Category: Technology

March 30, 2015

World Backup Day

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 11:59 pm

Cloudwards.net – World Backup Day 2015
Courtesy of: Cloudwards.net

December 19, 2014

23 Amazingly Powerful Pictures Of World History – brainjet.com

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 12:34 pm

Loading A 5 Megabyte Hard Disk Onto A Pan Am Plane, 1956

via 23 Amazingly Powerful Pictures Of World History – brainjet.com.

September 26, 2012

3D Printers

Filed under: Personal,Technology — Les Bain @ 8:40 am

My daughter gave me a good book to read called Makers by Cory Doctorow.  The people in the book worked with 3D printers, so I got interested in 3D printers.

It has been fascinating to read about them and to learn about them.  I am still looking for the “killer app” that will make them go mainstream.

October 24, 2011

WikiLeaks Vs Facebook

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 4:36 pm

Wikileaks versus Facebook

December 19, 2010

Spiders and Robots

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 3:32 pm

There are programs that read through the Internet, following links from one website to another.   They have several names.  I like the name spiders because they crawl through the World Wide Web. They are usually called robots or bots.

Some of these robots are controlled by search engines and crawl websites so the search engines can index all websites.

Others are looking for websites to exploit, and find forms to automatically fill out to promote or provide links.

July 31, 2010

Rewriting Code

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 9:19 am

In frustration, many programmers are fond of saying “there is never enough time to do it right, but there is time to do it over”.  When prototyping became the fashion, the saying was turned around to “if there is time enough to do it over, there is time to do it right”.

I needed to rewrite some code that I wrote several years ago this week.  I was surprised at how much I could improve the code as I rewrote it.

  • I changed common code into functions.
  • I applied some new techniques and routines
  • I consolidated several programs with similar functions into one program with parameters

The system now does much more than it did before, and the code is much more elegant.

December 28, 2009

Expression Web Giveaway

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 12:18 am

Check out the Expression Web Xmas 2009/New Year 2010 Giveaway at http://www.frontpage-to-expression.com/expression-web-giveaway.html.

The contest is fun, but the real value is the following:

  • Check out Expression Web, the Website Development Product from Microsoft.  It is the replacement for FrontPage.
  • Get connected to Tina Clarke and Pat Geary .  They are great resources for both FrontPage and Expression Web.
  • Bookmark the websites.  They are some great resources.

Good luck on the contest.

September 24, 2009

Capturing and Organizing Information

Filed under: Personal,Technology — Les Bain @ 2:33 pm

I like to stay informed on various topics:  Some examples are RSS and Website planning, design, construction, promotion, and maintenance.

These are the steps I use.

I create a Blog to hold the information for each topic.  I have a blog for

  • RSS
  • Website Planning
  • Website Design
  • Website Construction
  • Website Promotion
  • Website Maintenance
  • I use Blogger because I like to use certain tools, but most blog services have comparable tools.
  • I do not write the blogs, these are where I store references.  They are link blogs.

I subscribe to information sources about the topics.

  • Google Alerts
  • RSS Feeds
  • Twitter

When I read the sources and want to remember a source, I add the source to the appropriate blog.

  • I use the Google Toolbar “Send to Blogger”
  • I add my comments
  • It is immediately added to the appropriate blog.
  • I think about it as creating index cards for a term paper in the days before we used the Internet.
  • It captures the link, a summary, and my comments.
  • It takes the same amount of effort as bookmarking, but it has more benefits.

Periodically, I go through the blogs, summarize the information, and update my website.

Some side benefits

  • The Blogs have RSS Feeds that I send to twitter which sometimes elicits comments
  • I put Adsense on the blogs and make a little bit of money.
  • I add a custom Google search so I can search all the blogs when I am trying to find something.

August 17, 2009

Five Little Monkeys Preschool with Webcams

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 11:06 am

I have a new client – the Five Little Monkeys Preschool.

Five Little Monkeys has webcams in several places throughout the school.  The webcams are available so that parents can check on their kids throughout the day.  I just think that is a terrific idea.

July 15, 2009

Google helps sell netbooks?

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 10:09 am

Google is going to use a 15 year old operating system and a year old browser to build a free operating system for netbooks.

Why would Google do this? The speculation is most interesting.

  • It would provide a lower price point entry into the Internet.
  • It would therefore generate more Internet users.
  • It would therefore provide more opportunity to sell ads.

Google is in the advertising business.  That is how they make all their money.  The tech stuff is just a way to deliver the advertising.

I think it is great.  It provides a number of services for free if I can put up with ads – which I can.

I wonder, in the past, if anyone wanted to give away TVs so there were more viewers and more people to view ads.

May 3, 2009

Twitter

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 8:01 pm

What kind of twitter person are you?  Which part of the grid are you in?

My feeling is that sucessful twitterers are in more than one grid.

[TABLE=8]

April 12, 2009

Online Backups

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 8:46 pm

I have used three different online backup systems.  Here is a quick analysis of some features – and why I am moving to Memopal.  This is not a careful evaluation, just my notes as I move forward.

[TABLE=7]

Business Continuity, Security, and Backups

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 12:16 pm

Robin McCain and I gave a presentation on Business Continuity, Security and Backups to PASS (Professional Association of Support Services) on Saturday morning April 11, 2009.

Outline:

  • What is Business Continuity.
  • Business Continuity for Computers and Networks.
  • Backups are the essential tool for Business Continuity.
  • Computer Security.

Please leave any questions or comments here.

March 15, 2009

Open Source Software

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 10:44 pm

Robin McCain and I gave a presentation on Open Source Software to PASS (Professional Association of Support Services) last Saturday morning. 

Outline:

  • What is Open Source Software?
  • What is not Open Source software?
  • Why use Open Source software?
  • Are there Obstacles to using Open Source Software?
  • Where can one find Open Source Software and Resources?
  • What are some Open Source Software Products?

Please leave any questions or comments here.

February 4, 2009

Mozy backups and external hard drives

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 1:19 pm

I use Mozy for my offline backups and I am very pleased with the service.  I moved to Mozy because my previous service did not support external hard drives.

I did run into a situation with my Mozy backups that should have been immediately obvious, but I did not catch it for a while.

The first backup you do with an offline service takes a good while.  I backup about 30G which is certainly not an exorbitant amount, and the first backup took 3 – 4 days elapsed time with the computer not running 24/7.

Each day the backups run anywhere from 40 minutes to an hour.  However, ever now and again the backups seemed to start over, and take  the entire 3 – 4 days again.  It happened again this week so I finally stopped to figure it out.

Every now and again I would start the computer without the external hard drive – which I do from time to time if all that I am going to do is use the Internet.  The problem happened when the automatic backups started during the time the external hard drive was off.  Mozy did the little bit of backups from drive C: and then assumed 29G was deleted, and deleted it from my backups.

