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Free Hosted Email

If you have your own domain and you really don’t need web hosting you might want to consider hosted email servers from Microsoft or Google.

Both of them provide free hosted email services; limited to 500 accounts (which can actually be increased — but for free hosted email that’s probably fine).

I generally recommend that you consider just getting a hosting package that gives you a free domains, web space, and email — often on the order of $1.99 per month.

Microsoft Live Hosted Email (Free):  http://domains.live.com/

Goolge GMail Hosted Email (Free):  http://www.google.com/a/

Originally posted 2008-08-12 23:12:04.

Green Online… JUST SAY NO

Below is a note I sent to Willis Orchard Co about an order I placed for some tropical plants.


On 19-Mar I placed an order for three Medjool Palms (1.5′-2′) and a Drawf Cavendish Banana Tree with and expected ship date around 1-Apr… yesterday (11-May) I received the FedEx packages containing those items.

Roughly a week after the expected ship date I began calling approximately once a week for an update on the shipping status — to which (other than the last call) I was always told that the product should be shipping within a couple days…

Needless to say, my impression of your “customer service” wasn’t very high; in fact it was so low that I acquired the forty-seven other fruit trees, shrubs, and ornamental trees I used to begin landscaping my yard from local sources…

I understand that your shipping delays were caused by your vendor; however, the failure to realistically appraise me of delays is solely a fault your company and customer service people must bare.

While the shipping delay alone was enough to make me shy away from doing additional business with your company; the condition of the plants I received certainly indicated to me that I shall not put your company high on a list to consider again.

The committed size of the plants is stated to be the overall height; while I’d would have hoped that would be the height from the top of the root ball to the highest vertical point on the plant, it’s obvious that you intend that measurement to be the distance from the top of the root ball to the furthest point on a (stretched) frond of the palms.

In my case that appears to be two just less than 18″ (one of those I’m being generous with the “just less”) and one that isn’t even 16″… further the one closest to 18″ and the one less than 16″ are based on measuring fronds that are brown at the ends (dead) — which most likely didn’t occur in a single day of shipping from Southern Georgia to Northwest Florida.

I can’t say I was the least bit surprised… and certainly I don’t think any of these three specimens would have come home with me had I visually inspected them before purchase (at the prices you charge).

Whether these represent the plants you would normally ship to a customer or simply you feel you’re a victim of the volume of your orders verses the inability of your supplies to fulfill their commitments I can’t say… all I can say is that I’m greatly disappointed.


In retrospect, I’d say ordering plants online should be put in the same category as ordering produce online — what you get might not live up to your standards, and what others are happy with says nothing about the quality.

Originally posted 2010-05-13 02:00:35.

AT&T = Pathetic Customer Service

My AT&T U-Verse bill notice came in over the weekend; so this week I launched the web site to take a look at the details.

When I signed up for the service I was “promised” $20 off per-month for signing up for electronic statement delivery and automatic payments.

Well, the first month it didn’t happen; and AT&T’s excuse was that my bill was processed _before_ I had signed up for the electronic statement delivery and automatic payments.

The second month it didn’t happen; and AT&T’s excuse was that something must have went wrong — that I needed to unsubscribe and then resubscribe; of course their policies clearly stated that if I discontinued either of the requirements I would become ineligible for the statement credit.  I escalated the issue to a supervisor who impressed me as being more incompetent than the front-line people; then I escalated it to the executive complaints office — who assured me it would be resolved.

The third month it didn’t happen; and AT&T really had no excuse.  Again I escalated it to a supervisor, and got the promise that it would be researched and resolved.

This month (the fourth month), I lost it — I was pissed off the minute I called AT&T — and I pointed out to them that they were wasting my time month after month after month — and I was tired of it.  The front-line person was totally incompetent and the supervisor was just as incompetent… and rude.

One thing’s for sure — NO ONE beats AT&T for the most pathetic customer service on Earth.

If you subscribe to AT&T services based on promises of rebates, cash back, credits, special pricing, etc — make sure you keep copies of everything; and be prepared to file a small claims action, because it probably will come to that.

It always comes down to who has pissed you off the least (lately) and who is offering the best deals — but in the end you have to decide between the cable company and the phone company and just live with pathetic customer service.

