Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Best Prepaid Options in the US

Initially I was thinking to give an extensive review of the options that I have tried and came across; but now, due to the lack of time, I will just get to the point. Out of all that I have searched for, and believe me I did a lot of it, you couldn't beat NET 10 ( 10 cents a minute and 5 on the SMS. Recharging cards with 200,300 and more minutes but better than anything, just buy a new package and that gets you in with 600 minutes on two cards and 4 months or total airtime. Cheap and nice. Give it a shot.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Gouguenheim Valle Escondido Malbec 2006

It was time to try another Argentinian wine after my previous great experience (with a Malbec, again). Gouguenheim has a dark red color, and a rich and strong taste. Aromas include scents of plums, black cherry, black currants, chocolates and violets. Round and supple with a long finish, just how I like it. Overall, a good wine for $ 12. Would buy again.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

A day at King's Dominion (VA)

The very next day I arrived back in the US, we headed south towards Virginia to enjoy a day at Kings Dominion, close to Richmond, VA. This amusement park was the closest option available to Southern Maryland, about two and a half hours drive. Right from the bat, I must mention that this was my first time in such a big park and also the first roller-coaster ride I even had. Thus, at least you can understand my obvious anxiety. The park is huge and has a lot to offer: We started with a big one (Volcano, The Blast Coaster) that basically shoots you inside and around a volcano-shaped mountain.With over 2,700 feet of track, it is also Kings Dominion’s longest coaster, and for many thrill-seekers, its most exciting, with three zero-gravity, heart-pounding, barrel-roll inversions. My main issue while on it was to catch and keep my sunglasses on my nose since all the spinning and upside down spirals almost made me loose them on the ride. All shaken up from this, I went to the next one (Flight of Fear) and inside roller coaster gives you even more palpitations. They say that is 2 and a half minutes of sheer, pulse-pounding fear but it felt like 30-40 seconds to me. But those were really intense and many left the train shaken up or still screaming. The initial acceleration (from 0 to 60 miles an hour is a couple of seconds) is really impressive, while the labyrinth of terrifying twist and turns in semi-darkness makes your senses wonder where are you going exactly in (still) a relatively small hanger. Then, we moved to have lunch and try some of the water attractions, which were very nice as well.
The problem was always the same: the ride was about 1-2 minutes while the line was 45+ min. We ended the day with a ride on the Anaconda an outside roller coaster with a nice 150 foot drop under water (it seems) and then a lot of serpent like loops. Then, around 8-9 PM we decided to make some photos with some of the attractions. All and all, an exhausting day, pigmented with exquisite thrills that leaves you smiling but numb.:)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Dealing with Mac OS X Kernel Failures

√ Mac OSX Leopard quit booting on me unexpectedly and it was really bad. The only thing I got from it was a cold screen asking me to reboot. No safe mode, no single user, nothing worked and I had no options beside the Mac DVDs, which obviously I do not carry around for a two week trip to Europe. Moreover, apple resellers are scarce in Romania. I was lucky enough to get to one in Cluj Napoca and to convince them at least to borrow me a DVD to repair my system. But after a couple of hours, the diskutility did not find anything wrong with my drive. Still couldn’t boot ( a message to reboot over and over again). I had bootcamp and WinXP which worked well throughout. however, the macdrive 7 (program under Win) couldn't see the Mac partition as well. after about 5-6 verifications or the drive (all passed with flying colors), suddenly macdrive saw my OSx partition and files..and now even MacOSx booted successfully. Nothing really makes much sense (why the failure? come it recovers once every dozens of boot sequences?) just glad and hopeful that it will work from now on. I bought this macbook in september and I never had any issues or blue screens neither in MacOSx or WinXP. Untill now..

