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Free Windows Utilities

Piriform Ltd has a number of free Windows utilities that are well worth what you pay.  You can visit their web sites for complete information on them and decide for yourself if they are something you’re interested in.

A couple notes:

  • Like lots of “free” software, watch the installation options to avoid installing any extra software you might not want (and check your install afterwards for pesky tool bars, etc).
  • Defraggler actually has one really nice feature — it will defragment individual files on demand.

 

Originally posted 2008-11-16 12:00:15.

Operating Systems

I have computers running Windows (most flavors), OS-X, Linux, and BSD (or we could generically call those *nix) — and have had computers running SunOS, Solaris, and OSF… so I consider myself well versed in operating systems from a user standpoint (and a developer standpoint as well).

Recently I took a look at how practical each of the “popular” choices were as a desktop environment for what I would consider an average user; and I set the goals of an average user to be:

  • Email
  • Managing contact and schedules
  • Browsing the internet
  • Office tasks (word processing and simple spread sheets)
  • Multimedia (music and movies)
  • Managing finances

And I looked at Windows (Vista Ultimate, but for this much would apply to XP as well), OS-X, and Ubuntu Linux (I felt that was a good distribution for an average user).

On email, managing contacts and schedules, browsing the internet, and office tasks I would say that all three of the operating systems were reasonably equal… very few real differences in capabilities or ease of use (both Vista and OS-X have option for commercial as well as free software; on Ubuntu only free software was used).  For multimedia both Vista and OS-X were far better than Ubuntu (yes, Ubuntu could do most everything the other two could do, but the software was very piece meal, and didn’t “fit” well with the rest of the system).  For managing finances all of them had non-commercial and commercial solutions and depending on your needs whether any or all of them would be sufficient.

Vista

Microsoft’s current Windows operating system for desktop PCs.  Vista is well suited for most tasks an average user is likely to do.  Since the cost of Vista is included in most PC purchases only upgraded expenses need to be considered (this isn’t true if you’re building your own PC from parts — but if you’re recycling an old PC it may already have a license for Windows).  The cost of a PC does not generally include an office suite.  There’s a host of free software that you can use if you elect no to purchase additional software from Microsoft.

 

OS-X

Apple’s current operating system for Macs.  OS-X is well suited for most tasks an average user is likely to do.  Since the cost of OS-X is included in Mac purchases only upgrade expenses need to be considered.  The cost of the mac might include iLife, but not iWorks.  There’s a host of free software that you can use if you elect not to purchase additional software from Apple.

 

Ubuntu

Provided you have a way to download Ubuntu and burn it onto installation media (CD) there’s no cost in acquiring it.  If you have very old hardware using Ubuntu (or a lighter weigth Linux) might be the only option you really have — but my comparison here is not based on what’s cheapest, it’s what’s reasonable.  Most all of what you will need will be installed with the operating system.  There’s a host of free software that you can use by simply downloading it.

 

Observations:

  • Apples are only easier to use if you’re used to Apples — like all tools, human beings have no inherent ability to know how to use them.  Regardless of the operating system you choose you will need to invest a little time into learning how to use it.  How much time you invest will be determined by the relative sophistication of what you’re trying to do, and what kind of background in computers you have.
  • You’ll find that both Vista and OS-X will provide an inexperienced user with much more “hand holding” than Ubuntu.  But that said, one of the first things you need to get proficient at is searching the internet for “answers”.
  • Pretty much all the annoyances people gripe about are universal in all three of the operating systems (it’s comical that Apple had a whole series of advertisements about Vista annoyances — annoyances their own operating system had had for years for the most part).  There are often system settings that can turn off many of these annoyances, but in fact they are present for a reason — and while you’re learning I recommend you just learn to deal with the annoyances and don’t change system settings without good cause.
  • You’re going to find making changes to many settings on Ubuntu (or any Linux) much more difficult than either Vista or OS-X.
  • You’re going to find that things are far more cohesive on both Vista and OS-X; with Ubuntu it becomes fairly obvious quickly that you’re using a collection of dis-associated widgets and parts.

 

Conclusions:

For most computer users I’d recommend that you consider using either Vista or OS-X for your computing needs.  Leave Ubuntu (and other *nix based operating systems) to more experienced computer users who have a “need” for it.  I suspect that we’ll see improvements in the cohesiveness of non-commercial operating system, but for the moment they just aren’t ready for prime time.

Originally posted 2008-12-26 12:00:38.

SFF-8484 to 4 x SATA Cables

I just purchased a Dell PERC 5/i (basically an LSI 8404) RAID card off eBay and I needed to purchase two SFF-8484 cables to connect it to my SATA hot swap bays.

There seems to be a great deal of confusion on eBay from vendors that have these cables — many of the vendors just don’t know what they have; and it’s important to know, since there are two different cables fitting the general description — and they are not interchangeable.