Originally posted 2010-07-10 02:00:01.

New Car Shopping Preamble

So you already know how the story ends — I’ve posted that already; but I felt it would be a good exercise to go through the exercise of buying a new car.

I’ll start with all the research I did online, all the possibilities (the field started out pretty large); my requirements for a vehicle, the items that became deal breakers… and finally what vehicle I narrowed it down to and then how I closed the deal; plus I’ll provide a little more information on getting an extended warranty.

Up front I’m just going to re-iterate what I ended up doing before we get into each of the posts.

I purchased a 2011 Hyundai Elantra Limited with Premium package; exterior Titanium, interior Black (leather).

I purchased my vehicle from Palmer’s Airport Hyundai in Mobile, AL.

I purchased my extended warranty from Palmer’s Airport Hyundai in Mobile, AL.

I purchased floor mats and a trunk mat made by Lloyds (Rubbertite) online (go with the absolute best price you can find and look for coupon codes).

The bottom line, I’m please with the car (it has actually exceeded my expectations thus far); and I’m happy with the dealership.

2011 Elantra Limited 2001 Elantra Limited

Originally posted 2011-05-17 02:00:38.

Linux BitTorrent Clients – Follow-Up

I’ve been using several Linux bit torrent clients fairly heavily for the past week or so, and I have a few new comments about each of the “contenders” — below I’ve ordered them as I would recommend using them.

KTorrent · KTorrent might be a little “fat”, but it works, and it works very well — particularly when dealing with a large number of torrents simultaneously.  This is my pick.

TorrentFlux · TorrentFlux is probably the best solution you’ll find for a torrent server.  Simply said, it works fine (though I don’t know that I’ll continue to use it, simply because it doesn’t seem to be being improved, and it’s far from perfection).

Transmission · Transmission is simple, and that simplicity seems to pay off — it works, it works well.

qBittorrent · qBittorrent works fairly well for a small number of simultaneous torrents; but if you want to download large numbers of torrents or seed large numbers of torrents stay away from this one — it actually crashes, and unless your goal is just to watch the integrity of your torrents be checked and over and over you can do much better.

Deluge · Deluge was what I really wanted to like; and it seemed to work, but it has two major problems — it doesn’t handle large numbers of torrents well, and it doesn’t properly handle port forwarding (either through UPnP / NAT-PMP or when you try and set the port forwarding manually).  We’ll just leave it at it has issues (that apparently are fairly well known) and the progress on it is glacial in it’s pace.

Moving torrents from one client to another isn’t all that hard to do, a little time consuming maybe… but once you figure out how to do it, and let your data files re-check, you’ll be on your way.

My experience over the past week reminds me that you can do your diligence by researching every fact and figure about a program all you like; but until you put it through the paces you just won’t know.

NOTES: My test included about 550 torrents totaling just under half a terabyte in total size.  I required that ports be forwarded through a firewall properly (either via UPnP, NAT-PMP, or by hand), and that I be able to control the total number of active torrents (preferably with control over uploads and downloads as well), and be able to restrict the bandwidth (a scheduler was a nice touch, but not a requirement).

Originally posted 2010-08-25 02:00:30.

Separation of Church and State

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees the separation of church and state.

The phase “separation of church and state” comes from a letter written in 1802 by President Thomas Jefferson to the Baptists from Danbury [Connecticut]; but the concept pre-dates the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and was largely championed in it’s adopted form by James Madison (the principal drafter of the United States Bill of Rights).

The ideological basis of the separation of church and state are often credited to English philosopher John Locke and his principle of social contract.  It can also be seen implicitly in the flight of Roger Williams from Massachusetts to Rhode Island.

Many in the religious right argue that our founding fathers did not intend fro the First Amendment to create a godless country; and they continue to argue that the United States is a Christian nation, and Christian beliefs are centric to the nation and the Constitution.  However, that argument is not supported by the verbiage of the Treaty of Tripoli.

