Archive for: April 2008

April 30, 2008

Online Fax

Filed under: Personal,Technology — Les Bain @ 8:21 pm

We moved from a fax machine to online fax.  It was more difficult than I had imagined it was going to be.

I used to do online fax years ago, but I forgot that was the time we accessed online using a modem.  Fax was built in.

It is not possible to just move to email with attachments.  Most government, health insurance, and businesses want actual faxes.  That is the way they are used to doing business.  It required an online to fax machine process.

I picked out a fax service that is available both online and with a client frontend.

  • Faxit Nice is the Web Service
  • Faxtastic is the client piece

The difficult part was to get the scan process working effectively. We have an HP All-in-One machine and it is only a few years old, but the drivers had to be downloaded and upgraded.  Some of the software would not work with IE 7 of all things.

At the end of the process I scanned in 14 pages, tweaked them so they looked sharp, and prepared them to be sent off using a nice client package.

That means we get rid of the land line.

Progress.

April 29, 2008

Jeremiah Wright

Filed under: Personal — Les Bain @ 2:07 pm

I am watching the situation with Jeremiah Wright and the presidential campaign with interest as are many Americans. I thought Jeremiah Wright’s performance in front of the Press Club was incredible theater.

In all the talk about Jeremiah Wright and Barack Obama there is one thing that amuses me, and that is the assumption that Senator Obama had to have known about the fiery sermons in question even though he was not there, because people would have discussed them.

What? People would have discussed a sermon or even remembered it 5 minutes after it was over. How unusual.

My father was a minister, he was fond of asking people during the week if they could remember any of the points of last Sunday’s sermon. People could not. Even if it was incendiary.

I listened to my father’s sermons for many years, and the only part I remember clearly is when he was telling sons to respect their fathers and turned around to the choir where I was sitting and pointed directly at me.  That got my attention.  But I did not discuss it with anyone even though I worked with people who were there that day.  No one that I knew discussed sermons.

Eliminating Email

Filed under: Personal,Technology — Les Bain @ 1:40 pm

I am working on reducing my email. I am unsubscribing from any email that I can. I am doing all I can to enhance my spam filter.

It is interesting to see the varied processes to unsubscribe from an email subscription.

  • Some of them are an easy one-click process that takes you to a screen that says you are now unsubscribed. Terrific.
  • Some take you to a screen that asks if you are sure, and asks why. Usually that is a check box and a submit. That is ok.
  • Some want you to log on using your member name and password and update your subscriptions. At this point, I have usually forgotten my password, so that is another step. Then I log on, change the password, update my profile to cancel subscriptions and leave. Then I get another email that thanks me for visiting. Hmmmmm.

When I am asked the reason, I say I am moving to RSS which puts me in control.

April 27, 2008

External Drive Failed

Filed under: Personal,Technology — Les Bain @ 3:00 pm

My external hard drive has failed several times now. It does not give any errors, it is just no longer available.

It started when I moved it to the new desktop. It happened several times right away. I had it tucked between two other items, so I moved it because I thought it might be getting hot. It went several days without a failure.

Yesterday when it failed, I lost my Outlook pst file completely. It was just gone. I had a backup, but I lost the email of the day.

Today I am trying on a different USB port. It is an external drive holder, so the next thing is to take out the hard drive and install it into the computer. I did not want to do that because now I can move it to the laptop with little effort.

I will wait and see.

April 25, 2008

Computer Games

Filed under: Personal — Les Bain @ 9:36 am

I do not care for computer games that required a high degree of eye-hand coordination. That is just not me.

But I do like the strategy games. I like most of the card games. I like FreeCell and Spider Solitaire.

My favorite is Reversi or Othello. It has strategy. It goes quickly. There is little eye-hand coordination.

My favorite strategy game on the Nintendo was Lolo. After I wrote that I looked it up and found an online version of the game. I tried it of course. It is still challenging and interesting, but it certainly takes longer to play than I remembered. And it requires a bit more eye-hand coordination than I remembered. But it is just as addictive.