The cable I needed could be identified by a Trip Lite part number S502-01M or an Adaptec part number 2167000-R (discontinued) or a StarTech part number SAS84S450.

The description should contain the key phrase that the cable is used to attach a SAS (or SATA) HBA (Host Bus Adapter) to individual SATA drives.  The description should not mention anything about hooking up a SATA controller to a SATA/SAS back plane.

What’s the difference in the cables???

Well, the SAS controller to SATA device cable is straight through; the SATA controller to SAS back plane has the RX and TX swapped… and generally speaking there’s not a lot of call for the SATA controller to SAS back plane so those will be the least expensive, and the most prevalent on eBay.

The sellers who do know what they have, and advertise it as such want a phenomenal price for the cables (they’re only $19.99 on Amazon, buy the two you’ll need and they ship free)…

Do your home work and ask your questions before you commit to buy on eBay — particularly if it’s from China or Hong Kong (it’ll take several weeks to get the item, and returning it will be half the price you paid).  While Amazon’s gone down hill a great deal recently; it’s still easy to return, and in the long run you might save both time and money.

SFF-8484
Tripp Lite S502-01M

Originally posted 2010-11-13 01:00:28.

Citibank World Dividends Master Card

I got home Friday evening and had an alert from Citibank that a statement was ready on my Citibank World Dividends Master Card account… this is an account they’d converted from their Dividends reward card that had a really nice cash back program to a card that really didn’t have a very good program at all, so I really didn’t use the card much; but I’d done a small charge on it a couple months ago, and then paid it off when the bill was issued.

So, the alert was notifying me that I had a statement ready that would have a zero balance, and would only be showing a posted payment.

The problem was… there wasn’t a PDF of the statement available.  And the same thing had happened to me about eight months previously; so I actually knew exactly what it was.

The bottom line was some programmer at Citi decided (or was instructed to) not produce PDF statements for account with zero balances period… ignoring the fact that federal law requires a credit card company to issue out a statement with a zero balance should there be any transactions in the period the statement covers.

Certainly the supervisor I was transferred understood the requirement that a statement be issued when there was transactions during that period…

But, once again, I was sent over to a on-line technical support agent; who insisted the problem was my browser… Firefox 8; so we tried it in Internet Explorer 9… same thing, no PDF statement… then we tried it in Internet Explorer 8, Internet Explorer 7, and Firefox 5… guess what, still no PDF statement (she of course wouldn’t have it that I’d gone through all of this before — she had to make sure she wasted the maximum amount of my time that she could); then the technical support representative decide that maybe she should actually ask someone about this issue… and –SURPRISE– she was told that there was an issue in the system and in fact PDF statements were not issued out on account that had a zero balance, that they had to be requested to be generated.

While normally I believe in the three strikes you’re out paradigm, for a financial institution as well run as Citibank I made an exception… I decided because they managed to waste 50 minutes of my life today; and another about 90 minutes of my life several months ago on the exact same issue, that they were OUT!

I requested a return to a supervisor and canceled my account.

As always, I wished her the best of luck finding another job when the financial institution she worked for went out of business, and assured her that I would do everything in my power to encourage everyone I knew to dump Citibank.

The only unfortunate thing about cancelling the account was losing the $13.56 in Dividend reward points, but I certainly wasn’t going to keep the card until I had accumulated the $50.00 in reward points necessary to request a check.

I still have a two other Citibank credit cards (one VISA and one Master Card)… and while I may keep those cards for the moment (since Citibank and Bank of America are the only two financial institutions in this country that provide virtual credit card numbers)… but I will guarantee you I’ll make sure as little money as possible is charged through Citibank, and should one of my credit unions add virtual credit cards Citibank will be history for me.


UPDATE:

On Sunday I received an email from Citibank telling me that there was a PDF of my statement available for download.  Guess what — no statement.  I called up the clueless people at Citibank (again) to waste (more) of my time…

I guess maybe they’ll just have to change the spelling of their company to Shittybank.

Originally posted 2011-11-20 02:00:27.

Stonewall

President Obama declared June 2009 Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgenders Pride Month, citing the rights that began at Stonewall Inn, 51 &53 Christopher Street, Greenwich Village, New York City, New York, United States of America on 29 June 1969.

Forty years since the event that is generally considered to be the beginning of the gay civil rights movement (though there were previous efforts at gay civil rights) President Obama makes a token gesture of recognition of the inequity individuals who are not part of the heterosexual majority suffer on a daily basis, but fails to mention that their is still no protection of sexual orientation in the United States and that many states have on the books laws which effectively attempt to make illegal same sex relationships (or at least sexual activities between same sex — and some anything considered deviant sexual activities even between legally married individuals).

Simply put, it is time for the United States of America to recognize and provided equality to each and every American regardless of their age, sex, creed, national origin, ancestry, race, color, sexual orientation, political affiliations, religion, beliefs, physical limitations, or marital status.