The Treaty of Tripoli, (unanimously) ratified by the US Senate and signed by President John Adams (one of the founding fathers) in 1797 contains in Article 11 the following:

Art. 11. As the Government of the United States of America is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion,—as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility, of Mussulmen,—and as the said States never entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mahometan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

It seems clear that it isn’t necessary to dig into the Federalist Papers, the Declaration of Independence, or read in depth biographies of the founding fathers to understand that they never intended religion to be a central pillar of United States and that it was in fact their intent to prevent religion (particularly organized religion) from exerting control on the government and it’s policies.

Why then, two hundred years later do Christians seems to have carte blance to have the precepts of their religion imposed on the country as law and policy?

One place you can clearly see the Christians exercising control is state and local mandated ordinances forbidding retail operations on Sunday (particularly as it relates to alcohol sales).  While perhaps not as flagrant as it was fifty years ago, it’s is still clearly an affront to the religious freedom and separation guarantied by the US Constitution and a fundamental founding principal of this county.

To [mis]quote Lewis Carrol … the time has come the walrus said to speak of many things …

My personal belief is that each and every time any governmental unit attempts to impose the will of an organized religion there should be quick and severe recourse.

Religious invocations should be forbidden in any governmental sponsored event (that includes public school events, local governmental meetings, etc); civil oaths should be the default in any judicial or administrative hearing; and laws which are based solely on religious fundamentals stricken down.

Christians now account for less than 75% of the adult US population, and that number has been decreasing at an increasing rate over the past two decades with non-religious individuals the fastest growing segment (currently over 15% of the adult US population).

The United States was founded on the principles of freedom of religion (including freedom from religion), it’s time we honor the core values of those who built the framework that has endured the tests of time by ending religious persecution once and for all.

Originally posted 2010-08-30 02:00:51.

Sold: Amityville Horror House

by Sarah Mcbride

Trying to sell a house in today’s lackluster real-estate market?

Maybe you just need a good story behind the property. That may have helped homeowner Brian Wilson, who just sold his place at 108 Ocean Ave. in Amityville, NY. The house inspired the bestselling book and movie “The Amityville Horror” after the 1974 murders that took place there.

The five bedroom Dutch-colonial style dwelling was listed in May for $1.15 million. It sold for an undisclosed price, the New York Daily News reported.

After the murders of the DeFeo family, the property sold to George and Kathleen Lutz, who said the house was haunted and moved out shortly after buying it. Their experiences provided the basis for a bestselling book and movie.

A bank foreclosed on the house, and it was sold in 1977 to James Cromarty, who lived there ten years and told Newsday in May that “nothing weird ever happened there.” He sold it to another couple that also lived there ten years. It last sold in 1997 for $310,000.

The murderer, family member Robert DeFeo Jr., is still incarcerated.

Amityville Horror House

The house in 1974
Richard Drew/AP

Original Story on NPR.org

Originally posted 2010-08-20 02:00:19.

Bluetooth Headsets

Today (1 July 2008) California finally has a law on the books requiring the use of hands free devices when using a cellular phone and driving (rather than relying on the “distracted driving” law that has never really been enforce).

Since most of us responsible people have used hands free devices for years, and switch to Bluetooth for even greater safety and convenience as soon as phone were plentiful (and affordable) it doesn’t effect us.

However, since most Bluetooth headsets use non-replaceable Lithium-Ion or Lithium-Ion-Polymer batteries there is a problem that effects us.

Lithium-Ion batteries have a limited life; and unlike Nickle Cadmium or Nickle Metal Hydride the life of a Lithium-Ion batters is established (primarily) by it’s manufacture date (not it’s use pattern).  That means ever Bluetooth headset made three years ago is on it’s last leg (regardless of when you bought it).

Many of use have the Motorola H700 headset (which has been discontinued), it’s a great headset, good sound quality, a Bluetooth implementation that seems to work, and a mini-USB charging port so you can (likely) use the same charger as your handset (which is most important in your vehicle, where you probably don’t want multiple chargers).

Motorola headsets come with a 1-Yr warranty from the date of purchase; and interestingly enough the last headset I “purchased” was in February for my AllTel MotoQ, its the first of my three to become un-usable.

The symptoms you’re see are:

  • Talk time is substantially less than what it was when the headset was new (or just a week before for that matter);
  • The quality of the your voice (transmit) may be poor (it might sound garbled or clipped);
  • The headset will indicate fully charged quickly (it will go from red, to yellow, to green in five minutes or so).