That will be a reward when certain tasks get finished.

April 24, 2008

One thing at a time

Filed under: Personal — Les Bain @ 8:49 pm

I heard a story about Lance Armstrong, the famous cyclist.  I have no way of knowing whether it is true.  Lance was asked how he was able to bike up the alps.  Lance responded that to think about biking up the alps was too much, that what he did was look ahead and see a tree or bush and focus on biking to that tree or bush.  Then he found another target and biked to that target.

That is what we should all do when things get difficult.  Find a milestone, and get to that milestone.  Then pick another milestone and get to that milestone.  Do not worry about biking up the alps, it is just too much sometimes.  Just get to the next milestone.

It is a lesson that I need to learn and re-learn.  I am focusing on that lesson again, trying to focus on one set of objectives and not getting distracted by all the things on the horizon.  So far so good.

April 23, 2008

No more ezines or email newsletters

Filed under: Internet,Personal — Les Bain @ 10:00 am

I am unsubscribing from all my ezines and email newsletters. I am only going to subscribe to RSS feeds from now on. If they ask for a reason, the comment is “RSS or nothing”.

There might be a newsletter that I enjoy so much that I will not unsubscribe, but so far I have unsubscribed as each one has arrived. Sometimes I have immediately subscribed to the same material using RSS.

People think differently about clicking on the unsubscribe link in a newsletter.

  • One school of thought assumes that if there is a unsubscribe link, then the sender is following the rules and the email is probably not spam.
  • Another school of thought says that it is just another way to encourage one to click on a link that either downloads malware or validates the email.

I am examining the ezine, going to the site, signing in, and unsubscribing to avoid any danger. It will take weeks to get through them all because many are monthly, but each time I unsubscribe I feel better.

Then I suppose I will have to go through my RSS feeds and trim them.

April 22, 2008

My son got mugged

Filed under: Personal — Les Bain @ 12:50 pm

My son got mugged yesterday. He was knocked to the ground by four males who demanded money. He was on the ground with one attacker drawing back his fist over this face.

A plain clothes officer happened to be driving by. The officer stopped his car in the center lane, jumped out of his car, left the door open blocking traffic, and drove off the attackers. The officer arrived in time to prevent any robbery or battery from taking place.

Of course the attackers threw my son down on his right shoulder where he had broken his collar bone several weeks ago. He was on his way to the Doctors to have his collarbone X-rayed and checked. The X-rays showed no new damage.

As is often the case, it was good news and bad news. The good news

  • The police officer foiled the robbery before any serious damage was done
  • It happened on the way to the Doctor so the collar bone could be checked right away.

And for me, the good news was that we were going to meet that day anyway so I was there to offer whatever moral support I could.

I got a Treo

Filed under: Personal,Technology — Les Bain @ 12:36 pm

I got a Treo™ 700p smartphone. It is used. It was a gift. Thank You.

I have always used Palm products and I like the Palm OS. This is probably the last gasp of that OS, but that is ok with me.

It is part of the process of sharpening the ax this month.

  • Upgraded Desktop
  • Recently formatted Laptop
  • New Treo that replaces both my cell phone and my palm pilot.

Now I just need to get busy chopping wood.

April 20, 2008

Chinua Achebe

Filed under: Personal — Les Bain @ 4:38 pm

I am watching Book TV today as I work.  Chinua Achebe is the featured author now.  He wrote a novel called  “Things Fall Apart”  about British colonialism in Nigeria.  According to Wikipedia it is “the most widely-read book in modern African literature”.

Mr. Achebe was announced as the novelist who had a great influence on all the literature of Africa.  He influenced a whole continent.  I had not heard of him.

Mr. Achebe tells a moving story about being raised in a rich oral tradition, but reading a book about Africa where the longest sentence uttered by an African was 8 words long.  He decided to write novels about Africa in part to counteract that.