The next backup had to start over.  Once I figured it out, it was easy enough to control, but it took me a couple minutes of thinking to figure out what was happening.

A quick email to Mozy support (which is very responsive) confirmed my diagnosis.

Software Maintenance Costs and the Walk Throughs

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 9:09 am

There was a turning point in the development of software when it was finally discovered that it took more time and money to maintain a system than to develop it.  The emphasis shifted to creating systems that were easy to maintain.

To make a system easier to maintain the first goal was to create a system with fewer bugs.

To create the system with fewer bugs, there were a number of processes that were used.  One of the most interesting and controversial was the “code walk through”.  Programmers after they created a piece of code, usually a subroutine, sat with their peers for a review of the code.

The goal was to reduce bugs and reduce overall maintenance.  Programmers are not known for their social tact, and it was difficult at first to teach that when you reviewed code, you had to do it with some tact.

Some programming sites made the rule that before you pointed out any errors, you had to say something positive.  There was a famous story that one programmer who after reviewing the code of another programmer struggled to find something postive to say, until he finally blurted out “thank you for writing so clearly so I can see all the errors”.

February 1, 2009

Flexibility and Complexity in Software Development – II

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 5:30 pm

To deal with the issues of complexity and flexibility in software development, programmers and software developers have tried various techniques.

One technique is to try and make the software as flexible as possible.  It is hard to anticipate each and every requirement for the system, so the system is made as flexible as possible.

There are several methodologies.

  • One is make the system is “data driven”.  There is a database or data source that determines the behavior of the system.  To change the system, the data is changed.  We see examples of this when we provide information to a system like Header, Title, etc. that are then used throughout the system.
  • The other is to make the system code as easy to maintain as possible.  This has led to various techniques such as
    • Structured Programming
    • Object Programming
    • Reusable Code
    • Modular Programming

All these approaches are designed to make changing the system easier and quicker.

January 31, 2009

Flexibility and Complexity in Software Development

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 7:00 pm

Picture this:

A person wants to buy a car, so they go to a dealer that provides a way to order a car to specifications.

The person makes selections from a number of options

  • Car model
  • Car color
  • Specific Tires
  • Interior options
  • Sound system options
  • and many others

And gets a car delivered  to the specifications.  The person looks at the car and is pleased that it looks like everything is to specifications.

The person gets in the car and says

  • The steering wheel is too low.  Instructions are given to adjust the steering wheel.
  • The seat is too close.  Instructions are given to move the seat up and back.
  • The sound is too loud.  Instructions are given to adjust the sound system.

And then the person says

  • The roof is too low.  Please raise it up a couple of inches.
  • It is at this point that things fall apart.
  • Perhaps instructions are given to lower the seat to no avail.
  • Perhaps explanations are offered as to why roofs are not flexible.

The issue of course, is that certain assumptions are made about cars that are general knowledge.

  • We know we can add a steering wheel cover with little impact.
  • We know we can usually add a CD player with little impact.
  • We also know that if we want to ignition moved to the other side of the steering wheel because we are left handed, that is probably a major alteration.
  • We know that the roof of the car cannot be raised or lowered.

The same is not true for software.

When someone comes to a software developer, there is not a clear understanding of what features are easily modified or added, and which ones are not.

  • Those of us who have developed software know very well the experience of asking many questions about what the system requirements are, developing a sytem to those requirements, and then being asked why the system does not do a certain functionality that was never discussed.
  • If we are lucky, the functionality is as easy as adjusting the seats.
  • If we are not lucky, we have to argue why it is so hard to raise the roof a couple of inches.

January 3, 2009

Twitter

Filed under: Blogging,Technology — Les Bain @ 10:24 am

I am spending more time twittering than blogging these days.

  • On Twitter, the post size is 140 characters, so it is conducive to posting a quick thought.
  • Even though it is irregular, the Twitter responses are usually quicker than blog post comments.
  • Blogs are certainly conversations, but they are more deliberate.  Twitter is like chatting at a party where you drift in and out of conversations.
  • I use TweetDeck to access Twitter.
  • TweetDeck allows you to establish subsets of all the people that you follow.  I have subsets for friends and family and a subset I call Uptweet (upbeat) for people that post positive and joyous posts.  It provides lots of little inspirational thoughts during the day.

November 17, 2008

Web Hosting and Email

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 2:10 pm

I often help clients set up web hosting accounts.  I agree with the philosophy that you should have three different vendors for each of the following.

  • Domain Registration
  • Web Host
  • Web Master

I find all too often, having one vendor for all means one point of failure if a company goes out of business.

Web hosting companies often are most concerned about the typical web hosting stuff:

  • Size of storage and transfer
  • Availability of options like PHP and MySQL
  • Pricing

But I find that the thing clients are most concerned about is email.  Email is essential to most companies, and it is the email issues that are paramount.

  • What sort of Spam Filter does the web host provide? How effective is it?  Where is the spam email stored?
  • What web mail services are available, and how easy are they to access.
  • How easy is it to set up Outlook or Outlook express for an email account.

In many cases, email is a part of the myriad choices in the control panel, there are multiple spam filters available, and multiple web mail services.

I would encourage web hosts to have a special email button that is designed for clients with just a few options with suggested defaults for spam filters and web mail services.  It might be the only time that the client accesses the control panel.

November 7, 2008

Google Local

Filed under: Internet,Technology — Les Bain @ 12:29 pm

Google Local is a service to help people find local businesses.  I recommend everyone go to Google Local – maps. google.com and search for their own business.

  • Search by your business name
  • Search by your business function

Then try and find your business in the neighboring towns or cities if they are close.  Are you satisfied with the results? If not,

Find Add or edit your business and follow the directions to add your business.  Some suggestions.

  • Add a picture of your logo to make your business stand out in the results
  • If there are nearby cities, add them to your website so you are found in neighboring cities
  • Consider adding the county to your website if you have the kind of business people search for my county.

November 3, 2008

Free Software

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 6:52 pm

I mentioned the other day that I do not like to buy software.  The assumption is always that I find software illegally, but there are many ways to find free software.  This is a review of some ways I find free software.

Open Source Software.

Software that is maintained by a community of developers that is free to use.  The foundation LAMP software of the Internet – Linux, Apache, MySQL, and PHP is open source and free.  Other products I use for web based systems are all free.  Two examples:

  • Phorm for form processing
  • Audio Player for Audio

There are open source substitutes for Microsoft Office, Photoshop and Quickbooks and other expensive software products.  See List of Open Source Software.