Maybe you can replace the battery; but it’s not going to be easy to open up a unit like this, and probably most of the cells this headset uses was made three years ago (or so); which means a new cell isn’t guaranteed to fix the problem.

You can throw it away and purchase another (Bluetooth headsets are relatively inexpensive).  Remember, you can’t throw electronics in the trash, they contain hazardous materials and need to be properly recycled.

Or you might be able to get a replacement from Motorola (provided you have an H700 receipt that’s less than a year old).  You can get RMA information for Motorola at:  Contact Motorola Customer Support

The real issue is that newer Motorola headsets us a micro-USB power connector, not a mini-USB power connector like your handset probably has.  And at this time I’m unaware of anyone who makes an adapter or a Y-cable.

Also, just to be clear — this has to do with ALL headsets that use Lithium-Ion battery cells, not just Motorola, so don’t feel smug if you have another vendors headset.

I would suggest that you view your headset purchase as “disposable” in the future, since it’s unlikely manufactures will go back to replaceable cells.  My Nokia Bluetooth headset actually has a replaceable Nickle Metal Hydride battery — which probably costs more than a new headset, and I don’t have Nokia phones any longer so there’s no motivation to use it (it uses the same charge as Nokia headsets).

 

__________

To replace a Motorola accessory, use the following URL and phone number to get information. 

http://direct.motorola.com/hellomoto/nss/replace_an_accessory.asp

1-866-289-6686

Originally posted 2008-07-01 00:00:38.

Vista Sidebar Gadgets

There’s a ton of sidebar gadgets for Vista (just open up the gallery with “add gadgets” and select the “Get more gadgets online” link at the bottom right hand corner to have a look at the ones on Microsoft’s gadget site…

Needless to say, most of the gadgets are CRAP, in fact, most of the gadgets that ship with Vista are lame — and to illustrate that, I don’t use ANY of the gadgets that shipped with Vista.

The clock in Vista takes too much room and only shows the time.  A better solution is the 12HourTime gadget, it shows the time, day of the week and date in about 2/3 the space.

The CPU meter tha ships with Vista is also lame, the mCPU meter seems to do a good job (especially for multi-core CPUs).

And because we’re all too lazy to get up and look out the window… the Weather Channel gadget does a great job at telling you the current conditions (at a reporting station near you).

There are several other gadgets that you might enable from time to time when you’re doing something… the uTorrent monitor, MSNGasPrice, AstronomyCenter, etc all could be useful — and of course that also depends on your interests.

One of the nice things about gadgets is that you can remove them fairly easily, and unlike lots of software they don’t pollute your system.

Originally posted 2008-05-15 11:34:01.

Disk Drill – Beta

Generally I don’t like to write reviews of software that hasn’t been released yet; and certainly in this case I’ll do another review of the product once it has been release — particularly since there is no pricing information available.

There are a number of utilities similar to cleverfiles Disk Drill available on Windows, many are free of charge, but I wasn’t able to find any free utilities for file recovery on the OS-X (there are a few more that are available for purchase; and this is the first of these types of tools I’ve looked at).

I guess I’m a power user, and I like to know a little more about what’s going on, and have more control over what’s installed on my machine, and what it’s allowed to do… from my perspective Disk Drill is just a little too “black box”.

While I don’t think it should necessarily require that everyone understand what it is going to do or install, it seems like it shouldn’t be such a task to figure it out.

Also, while most users will probably like that it just “works” (and it does) I didn’t care for the fact that it had no ability for me to actually have control over the recovery.

I will say that the developers haven’t rushed this product out and there has been a number of betas — though they haven’t don’t a good job about marking the images with a version (just a date on the download panel).

Finally, when I first looked at the product a couple months ago the web site was in horrible shape — the grammar was abysmal, and the clarity of the writing made me extremely leery of the “professional-ness” of the company; that has improved a great deal.

The bottom line, without a release product and a price-point all I can tell you is, I don’t know.

I’m hopeful that the product will be available at a reasonable price; and that the commitment the developers have shown in the quality of the Beta will not end once a release has been made.

Disk Drill on cleverfiles.com

Originally posted 2011-02-20 02:00:32.