Computer Setup: Complete

Filed under: Personal,Technology — Les Bain @ 4:30 pm

The new desktop and the revitalized laptop are all set up. It is wonderful to have it done. I feel like I have “sharpened my ax” to quote Steven Covey. I already feel more productive.

Part of the process is getting rid of many of the programs that clogged up the old computer. I try out different programs, and I do not do a good job of getting rid of them after I evaluate them. I resolve to do that better.

I also did not load many of the little utilities that did one small thing. I am going to wait and see how much I miss them. If I miss them, then I will load them.

April 19, 2008

How do you keep a Desktop and Laptop in sync?

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 3:11 pm

This is an ongoing issue, and there are lots of options.

  1. Do everything online, using SalesForce.com, Google gmail and docs, and online blogs. Then it does not make any difference what computer is being used.
  2. Use various sync software to align data on both machines. This is a cottage industry of products and services.
  3. Use storage devices like flash drives to store data and just plug the device into the computer that is being used.
  4. Put all the data on the laptop (with the assumption that the laptop is always with you) and then network the two and use the desktop against the laptop data.

I use another technique. I get everything set on the desktop, and use remote control software to access the desktop over the internet.

The laptop becomes an internet machine, and the desktop is just another internet server to access. When I take the laptop to the patio to work, I access the desktop over the Internet using my wireless router along with any other site I want to access.

Information Technology

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 3:00 pm

I spent many years in Information Technology. One part of that career was running large data centers with big mainframe computers. I am fond of saying than anyone with a desktop computer has the same issues we had running large data centers. It is just a matter of scale.

I have upgraded my data center this month, which for me means one desktop and one laptop. But all the issues of UPS (uninterrupted power supply), backups, security, naming conventions, and procedures are the same as a major data center.

  • UPS means a trip to radio shack, and not a kerosene powered generator.
  • Off site storage is backup to an Internet server, not carrying tapes to an off site vault.
  • Security is firewall, password management, and anti malware products, not site security (although I do lock the door to our home)
  • Regularly procedures mean recurring tasks in Outlook, and not individual responsibilities and task signoff.

But the issues are the same.  And as I set up my desktop and laptop I think about those big data centers.

April 18, 2008

Priority Task List

Filed under: Personal — Les Bain @ 11:08 am

One of the techniques I like to us is to make sure I understand the top 3 or 4 priority items for the day.

  • Write them down the night before,
  • and work to that priority.

Today I had a day long meeting with a client that was canceled, so I do not have a list.  It was like waking up to a holiday.  I had to take a deep breath, look at the outstanding work, and then create my list.  But the initial feeling was wonderful.

April 17, 2008

Blogging every day

Filed under: Personal,Technology — Les Bain @ 7:30 pm

I am not being rigid about it, but I am trying to blog every day. It gives me a chance to reflect on the day, the accomplishments, the objectives, and the problems.

Then I blog about something that happened during the day. It is therapeutic.

I find myself blogging about the thorniest tech issue I had during the day. I suppose because that is where the intense energy goes.

Setting up a new computer gives plenty of thorny tech issues. As much as I work to keep all downloads saved in an organized way, there always seems to be utilities that I cannot find.

Today it was installing on the Financial systems including Quickbooks. That worked very well.

Tomorrow will have its own challenges I am sure.

To Do Lists

Filed under: Management,Personal — Les Bain @ 7:23 pm

I have been working on my to do lists.  I am exploring some new directions, and the plans have generated a number of tasks.  I also want to clear up some outstanding personal business.

Sometimes at the end of the day, I am like everyone else and wonder where the day went.  When I am working on the task list, I can go and see what tasks were completed for the day.

It also gives me the opportunity to go to the task list, select the priority task, and focus on that task.  It is always a helpful productivity technique.