Freeware

Freeware is software that has no cost.  If differs from open source in that it is generally created and maintained by an individual or company. I use the CNET service download.com to find freeware.  Download.com finds all software, but freeware can be filtered out.

Give Away of the Day

This is a service that offers a free download everyday. Many times it is a software product.  Today the software was CaptureIt.  CaptureIt is a powerful, flexible and easy-to-use screen capture software. It normally sells for 29.95.  Unfortunately, each product is available for only 24 hours.  I have been able to collect a nice set of utilities by subscribing to this service and downloading what I want when it is available.

October 23, 2008

Content Management Systems

Filed under: Technology,Website — Les Bain @ 10:00 am

I gave a presentation this morning at the East Bay Business Leaders on Content Management Systems.  It is the fourth of a series of presentations on how to build business by using the Internet.

[audio: ebbl-cms.mp3]

October 20, 2008

Time Shifting

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 1:59 pm

It used to be that when something was broadcast like a tv or radio show, you watched or listened when it was broadcast.

When I was a boy, we lined up our chairs in front of the radio to listen to “Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar”, “The Long Ranger”, “The Shadow” and others. You had to listen when they were broadcast.

Now with TiVo, On Demand, Recordings, and the Internet, we can listen to most broadcast shows at any time.  This is called time shifting.  Time shifting typically refers to TV shows, but it also refers to Internet audio like podcasting.

We can now schedule our listening and viewing in the same way we schedule our reading – at our convenience.

On the other hand, with things being time shifted, most every show is available at all times, giving us even more listening and viewing choices.

October 19, 2008

Disintermediation

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 12:53 pm

One of the trends of the Internet is disintermediation – getting rid of the middle man.

  • Blogs are writers without editors or publishers.
  • RSS feeds are distributed without syndication companies.
  • Podcasts are like radio shows without radio stations and transmitters.

You can write, record, and distribute to a world wide audience without intermediaries.

October 17, 2008

What happened to the Database?

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 5:08 pm

When I work with clients, I create a task database to keep track of tasks and status.  Both the client and I can add and update tasks, and it provides constant visibility.

I create PHP files to drop, define, load, and list the data base files.  I use that technique so that I easily drop, define and rebuild the data base files and reuse the code.

But I had a problem.  The database kept being deleted.  It was very frustrating.  I thought perhaps someone had hacked into the code and was running the database routines to drop and define the database files.

I started to backup the database with any database change, and enhanced both the database backup and restore routines.

Then I put a silent routine into each database PHP routine that sent a silent email with all the information about who was running the routines.

In a few days, I started to get emails showing the database routines were being run and the database files were being dropped.  But when I did a IP reverse lookup I was surprised to find that the routines were being run by the Yahoo Crawl Robot.

I did have a robots.txt file disallowing the folder in question, but that was apparently not working.

I had to add a user id and password.

October 9, 2008

RSS Conversation

Filed under: Marketing,Technology — Les Bain @ 5:44 pm

This morning at the East Bay Business Leaders meeting I talked about RSS.

[audio:ebbl-rss.mp3]

October 4, 2008

RSS – Really Simple Syndication

Filed under: Blogging,Technology — Les Bain @ 3:20 pm

RSS is one of those great technologies that are not easy to explain.

Many people use RSS in iGoogle or MyYahoo and do not know that they are using RSS.

Many people blog and create RSS feeds but they do not know they are creating an RSS feed.

  • RSS feeds are part of your Internet presence and need to be managed
  • RSS feeds can be ignored, but it should be a conscious decision.

As people start to understand RSS, they become prosumers, which is a combination of producer and consumer.

  • They consume RSS feeds in a reader or product
  • They produce RSS feeds in their blogs, social media account, or Twitter account.

September 27, 2008

From the RSS Tutorial

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 5:16 pm

The RSS Tutorial:

RSS can deliver current information from the Internet in our areas of expertise or interest.

RSS comes close to fulfilling the promise of a custom newspaper or magazine that is delivered to our desktops.

My RSS reader delivers to my desktop a custom mix of articles on news, technology, the Law of Attraction, personal growth, web 2.0, website development, information technology… and of course, RSS.

I continually refine this daily flow of information, dropping those feeds that get stale, and picking up new feeds for current events like the Presidential Election.

Some RSS feeds are updated hourly (Associated Press and BBC news), some RSS feeds are updated daily, and others are updated weekly or irregularly.  RSS reduces my web surfing time and gives me more reading time.

September 10, 2008

Treo

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 6:06 am

The more I use my Treo 700P, the more I like it.

I have used Palms for years, so I like the Palm OS, but I also like the way the Treo works.

Each month I add a new feature or two.  This month was a Bluetooth headset.  I got a very basic and inexpensive headset, but it works just fine.  And it satisfies the new handsfree California law.

I also got a Secure Digital Card.  It is just a 2G, but it enables me to start doing a few other functions.

I like the idea of adding something new every month, it keeps it fresh.

September 5, 2008

Browsers

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 7:09 pm

Google Chome has opened up the browser conversation again.

People I am talking to are chatting about IE, Firefox, Opera, Safari, and Chrome.  The new entry into the browser world has caused us all to reassess what we really want in a browser.

I have talked to several who have taken a hard look at their FireFox addons to see which ones are really desired and not just “nice to have”.  Many of us now have a hard list of what would have to be in Chome to switch.

This is my list of FireFox addons that I will not give up.

  • All-in-One Gestures
  • Firebug
  • FireFTP
  • Google Toolbar for FireFox
  • Pronouce
  • Web Developer

September 2, 2008

Google Chrome

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 6:55 pm

Google Chrome is causing system problems.  When I try and view Flash Videos, it takes 100% of the CPU, and then does not really show the flash video.

Screen captures show the results of trying to watch a flash video using Google Chrome. Because all the CPU was being used, I could not stop the video and had to cancel Google Chrome.
Chrome Results

Chrome Results 2

Chrome Results 3

September 1, 2008

Google Chrome

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 3:49 pm

Google Chrome is the new Google browser.

http://blogoscoped.com/google-chrome/ is the comic book that introduces the new Google browser. 

It might be the most important technical comic book ever published.

For me, they should turn it into a video and put it on YouTube.  In fact, I would guess that someone will do that shortly.

Tomorrow, Google Chrome will be available.  Any bet on whether there are Google server problems tomorrow?

And for those of us who work with Browser incompatibilities every day, I wish Google would address basic HTML and CSS issues also.

Internet Explorer

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 12:09 pm

Firefox got so bad I switched to Internet Explorer, and I thought I would never to that.  I cannot switch to Opera, because many of the addons I like to use, like Google toolbar, do not run with Opera.

Firefox runs well enough to use FireFTP and FireBug which I now find essential, but Internet Explorer (gasp!) is now my default browser.