Update: actually it stopped booting right away. The funny thing is that DiskUtility did not find any permissions to repair or something wrong with the drive. It is just unmountable according to the Mac OSX recovery disk. Then, played around with Linux commands (fsck, disk repair stuff etc.). Nothing. There aren’t any other options from the Mac DVD…ridiculous. And I couldn’t do anything with the MBR (did not find anything on that on the web). Then I tried installing a partition manager supposedly a good one (Paragon) to attempt to revive the HSF+ one, but things got worse: now my Bootcamp-ed Win XP is also not booting. I guess they didn’t get along cause afterwards the MacOSx recovery disk didn’t see the Win partition as mountable anymore. And, just I tried before with the Mac HDD, you cannot mount anything, even after you check all the drives for permissions and errors. Which makes me wonder why the hell they even have such stupid utilities.
Desperation: Tried every single recovery software on the web (not that many anyways). I would recommend Hiren Boot CD. It has a mini XP on it which at least allows you to read the FAT (courtesy of a stupid Bootcamp rule) partition of Win. At this point the plan was to extract all the info from the Win disk and if it comes to the worst, just wipe it and install a clean Win. Then with MacDrive and/or a HFS+ reader I could have reached my (bulk) data on the Mac drive. But still, I wasn’t ready to give in.
However, despite the hours put in, I didn’t find anything that was able to fix even the boot for Win. Tried the installation cd with the recovery console, also other recovery packs/cds. None did the job for me.
Finally, and this is where it might get interesting for the reader, I came across a nice, small, elegant freeware that worked like a charm for Win. Its name is rEFIt and it is a boot menu and maintenance toolkit for EFI-based machines like the Intel Macs. You can use it to boot multiple operating systems easily, including triple-boot setups with Boot Camp according to their advertising. It also provides an easy way to enter and explore the EFI pre-boot environment. MacOSX also booted nicely afterwards, but also crashed. Perhaps the stupid 200 MB updates for the system, Quicktime and Iphotos or whatever applications did that but again, what is one suppose to do? First time after rEFIt, it worked fine so I thought let’s install also the mac updates that I’ve been postponing for a while now. Then, it crashed again.
Now, I am OK with the Win boot. Ran the diskutilities again and it found some messed-up permissions on the Macdrive…after the system updates (QuickTime and Iphoto) but still access to its using MacDrive7 is not consistent. But if you just need to read the partition HFSExplorer is perfect.
I will probably survive in this way until I get back to US and ghost my mac harddrive or backup everything in some other manner and then reinstall a fresh copy of Leopard.
A crazy week sacrificed solely on dealing with Mac crashes. Still, I have no clue as for what caused the initial crash, especially since I haven’t updated anything lately or played with the Bootcamp settings.

Fri Jun 26 07:16:05 2009
panic(cpu 0 caller 0x002D9B96): "nfs_boot_init failed with 6\n"@/SourceCache/xnu/xnu-1228.9.59/bsd/nfs/nfs_vfsops.c:851
Backtrace (CPU 0), Frame : Return Address (4 potential args on stack)
0x4eedb8c8 : 0x12b4f3 (0x45b13c 0x4eedb8fc 0x1335e4 0x0)
0x4eedb918 : 0x2d9b96 (0x4850a8 0x6 0x6a372dc 0x0)
0x4eedbd68 : 0x1ddae8 (0x690fb84 0x6a43f40 0x5266cc 0x1)
0x4eedbea8 : 0x4d5d44 (0x5557f0 0x10 0x5557e8 0x4eedbf8c)
0x4eedbfa8 : 0x13815c (0x0 0xf4ab401f 0x1380de 0xd2ad007f)
0x4eedbfc8 : 0x1a017c (0x0 0xffffffff 0x1a302a 0x0)
Backtrace terminated-invalid frame pointer 0

BSD process name corresponding to current thread: kernel_task

Mac OS version:
Not yet set

Kernel version:
Darwin Kernel Version 9.6.0: Mon Nov 24 17:37:00 PST 2008; root:xnu-1228.9.59~1/RELEASE_I386
System model name: MacBook4,1 (Mac-F22788A

Thursday, July 02, 2009

One Cool Website

Nice break from the usual web-surfing day: HERE