April 16, 2008

Protecting Content

Filed under: Blogging,Internet,Technology — Les Bain @ 7:02 pm

I worked recently with a group that was having their “content” stolen.  The email from the group was being captured and put on a Splog (Spam Blog).  They spent a good deal of time tracking down the perpetrator.  I helped them discover how it was being done.

I talked about that in an earlier post, and it is not the topic here.

It made me wonder about content and stealing content.  This is a group that is moderated, but I am sure it is accepting new members.  The posts are not public, but anyone can see them for a free sign up.  The group asks and answers technical questions.

The posts of the Splog were captured right from the emails, so it contained references to where the posts originated.

But they were very protective of the posts in their group.  I wonder why that is sometimes.  It is a fine line on the Internet between wanting to be well known and being upset when you are well known enough to attract that sort of attention.

April 15, 2008

Mozy Original Backups are Complete

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 7:52 am

The original Mozy backups are complete!

To review:

  1. I had Carbonite first and went through the long original backup. But Carbonite did not permit External Drives, so I had to consider other options.
  2. I switched to Mozy and started to backup my laptop and external drive. Most of the data was on the external drive.
  3. I started the backups on my laptop before I got my new desktop. When I set up the desktop, I checked with Mozy and had to start over, but Mozy recognized the existing backups so all was not lost.
  4. The desktop is much faster, so I gave Mozy more cycles and it finished quickly.

So now the original backups are complete, the incremental schedule is set, and all is well.

I will test the restore later this week.

April 13, 2008

A bit of humor

Filed under: Blogging,Personal — Les Bain @ 2:10 pm

It has been a bit of a rough time, so I took a humor break today.
One of my favorites is Blaugh, the unofficial comic of the Blogosphere.


Where is the Secret of Life?

April 11, 2008

A New Computer

Filed under: Personal,Technology — Les Bain @ 3:57 pm

I have a new computer.  It is not actually a new retail computer, but I installed a new mother board and power supply from someone who upgraded.  It is much faster and newer than what I was using.

It is always so nice to have a faster computer.  It feels so productive.

But like many people, I am a program collector.  I am going to try and work with fewer programs so I can keep this computer cleaner, but swearing off all the little utilities that make my life easier or more fun will be difficult.

I am also going to consider using more server products and fewer client products.

But for now, I am just enjoying the speed of this new computer.

April 10, 2008

RSS Awareness Day

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 11:14 pm

RSS Awareness Day.

Researching a spam blog

Filed under: Internet,Technology — Les Bain @ 10:56 pm

A colleague reported that content was being stolen from a Yahoo Group and placed on a Blogger blog. I did some research.

Blogger has a function that allows posting to the blog by sending email to a certain email address. The email address has the @blogger.com domain.

The person had subscribed to the Yahoo Group using the Blogger email. Any time an email went out to the Yahoo group, it ended up on the blog. The blog of course had lots of Adsense and other ads.

It took a while to sort it out, but once we figured out how it happened, the Yahoo Group moderator looked through the member list until they found a email with @blogger.com. To make sure they had the culprit, they sent an email and it popped up on the blog.

At this point, it is always a question of what to do. Of course, the person was dropped from the Yahoo Group. If it was me, I would crank up a script and send a whole bunch of messages to the blog. The messages would not be complementary. I would try and make them clever. But of course, if it is too clever, it might go viral and the guy would make money for a large number of ad impressions.

But I am done. I did the research. The Yahoo Group moderator will decide.

April 9, 2008

Directory of RSS Resources

Filed under: Personal,Technology — Les Bain @ 1:29 pm

I am considering creating a Directory of RSS Resources to support the RSS Tutorial. I have looked at various products and decided to test out phpLD – the PHP Link Directory.  It looks like a reasonable product to me.  I like PHP / MySQL products and it fits that bill.  There is a free version to start with.  There is a paid version if it checks out.