It is probably some combination of add-ons that I have put on Firefox, or some corruption, but Firefox is no longer stable.

Bring on Google Chrome!

August 31, 2008

FireFox

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 1:55 am

I am having lots of problems with FireFox.

  • It is not shutting down properly most of the time
  • Consequently, it is not starting up all of the time.  Sometimes I have to go into task manager and kill the process before it can start.
  • Blog This works in Internet Explorer, but not in Firefox.
  • FireFox goes into a loop and uses all the CPU resources.

First I will uninstall and install FireFox.

Already I am starting to use IE and Opera more.

August 29, 2008

Extended Software Evaluations

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 2:19 pm

I question the value of doing extended software evaluations. I recommend that people find a product that has the basic functionality they need, and instead of evaluating multiple products, spend the time learning how to use the product effectively.

There are several reasons for this:

  • Software products change so rapidly, that extended evaluations are difficult because things are always changing.
  • There is usually a price point that is the major factor.  Find the product in your price range, get it, and spend your time learning how to make it work for you.
  • Software rarely matches 100% of the need.  Once the product is installed, time can be spent finding ways to satisfy the rest of the functionality needed.

I was once in a mainframe Information Technology company that needed to decide on a database system.  Mainframe database systems cost 100K or more and the usual evaluation period was 6-9 months.  The CIO called anyone with database experience into a conference room, invited them to tell of any mainframe database product, and do a quick evaluation.  We decided on a product during that meeting, ordered it the following day, and installed if with a few days.  At the end of 6-9 months, we had the first two applications running, and we all knew how to use the database product.

August 25, 2008

Obama and Adsense

Filed under: Podcasts,Technology — Les Bain @ 2:53 pm

I support Senator Barack Obama.  I say that in this blog.

Adsense picks up on Bararck Obama and presents ads about Barack Obama, some of them negative.  That creates a quandary.  Do I allow those that are trying to place negative ads advertise on this blog?

I cannot really click the ads to find out if they are reasonable, because that is click fraud.  I do not want to spend my time reading negative Senator Obama ads.  So I restrict the negative ads that I see.

It is simple to go to Adsense and register the URL of those that I would prefer not show on this blog.  It is the first time I have used that service.

RoboForm

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 2:46 pm

I sometimes think that RoboForm is my best productivity tool.

It keeps track of userid/passwords for all the web services that I use, and not only that, allows me to automatically enter them as well.

I find myself looking through the RoboForm list to remember the name for a webpage I have not entered in months, selecting the webpage, and then being signed on and presented with the service.

A fine service done well.

August 1, 2008

A trillion web pages

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 11:47 am

Google announced that there are now over a trillion web pages, even after the duplicates are eliminated.

I have a hard enough time with numbers already.  Let’s review:

Decimal
Value SI
10001 k kilo-
10002 M mega-
10003 G giga-
10004 T tera-
10005 P peta-
10006 E exa-
10007 Z zetta-
10008 Y yotta-

does yotta mean the same as lotta … as in lot of.

I remember when Teradata Corporation was selling a data base machine.  Seemed like more data than anyone could ever use.

July 13, 2008

logmein.com

Filed under: Personal,Technology — Les Bain @ 10:19 am

I use logmein.com.  I find it to be a good service. I have no financial interest in the service, although as I write this I think I should sign up and be an affiliate.

I have a desktop and a laptop.  Many are getting away from that combination and just working with a laptop, but I still have both.

When I go out on the road, I take my laptop.  If I am working on the Internet, I just connect directly.  But sometimes I want to access a program that is only on my desktop, like Photoshop.

Then I connect to the internet, sign on to logmein.com, and then link up with the desktop.  I can use all the desktop products.

I am certainly aware that there are multiple products and services that do this, but logmein is my favorite, and for what I described, it is free.

The reason that it came to mind today is that the video card on my desktop died.  I will put a new one in soon, but in the interim, I started the desktop and the laptop, and I am accessing the desktop through the Internet.

So I am sitting here using the desktop monitor and keyboard, but running through the Internet using the laptop.  The laptop and the desktop are a few feet away, but I am sending the packets over the Internet.

Now I know of course there are other ways to connect, but this way was already set up, and so it was the most expedient to do.

It is surprisingly quick.

Computers

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 10:04 am

Keeping computers operating and running well requires regular effort, unless you have an Apple Mac of course.

I have never had a Mac, but people I know that have one tell me the Macs work without fail all of the time, and even clean their own monitor screens, but I do not know if they are exagerating.

I had some work to do on my computers this week, so the first thing you know is that they are not Macs.  Now why would I own something that requires constant effort?  Because I also work on other people’s computers, and get paid for it.  Makes no sense to become an expert on Macs.  No money in it.

This week my monitor was going out, starting to tile, flicker, and behave badly.  So I got a new monitor.  I did not buy a new one, just asked around and got a couple of monitors that other technicians were not using.

Same problem.  hmmmm … must be the video card.  So I gave the video card a little push to make sure it was seated properly, and now there is no signal at all. So today I will put in a new video card and see if that is really the problem.

I am like most technicians, and have boxes of computer parts, boards, wires, and connectors.  I will go through the box and see if I have a video card.  I do not play video games, so any video card that works is ok with me.

My desktop continually gets reworked with new parts.  I wonder if there is any thing original that came when the computer was first put together, other than the case.

July 5, 2008

An Audio about Les Bain

Filed under: Marketing,Podcasts,Technology,Website — Les Bain @ 3:01 pm

I added the audio player plugin to WordPress today, so of course I had to add an audio. I picked out an audio I did some time ago when I was doing a daily podcast at BizIII.

A BizIII Podcast about Les Bain:

[audio:http://www.biziii.com/podcasts/20070521.mp3]

June 22, 2008

New Web Hosting

Filed under: Internet,Technology,Website — Les Bain @ 3:07 pm

So what did I learn while moving to a new web host.

  • The HTML and PHP code was well organized on my local computer with both a local and remote backup.  It was uploaded to the new webhosting with no problem.
  • The .htaccess files did not work the same on the new web hosting site, and had to be tweaked.  It was a simple change, but a significant impact.
  • The most significant impact was the email accounts being down.  I should have given the email a higher priority.  But it is all working down.
  • Restoring MySQL databases was smoother than I had anticipated.  I wanted to control backup and restore with PHP, but so far that has not worked.
  • On the new webhosting, I moved everything to PHP 5 and MySQL 5.  That might have caused some problems.  I have one vendor PHP routine that is not working, but instead of trying to debug it, I am going to download another PHP script.
  • Moving the WordPress blog took some time, because the problems were not apparent.  I finally just installed WordPress fresh, and reinstalled all of my theme and plugin changes.  That went quickly.
  • The wordpress database restore worked just fine.  I lost two posts, but I remembered them and posted them again.
  • Blogger blogs were very easy, I just had to republish.
  • In testing everything on the new web host, I found problems that I did not know about.  I have a task list of things to fix going forward.
  • Finding the right webhosting vendor is a crap shoot.  Basically, I decided to pick one with no setup and monthly fee so I could check it out and make good notes in case I had to move again, which I did.
  • Bottom line was that even though there were system wide problems to start, usually one parameter fixed many problems.

