Saturday, May 18, 2013

HARDWARE - ASUS Xonar DS 7.1 Audio PCI Card

My WinXP desktop system's audio card was a bit 'long in the tooth.'  So I thought I'd search for a new one via Google.

I found something I did not expect, the ASUS Xonar DS 7.1 Audio PCI Card. (I bought via Amazon)

Why?  See below:

(click for larger view)

The Smart Volume Normalization (SVN) is something I've been waiting for ever since I discovered a way to have my iTunes/iPod do the same thing.  That is, play my iPod music without having to adjust between loud and low songs (set volume and forget).

For iTunes/iPod all I had to do is make sure to enable Sound-Check on both, and run a utility called iVolume.  iVolume fine-tunes the Sound-Check value by scanning each song and setting it to the master volume level you set in iVolume.  Which is what SVN does in the Xonar.

Here's the card:

(click for larger view)

Here's the Audio Center:

(click for larger view)

Note that I have SVN enabled (turquoise highlighted button) and the level bar-indicator is titled [Smart Volume].

The [ ^ ] opens the full menu list.

SVN works!  I set the master volume knob and everything plays at that volume.  No more having to adjust for differences between inputs (games, music, WEB, etc).

Xonar DS also includes Flex Bass which can be enabled for those who do not have a powered subwoffer speaker system.

CAUTION:  If you have a game that does NOT automatically detect a new audio card and run a configuration utility, you may have to start a new-game.  This is the case with Skyrim.

WARNING:  Using the GX (Gamers) DSP Mode can cause some games to crash.
Examples:  Oblivion, Skyrim, Inquisitor RPG

Thursday, May 16, 2013

LINUX - Image for Linux

There is a very good drive imaging backup utility available Image for Linux from TeraByte Inc.

Startup dialog

As I have said in a previous post on backing up your hard drive, an image backup is the best.  Much better than any file backup.

Image for Linux backs up all USED sectors on your Linux hard drive, therefore [Restore] gets you your full (boot) hard drive back.  It can backup to CDs or another device, such as an USB Stick.  Well worth the price.

WARNING:  Make sure you have your USB Sick plugged-in BEFORE turning on your system to boot to the CD.  I use a 32gb USB Stick to backup my Ubuntu 13.04 laptop hard drive.

You get an eMail with your license keys, or you can copy/paste from your online recept.

Your download will be via an eMail with a special 24hr expiring link.  The downloaded ZIP file contains several other ZIP files.  You select the one you have the license for and.... see below... the = Image for Linux (IFL) GUI version.

(click for larger view)

Extract and you get all the other files seen above.

Run makedisk to write a bootable CD, and you will be prompted for your license key.  Just in case, you will need a CD/DVD drive that can write.

As noted in pic, you do not need to keep the files you unzipped.  AFTER you confirm you can boot to the CD and IFL works, you can delete these files.  You just keep the original downloaded ZIP file.

I highly recommend you get the PDF manual and save/print, and read.

I've used this IFL for a year now to backup, worked without a hitch.  But, thankfully, I have not used the Restore function yet.

Your IFL boot disk runs in Linux environment GUI with mouse.  You just go through each dialog.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

LINUX- Ubuntu 13.04

Well, Ubuntu 13.04 is released.

My Ubuntu 13, GNOME Desktop (click for larger view)

Note the [Steam] desktop icon (launcher).  That's right, Ubuntu 13 has the Steam Client available from the Software Center.

The upgrade from Ubuntu 12.10 to 13.04, using the Software Updater when notified, was flawless.  Everything came back as before upgrade.  Only had to change a few settings because of new apps.

As to Steam:

The Steam Client runs very well.  The Store has a [Linux] tab that list Linux Games.  And there's the rub.  Not all games listed in the [Linux] tab run properly, which is NOT Steam's fault.  It is the game publisher's fault.

Here is a list of Linux games I've tried:
  • Amnesia = Does not run at all.
  • Anna = Runs, BUT the mouse speed is so high/fast that the game is unplayable.  And the Main Menu Option to set mouse speed cannot be selected.
  • Postal (1) = Seems to run OK..... so far.
  • Postal 2 = Runs the Running With Scissors [WARNING] dialog, that automatically closes, then nothing.
  • Dungeon Defenders = Supposed to be new, but when started it goes through several Logo Dialogs [Press any key to continue], after those I got a blank-black dialog and that's it.  Even lost the mouse.  Had to use [Alt][F4] to force-close.
  • Half-Life (1) - Runs very good, except for sound, an old reverb problem (need to find a way to disable)
The only reason I tried these?  They were cheap.

So when it comes to Steam's Linux game, beware.

Monday, May 13, 2013

CYBERCRIME - Robbers Hit ATMs for $45 Million Worldwide

"Cyber ATM Robbers Grab $45 Million Worldwide Within Hours" (Part-1) PBS Newshour 5/10/2013

JEFFREY BROWN (Newshour):  And we turn to a major cyber-theft, global in scope and raising new questions about our vulnerabilities in the digital age.

The thefts took place in broad daylight at ATM machines, and the thieves wore no disguises.

U.S. ATTORNEY LORETTA LYNCH, Eastern District Of New York:  This was a 21st century bank heist that reached through the Internet to span the globe.

JEFFREY BROWN:  U.S. authorities say the reach of the international cyber-crime was wide; 27 countries -- Russia, Japan, Egypt, Colombia, Canada and beyond.

The criminals hacked into companies that process prepaid debit cards for two banks in the Middle East, stole the data and then copied it onto doctored cards with magnetic strips.  Yesterday in New York, U.S. Attorney Loretta Lynch explained what happened next.

LORETTA LYNCH:  They become a virtual criminal flash mob, going from machine to machine, drawing as much money as they can before these accounts are shut down.

JEFFREY BROWN:  On Dec. 21st, thieves hit 4,500 ATMs in some 20 countries, stealing five million dollars.  Then on Feb. 19th, they upped their game.  In 10 hours, they stole $40 million dollars in 36,000 transactions worldwide.

In Manhattan alone, a team of eight so-called "cashers" allegedly made their way from ATM to ATM making 2,900 withdrawals totaling $2.4 million dollars.

Two of the suspects took photos of themselves and the stacks of cash they allegedly stole.  To round out the crime, authorities say the suspects laundered the money by purchasing luxury goods in the form of Rolex watches, Gucci bags and expensive cars.

"International ATM Cyber Hackers Hid 'in Plain Sight' to Overcome Computer System" (Part-2) PBS Newshour 5/10/2013


SUMMARY:  The global network of thieves who targeted ATMs struck 2,904 machines over 10 hours in New York alone, withdrawing $2.4 million.  For more on the attack and the aftermath, Jeffrey Brown talks with Loretta Lynch, the U.S. attorney for the eastern district of New York and the federal prosecutor in the heist case.