.  Since it's just a concept, your guess is as good as mine.

I doubt we'll have virtual clotheslines strung across our desktop anytime soon, but I'm always intrigued by new GUI paradigms. If nothing else, lift some code for particle physics to use in your own projects.

C# (.NET 3 Framework) source included.

Living Room / PipeBytes: Simple Internet File Transfers
« on: December 13, 2007, 10:08 AM »
Sometimes you just want to send somebody a file, period.  If you're lucky enough to have an FTP server handy, or your ISP permits emailing big files it's not too hard.  But occasionally you might find yourself using an alien computer on the wrong side of the firewall.  What then?

Enter PipeBytes.


It's an internet service accessed by going to the PipeBytes web page.  Nothing to install, and (they say) it works in most browsers on most operating systems.  It's absurdly simple and requires no registration to use -- and free to you, since it's ad supported.

To send a file, click the "Send" button and browse for it.  Attach an optional message describing what you're sending.  Hit the "Upload" button and instead of spooling your file immediately, you get a nice hypertext link and a pickup key.  Send your recipient the link + key, they login to PipeBytes and enter the key.  THAT's when your file streams to their computer.

At no time is your file stored on anyone's server, so it offers a bit more privacy than other solutions.  However, the model only supports one-time A-to-B transfers, which means it's not a broadcast mechanism or file sharing platform.  And that may be exactly what you need sometimes.

Living Room / Amusing Server Error Messages
« on: December 12, 2007, 11:58 AM »
YouTube just errored on me, and here's the message:



General Software Discussion / Lego Digital Designer (New Version)
« on: December 11, 2007, 08:59 AM »
If you love Legos, but hate stepping on them in the middle of the night, you need Lego Digital Designer.


Think of it as a CAD system for Lego freaks.  It comes complete with a catalog of every brick they make, in all possible colors.  Build the model of your dreams, and it'll even print out a parts list so you can build it in real life.  Or, use their online ordering wizard and have everything you need shipped straight to you.

The whole thing is free, unless you decide to jump online and buy enough bricks to recreate key scenes from The Matrix trilogy.

The new version adds Mindstorm support and a cleaner interface, but I can't vouch for that personally.  My little girl has been using the program since it first came out and actually prefers the virtual legos to her real bricks. 

Which is great, since turning off the computer is soooo much easier than picking up the floor.

(Image ganked from Softpedia.)

UPDATE: Forgot the durn link.  D'oh!

Living Room / Overheard on the Internets
« on: December 10, 2007, 09:22 AM »
Occasionally I'll find a blog comment that just brings all other thought processes to a pause.  It doesn't have to be terribly profound -- I'm not talking about thoughtful quotations from great philosophers -- but rather, the normal snippets of conversation you might hear in an elevator, a slice of somebody else's life that you parse and parse but just can't absorb completely.

Here's my most recent discovery (name redacted).

I tried flying 737's as part of a "virtual airline" back when I played a lot of flight sim. They gave me the trans-Atlantic route. You had to do the whole thing in real time, so I would take off, hit cruising altitude, lock the auto-pilot, then go to bed. I woke up late one morning, and my bird had gone down in a field outside Brussels, after running out of fuel. I quit shortly thereafter, when I realised I am a complete loser, and virtual airlines are teh lame.

Anyone else?

Living Room / World's Fastest Vista Notebook: The Apple MacBook Pro
« on: December 08, 2007, 03:19 PM »
Holy irony, Batman.  The fastest Vista notebook ever tested by PC World is made by Apple.



And priced below $2,500 USD it's reasonable for what you get:

- 17 inch widescreen
- 2.4-GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T7700 CPU
- nVidia GeForce 8600M GT graphics
- 160GB drive
- 802.11n and Bluetooth
- Honking Big Apple logo

Note that it outperformed every other notebook tested, even machines specifically designed with Vista in mind.   And clocking 141 FPS on Crysis it's a damn sight faster than my desktop.  Getting past the fact it's only got one mouse button and moderate/sucky battery life, I can still see myself with one of these.