June 9, 2008

Waiting for Software

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 2:08 pm

Whatever happened to Windows XP SP3? Did I miss the memo?

I am still on SP2 – I just checked – and I do the regular Windows updates. Perhaps I need to manually choose to install SP3.

Windows® XP Service Pack 3 (SP3) includes all previously released updates for the operating system.

I apply all the updates, so perhaps I am at the equivalent of SP3. I have not heard the customary screaming about SP3, so it is either a clean update, or no one is doing it.


And what about Firefox Version 3? I signed up for the memorable day to download and install the new version of Firefox. I am still waiting.

I have read some reviews that say it is a fine product, so I will make it a point to download if soon in the big day does not arrive.


I just have to remember to not do them at the same time, because then if there are problems I will not know which one caused the problems.

June 2, 2008

Website Technology

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 6:47 pm

I looked at a website today that I created 5 years ago.  It was a mess.

  • The HTML had lots of repetitive code.
  • There was no CSS.
  • The website used FrontPage extensions which I would never use today.
  • The website loaded slowly.

There were some simple changes that I had to make but they were difficult to make.  I suppose I will have to retool the website.  FrontPage extensions will be obsolete soon.

If I had the time, I would welcome the opportunity, because I like to take messy code and create more elegant code.

May 27, 2008

Twitter

Filed under: Personal,Technology — Les Bain @ 7:03 pm

Twitter has been a great source of amusement and amazement.

  • Some blog posts discuss why the writer will not go on Twitter
  • Others bloggers post reasons why they cannot live without Twitter
  • When Twitter goes down, some people act like the Internet is down.
  • The Gillmor gang would have to shut down without Twitter to discuss.
  • Dave Winer uses Twitter as an example of how to develop software which is fascinating
  • Twitter will be the poster child for scaling issues for many months.
  • Twitter is used as an lesson for centralization vs. decentralization.
  • One comment about Twitter: Twitter is Facebook for those that do not have Facebook.
  • Some want Twitter to charge super users to raise money to fix it.

And Twitter is free.

May 25, 2008

My new Treo and the sounds

Filed under: Personal,Technology — Les Bain @ 7:55 am

The next function I am going to learn about my new Treo is all the sounds, beeps, rings, alerts, and alarms.

I learned about

  • how to set different ring tones
  • how to turn off the phone
  • how to turn down the phone ringer

but ….

I still get alerts, etc. Some of them go off early in the morning.

I need to find the way to turn off all sounds so

  • my sleep is not interrupted
  • and it is not beeping during a meeting.

May 20, 2008

Web Site Surprises

Filed under: Technology,Website — Les Bain @ 11:57 am

Potential website clients will call and ask how much it would cost to make a small change to their website.  Boy is that tricky.

I cringe as I wonder if the previous webmaster used any sort of technique for common code.

  • Will there be a dynamic template from Expression Web, Dreamweaver or Frontpage.
  • Will there be server side includes for the common code.
  • Will the code be standard enough for a website scan and replace.

I wonder if the client can find their Web hosting user id and password, or whether that disappeared with their last webmaster.  Of course it can be retrieved.  It usually takes a conference call with the web hosting site, the owner, and myself.

I wonder if there is any unusual pattern of redirects that must be followed.  I started to look at one website where the redirects were 4 deep.  A went to B went to C went to D.  I have no idea why.

And I wonder if the previous webmaster has two duplicate sites depending on where the visitor is coming from.  It must have been an analysis to see if one worked better than the other, but I changed the website, then discovered there was a duplicate site in another subdirectory.

I have discovered these and other traps waiting for me as I look at a new website.  Sometimes it takes a few minutes to make sure the there are no traps.

May 19, 2008

PHP Code

Filed under: Personal,Technology — Les Bain @ 1:26 am

I am writing some PHP code. It is for a project that I am have been working on. It is the most elaborate code that I have written for a good while. Just about everything that I am coding is something I have not coded before.

The coding process, however, is most familiar. I use a combination of “top down development” and “step wise progression”. We used to have signs that said “programmers do it top down”. That was before we were engineers.

But the system could have great promise.

I will see.

May 15, 2008

Heat Wave

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 10:12 pm

We are having our first heat wave of the year.  It was over 100 degrees today.  It is not a major problem to survive, it gets hot in the afternoon and then cools off.  It is pleasant now.

There is air conditioning in our apartment, so it is pleasant.

However, my computers have apparently been overheating today.

  • My laptop is sitting on two cold packs now, and it is running consistently for the first time today.
  • My external hard drive has a fan pointed directly at it, and it is running consistently for the first time today.

Yes I do worry about moisture with the cold packs, but I wrap them in paper towels and do my best to keep them dry.

May 9, 2008

Parental Controls

Filed under: Notes,Personal,Politics,Technology — Les Bain @ 3:08 am

When my children were young, we did not restrict their Internet access. We talked about the dangers openly, asked them what they knew about the dangers from their readings, and asked them what rules they followed. We agreed on the rules.

  • Do not give out your name or address
  • Do not agree to meet anyone

When they were in elementary school, the computers were in a public area of the house.

That was just about it.

I am not saying that was wise, it is just our style. Having a frank talk about the dangers allowed them to set their own limits. I knew they were going to visit porn sites and other sites, but I was much happier that they did it without having to try and hide it.

When my son was a Freshman in high school, he told me if I ever wanted to go to a porn site, he had account and password hacks.

When I set up computers for parents now, I am often instructed to put on the parental controls. I of course do it, and I always think back about how it was when my children were small.

I do not have any regrets. I still think we were right. But it is definitely worse now on the Internet, so I do wonder if I would put on parental controls now. Probably not.

May 5, 2008

Email

Filed under: Personal,Technology — Les Bain @ 5:56 pm

I use Outlook for Email.

I have been working to reduce Spam and undesired email.  The results are starting to show.

The Junk email folder is now full everyday.  I review it but I will not be doing that much longer.  I will change the rules to delete the spam without checking.  I am just using the Outlook processing for now, and it seems to be working ok.

I make a distinction between mail boxes and mail folders.