I am going to try and seed the directory by doing some extracts and loads.  Extract from DMOZ and other sources and load into the Directory of RSS Resources.   The issue is what to use for title and description.  I would like to extract title and description from the HTML so that there is no copyright issue.

Then to maintain the Directory of RSS Resources, I will open the directory for submissions.  I expect it to take a while to get it set up, but it will be a nice complement to the RSS Tutorial.

April 8, 2008

Digging through the paperwork

Filed under: Personal,Technology — Les Bain @ 12:23 pm

Paperwork – a fine word that means dealing with the paper that we all still get. All the paperless office did was add email, rss, and IMs to all the paper we deal with. Today it is dealing with paper.

  • Look at each piece of paper
  • If I am lucky, throw it away
  • If it is for reference, file it
  • But usually, it means considering, deciding, and spending more time than seems reasonable.

Paperwork these days usually means bills or taxes, so it is not fun.

Email is sounding good today.

April 7, 2008

Mozy is Reticulating Splines

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 6:37 pm

Mozy is running with the message Reticulating Splines.

Mozy and Reticulating Splines

I just had to look it up. I led me on a merry surf. It is supposedly a joke originally done on Sim City that has been picked up by other products. It is a bogus status message that Sim City showed when it was loading. Software products now show it as a status message. Here is the story.

Mozy Backups

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 6:13 pm

I am still working through the first time Mozy backups. I have had some downtime, so it has not been a consistent effort to get through the backups, but I am still working to get the first backup complete. I am backing up about 40G, so I knew it was going to be a while.

I know after the initial backup it will run quickly, so I am not worried, but I am getting concerned about getting through the initial backup. I went through the same process with Carbonite, so I am used to it, but I think I will stay with one service for a while.

Part of the reason is that I have the priority on the backups set as low as it will go in order not to tie up the broadband or my computer.

I have a backup on an external drive for everything critical, but I still want to have an off site backup.

April 6, 2008

Software vs. Hardware

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 1:33 pm

I am like most technical folks … I get involved in computer hardware support. It is always more difficult than I imagine going in.  “Oh, replace that defective CD drive – no problem – two wires and 4 screws.” Famous last words.

I had saved up all the hardware work I had to do, and with some able assistance, started to work on 6 different computers this weekend. I have run into problem after problem. I vow when I do this, I will never work on hardware again. I do not like it. One computer is done, there are 5 more in process.

I really like software development, everything from website construction to writing programs, and the thorniest problem is always just a challenge. But hardware problems are frustrating and irritating. It is probably because I often do not know enough to overcome the problems, but when I call in the experts they often get stumped also.

I think the real problem is that it is just not viable to spend too much time working on hardware. It is just so cheap to buy a new computer. That is especially true if everything is stored online. For those that use GMail, Zoho, del.icio.us, Flick, and similar products, computers are almost interchangeable.

It now looks as if 3 of 6 are working, but one that I rebuilt is lacking some files I thought were backed up and were not. Damn.

I hate working on hardware.

April 3, 2008

Satan or Whore? Which is worse?

Filed under: Personal,Politics — Les Bain @ 8:31 pm

What if you called someone Satan? What if you called someone a whore? Apparently, whore is much worse.

Don Imus regularly calls Senator Hillary Clinton Satan with no repercussions. Randi Rhodes on Air America called Senator Hillary Clinton a whore and was suspended.

I am in favor of more civil discourse in politics so I do not care for either, but I do find the comparison interesting. Is not Satan the epitome of evil?

During this presidential campaign, we are examining our feelings on sex and race, so right now it appears that it is worse to be sexist or racist.

So which would you find the most offensive?

April 1, 2008

RSS Tutorial – Countries

Filed under: Notes,Technology — Les Bain @ 4:10 pm

What countries are the people from that access the RSS Tutorial?

For the first quarter of 2008, people from 113 countries accessed the RSS tutorial. Here is the top 20 countries.

[TABLE=4]