But (surprise, surprise) it doesn't come with Vista.  You'll have to supply your own copy of that. 

Living Room / TOP 10 Theories Why Neanderthals Disappeared
« on: December 08, 2007, 02:16 PM »
One of the great mysteries of science: why did Neanderthals, a supremely successful progenitor of man, suddenly disappear about 45,000 years ago?  It was sudden in geological terms, and quite unprecedented.  There are many theories, but none have been singled out for dominance.  Until Now.

10. Space aliens came and swapped them out for an improved version.

9. Slunk away after losing monumental rock/paper/scissors contest with early Homo Sapiens.

8. All eaten by tricerotopses (Intelligent Design winner).

7. Succumbed to Atkins Diet, forgetting they are primarily herbivores.

6. Sudden infatuation with the gay/lesbian lifestyle.

5. Climbed back into their Space Arks and went home ("There Goes the Neighborhood" theory).

4. Discovered 48 Proof beer and partied like it was 44,999 BC.

3. Disasterous hunger strike waiting for Duke Nukem Forever.

2. There never were any Neanderthals!  Merely a prank that's gotten out of hand over the years.

1. Darwin went back in a time machine and accidently stepped on a butterfly.

Living Room / 48 Proof Beer: On Sale Soon!
« on: December 08, 2007, 01:24 PM »
My heroes at Samuel Adams have brewed a 48 proof (24% alcohol) beer.  Finally.



This directly addresses my complaints about regular beer, that you can drink a six-pack or two and still operate a car.  With a six-pack of this stuff in your system you'll be lucky to make it to the ambulance. 

My god!  24% alcohol!  I've had weaker straight shots in some bars.  Medical practitioners will use this to sterilize things because not only does it kill germs, its foaming action cleans and brightens.

All hail our new beer overlords! 

The subject says it all: CommandBurner is a freeware CD/DVD burner that has a nice GUI but also accepts command lines, making it suitable for .bat file use.



I've used it for years, as part of my nightly backup strategy.  I always keep a RW DVD in my drive, and via a .bat file I wrote, CommandBurner wakes up in the middle of the night and overwrites it with a backup archive of my most critical sourcecode and documents.  Once a week I toss the DVD into a fireproof safe, in case the worst happens. 

Call it Murphy's Law insurance: because I do this, I'll never need the disc.

Small, light, rock-solid, useful, and free... doesn't get much better than this.

Living Room / Tin Foil Hat Alert: Weather War!
« on: December 07, 2007, 04:44 PM »
Got some aluminum foil?  Fashion yourself a beanie and follow me into the murky depths of the US Military's Climatic Warfare program.



Apparently the United States has sought control of the weather since the late 1940's, enlisting the aid of such historical figures as mathemetician John von Neumann.  More recently, the HAARP array in Alaska has been scrutinized as a potential physical manifestation of such research, citing HAARP's incredible 3.9 megawatts of transmitting power -- all into the earth's ionosphere.  What possible use is all this juice squirted skywards?

Research, according to the official HAARP website.  Other, more conspiracy minded folk, speculate that its true purpose is to stimulate and/or disrupt weather systems.  Imagine being able to generate a hurricane at will, or clear the skies over an enemy target.

The truth is, as they say, out there.  And probably somewhere between here and the clouds.

(Image ganked from System 16, serving all your oldschool Atari needs.)

Headline says it all.  From

Or, looked at another way, a petabyte for under $265K.

Living Room / What the font?
« on: December 07, 2007, 03:17 PM »
Found an interesting online service today, called WhatTheFont?

Designed to help you identify a font whose name you don't know, it accepts a bitmap image of your mystery font for analysis, then suggests the closest possible match plus similar ones.

Armed with the name of your font, you can go google for something free, or click the link they provide to buy a commercial version.  Neat!

I tried it out on a few known fonts I had laying around and it's uncanny.  Just the kind of thing you don't know you need until you really need it.

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