  • Mail folders is where I store email I want to save
  • Mail boxes is where I receive email.  Email is sorted into a dozen or so mail boxes.
  • Everything that does not get sorted into a mail box ends up in the Inbox.

When all works well, there are very few if any emails in my inbox.

If email shows up in my inbox, one of the following happens:

  • If it is spam, the keystrokes Alt-A-J-B send it to the junk email folder.
  • If it is mail that I expect to get more off, I create a rule and sort it into a mail box.
  • If it is a subscription, I cancel the subscription.  No email subscriptions; only RSS.
  • If it is a one-off email, I process it or store it in a mail folder.

My overall time on email is being greatly reduced.  I am trying to use that time looking at my RSS feeds without flying through them.  More considered reading.

I am enjoying both the process and the results.

May 4, 2008

Learning the Treo

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 3:43 pm

I try to learn a new Treo feature each day.  There is a lot to learn.  I have had Palms for years so I know the Palm OS, and thought I knew many of the applications.

Here is one example.  I looked at the calculator.  It looked like the standard Palm calculator.  Nothing to learn.  Then I hit the menu and looked at the options.  There is an option for an advanced calculator.  After you get to advanced calculator, you have the choice of

  • Math
  • Trig
  • Finance
  • Logic
  • Statistics
  • Weight / Tmp
  • Length
  • Area
  • Volume

The only point is that each little application has multiple layers to be investigated.

It is fun.

May 2, 2008

Upgrade WordPress

Filed under: Blogging,Personal,Technology — Les Bain @ 9:43 pm

I needed to upgrade WordPress. Today is the day.

I decided to download and try the WordPress Automatic Upgrade plugin.

It worked very well. I downloaded it, installed the plugin, and ran it to get a successful upgrade. I am now at the latest version of WordPress.

I ran the plugin in automatic mode, and it went through the steps quickly and successfully. I am most pleased.

Shutdown Day

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 11:34 am

Can you turn off your computer for 24 hours? Do you want to? Do you care?

Shutdown Day

I have not decided yet. Perhaps.

May 1, 2008

RSS Awareness Day

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 1:00 am

Today is RSS Awareness Day


RSS Awareness Day.


Visit my RSS Tutorial


RSS Tutorial


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

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 22, 2008

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

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 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.

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 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 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]

March 31, 2008

RSS Tutorial – what browsers?

Filed under: Technology,Website — Les Bain @ 11:03 am

What browsers are using used to access the RSS Tutorial?

[TABLE=3]

I was not familiar with two of the browsers and had to look them up.

  • Camino is a Mac OS X-native browser built on Mozilla’s Gecko rendering engine.
  • Konqueror is an Open Source web browser with HTML 4.01 compliance

The second thing of interest is that Firefox has such a high percentage. Firefox is approximately 10% of the Internet Population. It is no surprise that a Technical Tutorial would have a higher percentage for Firefox, but I am surprised it is that high.

March 29, 2008

WordPress tables using plugin wp-table

Filed under: Blogging,Internet,Technology — Les Bain @ 3:36 pm

I like to use tables. I use them in Word frequently. Word Press has a new plugin called wp-table that helps define tables in WordPress.  Table can be completely controlled using CSS.
[TABLE=1]

March 26, 2008

Writing Code

Filed under: Personal,Technology — Les Bain @ 4:03 am

I was up late tonight writing PHP code.  I have spent many late nights writing code.  It is an immensely enjoyable activity.

  • It is a mental challenge – the ultimate puzzle if you will.
  • It is an effort to bring organization to chaos.  Writing clean code that automates a process helps define the process.
  • It is a creative effort.  Creating a system or a process that is a elegant solution to a problem is a creative act.
  • It is a constant reminder that big problems can be solved if they are broken down into bite size pieces and tackled one at a time.
  • And at this point in time in my life, it is a reminder that when an idea comes, it has to be immediately written down if it is to be remembered.  That is not a problem, it just requires a process to capture thoughts as I work.

Tonight was particularly rewarding because the script I wrote automates a process that I do with some regularity.

March 22, 2008

RSS Tutorial

Filed under: Internet,Technology — Les Bain @ 9:30 pm

I wrote and maintain an RSS Tutorial. I save RSS articles, products and services into an RSS link blog. Periodically, I review the articles and update the tutorial. I do not claim to be an expert; I wrote the tutorial so that I could learn RSS.

I am going through the update process now. The tutorial was written in 2005.

In 2005, the RSS issue that everyone was writing about was:

  • How to get people to use RSS.

In 2008, the issues are different.

  • How to control the influx of information that RSS provides. The products and services are RSS pipes, filters, and mashups.
  • How to expand RSS to multiple platforms. Products and services send RSS to Instant Messengers, iPhones, SMS, and email.
  • How to use RSS for more types of information. Use RSS to subscribe to calendar information, books, and friend information.
  • How RSS being used to increase Internet spam. Products and services scrape websites into RSS feeds to create spam websites. Ah well.

March 18, 2008

Backups

Filed under: Personal,Technology — Les Bain @ 8:59 pm

I gave up on my experiment to backup to my Web Hosting site using an FTP backup.  I registered for Mozy and the first long backup has started.  It should take 10 days or so.

What I like about Mozy.

  • You can pay by the month
  • You can backup an unlimited amount
  • You can backup an external drive (which Carbonite would not do)

I will have some vulnerability for a few days, but then I should be ok again.  I do have onsite backups using an external drive.

March 11, 2008

Jason Calacanis and the Affiliate Summit

Filed under: Internet,Technology — Les Bain @ 10:11 pm

I had a chance today to listen to the recording of Jason Calacanis giving the keynote address at the Affiliate Summit. Then I read the blog posts from those that were there. Jason generated a lot of controversy. That is nothing new. I think there are times when the heat obscures the light Jason shines on a topic.

I pay attention to Jason Calacanis.

  • I read Jason’s blog.
  • When Jason was at AOL, Netscape was my homepage.
  • I listen to Jason when he is on TWIT.
  • I listen when Jason is on the Gillmor gang and the other gangs.
  • I follow Jason on Twitter.
  • I pay attention to Mahalo.
  • I listen online to his keynotes at various summits.

Understand that this is not an obsessive following, I just think he is right a good deal of the time. I lived in a major East Coast city before I moved to California, so his style is very familiar.

Here is my little secret. I take what I learn from Jason and use it in my business and with my clients. I have a much different style than Jason, so I am seen as insightful but not controversial. There is of course a downside also; I do not have nearly the publicity. But I am ok with that.

Thanks Jason.

March 9, 2008

Sharing Tips and Techniques

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 7:34 pm

I have been working with computers for decades. I remember when the mainframe monitors were so expensive that everyone did not have one. To use a monitor, you went to the monitor area which was typically a table with a row of monitors placed in a line.