Plain and simple, all Americans are Americans and they deserve to be treated equally.

NOTE: June 1999 the US Department of the Interior designated 51 and 53 Christopher Street, the street itself, and the surrounding streets as a National Historic Landmark.

Let it forever be remembered that here—on this spot—men and women stood proud, they stood fast, so that we may be who we are, we may work where we will, live where we choose and love whom our hearts desire.
· John Berry, Assistant Secretary of the Department of the Interior

Originally posted 2009-06-01 02:00:39.

NO INCUMBENTS!

Several weeks ago I posted a “NO INCUMBENTS!” logo on my web site and BLOG.

What does it mean?

Simple, it means that if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.  And clearly our elected officials are not part of the solution — they are in fact the problem.

Look at our politicians and you will find one of the largest collections of self-centered, self-serving, egocentric, out-of-touch, power-hungry, whats-in-it-for-me group of people you will ever find.

Time and time again our politician make policy and law that benefit themselves and their friends, but not the common person who’s vote is necessary for them to gain and retain their office.

Join me and many others in deciding that their should be term limits, and impose those term limits by always electing to vote against the incumbent.

Take back your country, and once we have it back — we’ll take back all the special privileges the past politicians gave themselves (and if you think it’s not fair to them to take away something they promised themselves, why don’t you ask the people who they promised things to and took them away from).


INCUMBENTS

Originally posted 2010-04-15 02:00:40.

DHCP

DHCP, or Dynamic Host Configuration Protocol, is an internet standard defined by RFC1541 and later by RFC2131(as well as a few other RFCs relevant to other physical mediums) as an extension to BOOTP.

DHCP is a fairly elegant method to give client computers configuration information to allow them access to an IP network.

Conceptually the protocol is straight forward:

  • A client machine boots and activates it’s network adapter
  • A client machine requests IP configuration information
  • A server provides IP configuration information with a time specific lease
  • A client consumes the IP configuration information and setups up it’s network adapter
  • A client attempts to renew it’s IP configuration information when the lease has half expired
  • A client releases it’s IP configuration information when done with it
  • A server release client specific configuration information either when it’s been released by the client or the lease has expired.

Most home and small businesses use DHCP and they use their router / gateway device as the DHCP server (most of these devices default to enabling their DHCP server).

Some gateways allow you a great deal of control over the DHCP server, they allow you to set MAC address to IP bindings, specify the DHCP records to be provided.  Some gateways only allow you to turn on or off the service.

An option to running the DHCP server in your router / gateway would be to run it on a machine that is always on (or at least is one when any machine that might need DHCP services might be on).

Microsoft provides a DHCP server as part of their server operating systems (Server 2003 and Server 2008), ISC provides a DHCP server that can be run on a variety of operating systems, and there are a few shareware and open source DHCP servers that might fit your needs.

There’s no question that DHCP is the way to manage IP configuration information in a small network, and most business and enterprises use DHCP as well.

Alternately if you don’t have a device that does DHCP and don’t want to or can’t use a software solution you can use the “Alternate Configuration” panel on a Windows PC to setup the IP address configuration information and if a DHCP server is ever present it will override the information you’ve entered on the PC.  This is very handy for laptops that need to be configured by DHCP when they’re out and about or at the office, but when you don’t have a DHCP server at home and need to connect to another machine.  This is different than statically setting the IP address on the machine, if you do that you have to change the configuration each time you need DHCP.

Originally posted 2009-01-11 12:39:33.

Stuck in the toilet…

If the economy stays stuck in the toilet, I have a shot at beating Obama...
by Mike Luckovich

Originally posted 2011-07-06 02:00:52.

Angry Voters

Hey, I’m at the front of the line of people thinking it’s time for a change — and it’s time to throw out everyone we’ve elected and try someone and something new…

BUT

Someone needs to be the voice of reason here… just because we’re pissed (or as it was put)

…made as hell and not going to take it any longer…

That doesn’t mean we should be looking to angry leaders to solve our problems.

Yes, we should be looking for people who are fed up with those who have come before them; but leaders need a level head, they need to lead with reason not wrath.

Say yes to the growing anti-incumbent fervor that’s growing; but be very careful about aligning yourself with angry people who want power.

Originally posted 2010-05-29 02:00:31.

Apple – Double or Nothing?

Yesterday Apple announced another record quarter in sales.  In fact, iPhone sales doubled in Q4 2009 (a good holiday present for Apple).

Tomorrow Apples announces a new tablet computer (at least that’s the rumor of what they will announce).

Google has a lot of ground to catch up with Apple in the phone market, and it certainly doesn’t appear that Apple is going to just stand by and wait for them.

I guess the one thing that Apples numbers show is that there is money to be made in economic hard times if you’ve got something people want.

Originally posted 2010-01-26 01:00:44.