To use the monitor, one sat elbow to elbow with other programmers. It was very typical that while you were working, you would share information with the programmer sitting next to you.

  • Often it happened when you discovered a new technique which you shared with those sitting next to you.
  • It also happened when there were questions about the best way to accomplish a task.

It was unplanned but very beneficial to the organization. Soon however, everyone had a monitor on their desk and that sharing stopped. Many of us do not have the opportunity to share techniques with others in that way. Today we use forums, websites, and blogs to share techniques.

Over the last week, I have had the opportunity to work with another technician while we were both working on websites and other Internet projects. There was lots of sharing of techniques and tools. It was a most productive time. I learned a lot, and shared a lot.

It reminded me of the sharing from so long ago. I miss those days.

February 19, 2008

Search Keywords – What is Hot?

Filed under: Internet,Technology — Les Bain @ 4:08 pm

Wordtracker reports on what keywords people are putting into search. I know this is just a sample, but I looked at the top 100 search key phrases from the last 48 hours.

So what are people searching on?

  • 49 were searching for sexually oriented content. Some key phrases are problematic. I included Carmen Electra in this list. I did not include Madonna or Britney Spears.
  • 24 were searching for music or musicians. I included Queen, Beatles, Madonna, and Britney Spears in this category.
  • 12 were searching for a popular website like google, ebay, yahoo, myspace, facebook, or hotmail.
  • 7 were searching for information on video or computer games.
  • 8 were searching for a miscellaneous set of terms including “fun presidential facts”. I counted “Obama girl” here, but it might fit in the first category.

I have looked at the reports at various times, and the percentages stay pretty consistent. The top 500 terms is almost always 50% sexually oriented. It is a tribute to the Internet searchers that they can find 250 search keywords and key phrases to search for sexual content.

February 18, 2008

Finishing up the Hard Drive Work

Filed under: Personal,Technology — Les Bain @ 10:44 am

The work on the hard drives is pretty much done. This is what remains.

  • Defrag each logical drive: one done, one running, 2 more to do.
  • Backup the two data drives:
    • Backup each data drive to the remote web hostingsite using FTP
    • Backup each data drive to the local external drive
  • Delete some files from the Webhosting site that were put out as tests
  • Shut down Carbonite by 2/28/2008.

February 17, 2008

Change Places using TweakUI

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 1:05 pm

I am moving files around from the local hard drive to the external hard drive, and from one partition to another on the external drive.  There are number of reasons for doing that, and I blogged about that.

Today I am dealing with ramifications.

  • I had tweaked the places list in the open / save dialogue boxes using the Microsoft product called TweakUI.  I needed to change that to reflect the new file positions.
  • The Outlook pst files are moved.  I had to change Outlook to point to the new files.
  • I had some shortcuts that needed to be changed.

I will consider moving My documents later today.

February 16, 2008

Reorganizing Hard Drive Usage and Backups

Filed under: Personal,Technology — Les Bain @ 7:45 pm

I am reorganizing the data on my hard drives. I am moving folders and files from the laptop drive to the external drive, and from one partition to another on my external drive. There are several reasons for doing this.

  1. I have been using Carbonite as my backup system. Carbonite does not allow backups from external drives, so I had been putting more and more on my laptop hard drive so that it was backed up regularly by Carbonite. I am getting frustrated with that restriction from Carbonite, so I am dropping Carbonite when my yearly subscription is up in a few weeks.
  2. My laptop hard drive was close to 90% full, and that was impacting performance of course.
  3. I wanted to logically divide what was on my external drive into three partitions.
  4. I wanted to organize my drives to support my new backup scheme.

My external drive has three partitions.

  • One partition is for content that can be downloaded from the Internet again if I lose it. That includes programs, ebooks, music, and video.
  • One partition is used for local backup.
  • One partition is used for the data that I create.

I am implementing a new backup scheme.

  • I will backup using an program that has an FTP function to my Web Hosting account. My web hosting account allows for 500gb of storage, and I am not close to that, so I will use it for backup. I will backup some of the laptop hard drive and the external drive partition with data.
  • I will also do a local backup to the backup partition of my external hard drive.
  • I am implementing the combination of software and procedure to get everything set up, and it is almost there.
  • I will do a complete backup using FTP, then incremental backups after that.

It takes a couple of weeks to do the initial backup using FTP, so I need to get that started. It took a couple of weeks to do the initial backup using Carbonite, but from then on the incremental backups ran quickly and smoothly.

I will have to rely on the local backup during the brief period before the FTP backup is complete.

February 15, 2008

Explicit Spam

Filed under: Internet,Technology — Les Bain @ 12:18 pm

I receive the standard spam.

  • Get rich quick schemes
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Member enlargement

The member enlargement spam added a new twist in todays email, explicit before and after photographs.  Way too much information as far as I am concerned.  My spam filter missed them because with the photos it was “go from this to that”.

I wonder if this signals a new direction for spam.  Come to think of it, the pharmaceuticals where already doing it with spam that was just pictures of pills with prices.

Too much information.

Computers and Heraclitus

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 12:01 pm

Heraclitus is known for his doctrine of change being central to the Universe.
Heraclitus supposedly said “you could not step twice into the same river”. The river is constantly changing. The river is never the same.

I use the same phrase for computers. When people tell me that the program or service ran yesterday on this computer, I twist the Heraclitus quote and say “you cannot run the program twice on the same computer.” That is because the computer is constantly changing. I am usually talking about a computer running Windows.

  • Windows downloads updates and modifies itself
  • Files are added and modified.
  • Websites add or modify cookies.
  • Programs download updates.
  • Files become fragmented.
  • The Windows registry was changed.
  • There is different traffic on the network.
  • Programs start and stop in the background.
  • Program configurations change.
  • Websites are changed.
  • Web servers are changed.

And that is just the legitimate sorts of changes. Any of the malicious changes could also have been made to your computer, the network, or the service.
The fact that the program ran yesterday only means the program ran on the computer the way the computer was yesterday. Today the computer has changed.

“You cannot run the program twice on the same computer.”

February 13, 2008

Computer running slowly

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 9:26 pm

The most common complaint that computer service people hear is that someone’s computer is running slowly.  Check the following.

  1. Make sure the computer is not overheating.  Clean the fan.  If it is a laptop, put it on a cold pack and see if it runs faster.
  2. Is it the computer or the Internet Service Provider?  Reboot the modem and the router and see if it runs faster.
  3. Get rid of all the clutter on the hard drive.  I like CCleaner to do the job.   Then defrag the hard drive.
  4. Find a good anti-spyware program and clean up the spyware.

That should be a good start, and should help in most cases.

February 8, 2008

Laptop Woes

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 4:30 am

I was working with a client today, fixing up her laptop.  During the process, the laptop went into a deep freeze (technical term).  The screen was black, the keyboard did not respond, and the indicator lights maintained an unusual pattern.  I of course turned it off and on repeatedly, but it never truly turned off, and never really turned on, although some of the indicator lights would go off and on.

I made the first of several calls with the appropriate amount of wait time.  I was told by several voice mail systems that I could go online to get help, even though I could not get the laptop to work at all.  I did voice response to a series of questions that were sometimes difficult to answer, and then I made it to a very nice young man apparently from India.

He was most helpful.  I could understand him even though he had a pronounced accent. The solution was as follows:

  • Unplug the laptop
  • Take out the battery.
  • Hold down the power on key for 20 seconds.
  • Plug it back in.
  • Result: Everything was fine.

His explanation was that the computer gets a build up of static electricity. I am not sure I understand the explanation, but the solution was right on.  I had never heard of anything like that before.  Live and learn.

January 12, 2008

Reading RSS Feeds

Filed under: Blogging,Internet,Technology — Les Bain @ 8:06 pm

I had a little more time to read my RSS feeds today.  It is humbling to read and process the insights of some of the bloggers.  It makes me resolve to think and post more aggressively – but not today.

January 11, 2008

Complete conversion to PHP

Filed under: Internet,Technology — Les Bain @ 6:05 pm

I finished the process of converting my website code so that every webpage is PHP.

  • I changed all files to .php files
  • I changed all client side includes to PHP server side includes.

Because everything has been changed to PHP, I was able to do the following:

  • Change the copy write end year to be dynamic
    Copyright © 2003 – < ?php echo date('Y'); ?>
  • Randomly show different photos

Positioned the website to be more dynamic and include more Data Bases.

January 8, 2008

Audio Blogging

Filed under: Blogging,Technology — Les Bain @ 9:43 pm

I talked to an associate today who said he thought he should be blogging but did not have enough time.  I recommended that he consider Audio Blogging.  He is articulate and concise. He travels around during the day, and would have an easier time blogging using his cell phone.

I reviewed what I knew about Audio Blogging, especially using a cell phone, and as always, things have changed.  Hipcast is still the one to beat, but it is a paid service.  Other services are free.  I will look at the services again to get up to date.

January 6, 2008

Recycling E-Waste

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 1:10 pm

E-Waste is electronic waste – old computers, monitors, televisions, and peripherals.  California has a program to encourage recycling e-waste.  E-waste has toxic material and should be kept out of land fills.

Today I took all my old computers and computer gear to be recycled at a www.noewaste.com recycling event. (They are a client.) They are having a 3 day event to collect e-waste. There have been record rains during the weekend.

I took a car load of computer gear collected over many years, including the following.

  • An IBM XT computer.
  • A 1200 baud modem.
  • Several boards from 286 and 386 computers.

It felt good to clear it out. Next thing: get rid of the clothes I do not wear.

January 2, 2008

Goodbye PageRank

Filed under: Blogging,Technology — Les Bain @ 1:02 pm

I have been using PHP more and more on my websites. On the Wizard Creek Consulting website, I went through and changed all the webpages from .htm to .php. At the same time I added a bit of PHP code to randomly show photos from a photo directory.

I updated the .htaccess file to do the redirect from the old page to the new page.

As I write this, I wonder if there is a way to specify to PHP to also use .htm files so that files do not have to be renamed. I will investigate that next time. (Apparently, I could have changed the parameters to have PHP parse .htm files as well. That would have worked for me, because I changed every file from .htm to .php.)

But because the files are all new names, the PageRank dropped from 5,4 and 3 to zero. It will be interesting to see how long it takes for Google to once again evaluate my website and assign a new PageRank.

I do wonder if I will lose traffic or business. Time will tell.

December 23, 2007

Integrated Data

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 10:50 am

I worked on Enterprise systems for many years.

We started out building stand-alone application systems that did one function. We build payroll systems, accounts payable systems, and inventory systems. Each application had its own data. We typically had the systems communicate by doing exports and imports, where data was exported from one system and imported into another. There were utilities in fact whose whole purpose was to help extract, scrub, sort, and prepare data for import.
The next step was “integrated systems”.

  • We built financial systems that combined General Ledger, Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, and Payroll.
  • We built manufacturing systems that combined Order Entry, Order Processing, Inventory, Production Control, and Purchasing.

The ultimate prize was the Enterprise Resource Planning which was an integrated solution to the entire enterprise. SAP, Oracle and others tried to answer this call.

One of the big benefits of integrated systems was the integrated data base. We spoke of data as being a enterprise resource to be managed at the enterprise level, and not at the department level.

Now, my small company, like many others, seems to be moving back to the original model. I have documents in Google Docs, contacts in GMail, and company profiles in Facebook, MySpace, and Spoke.

Now I want to integrate the data.

December 22, 2007

E-Waste

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 7:45 pm

I have a client that helps recycle e-waste.  California has a program to keep topic material found in Monitors and Computers out of the land fills.  It is amazing to be at one of the e-waste events where they collect tons of used computers.

December 20, 2007

Maybe

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 4:25 am

I once worked with a Database system that had “MAYBE” as an option when doing a query.

A given database field – let us say AGE – had the following two states:

  • Age exists – there was a value for age.
  • Age was NULL – there was no value for age (for those that did not reveal their age.)

So when doing a query – one could say

  • If AGE > 21 – returned all rows where AGE existed and was greater than 21.
  • If AGE MAYBE > 21 – returned all rows where
    • AGE existed and was greater than 21
    • AGE was NULL – because maybe they were older than 21, but maybe not.

I liked using the MAYBE Function.

December 16, 2007

FTP Backups

Filed under: Technology — Les Bain @ 5:59 am

I have a contract with the backup system Carbonite, but I am looking for another alternative.  I want software that is as flexible as Carbonite or Data Deposit Box, but I want to back up to an FTP Server.

December 12, 2007

Parallels

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

I set up a Mac OS 10 computer with Parallels, the product that allows virtualization.

I loaded a Windows XP virtual machine onto the Mac.  It was a very straight forward install.  Windows ran very quickly.

The Mac OS was on an Airport Express wireless Lan.  Setting the Parallel parms allowed the Windows virtual machine to access the wireless Lan.

I then plugged the printer into the Airport Express unit, and the Mac machine instantly found it.  I was not sure how to set it up for the Windows virtual machine, but it appears that the best thing to do is load the Windows version of Bonjure.

It is hard to get away from the Windows mentality of wanting to install and configure everything.  With the Windows virtual computer, it is better to change one parm.

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