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GPS + Real Time Data

One of the toys I got when I stopped by the Microsoft Company Store was Streets and Trips 2008 with GPS and Connected Services.

Connected Services is what Microsoft calls the FM side band service that provides real time data.  Real time data like, traffic, construction, weather, gas prices, etc.  Other GPS vendors might call it something different, but essentially they are all the same.

I was really excited to be able to put it to the test — and driving around the Bay Area it worked great.

But, when I hit the open road I found a number of short comings.

  • There aren’t that many areas that have the service.
  • In areas that have the service construction data doesn’t seem to be updated.
  • Traffic data also seems to be slow (especially in non-rush hour times; like a major accident in Houston in the middle of the day on the weekend).
  • Plus it takes FOREVER for the receiver to obtain data (twenty minutes is what they say; and that’s any time you enter a new service area since it has nothing cached).

I still think the real time data is a great idea; but it’s not quite as useful to travelers as one might hope, and using it has certainly reduced my desire to go buy a new GPS receiver that includes the service.

Also, why don’t vendors allow you to use your phone to get data via the cellular network?  Many people like me (and iPhone users) have unlimited data plans… oh yeah — they couldn’t charge an arm and a leg for that service.

Originally posted 2008-10-13 16:00:51.

Federal Express is a SPAMmer

Yesterday evening I received an Unsolicited Commercial Email (UCE, aka SPAM) from Federal Express in violation of the California Professions and Business Code Section 17538.45.

Apparently Federal Express has taken to harvesting email addresses used in requesting tracking services and subscribing them to their marketing mailings lists without obtaining the permission of the owner of the email address (California law prohibits OPT-OUT policies, and requires that advertisers use OPT-IN methods).

Not only have I send a demand to Federal Expresses marketing campaign company and Federal Express demanding immediate payment of the fifty dollar fine specified by California Law; but I will no longer do business with Federal Express PERIOD.  That means I do not ship via FedEx, and I do not accept packages via FedEx, which means I don’t deal with vendors that use FedEx.

Originally posted 2009-02-19 01:00:25.

Windows 7 on a NetBook

Tonight’s project was upgrading my MSI U120 NetBook from Windows Vista Home Premium to Windows 7 Home Premium.

I put the disc in the external USB DVD drive, booted into setup, prepared the 500GB Seagate hard drive (I upgraded the hard drive to 500GB and the memory to 2GB right after I got the NetBook) for a single partition installation using diskpart (I had Acronis TrueImage Home on the NetBook, but I decided I didn’t want to put that on my new installations), and let it go…

Setup did it’s thing; rebooted, started up and then I ran the updates… and to my surprise every single device was functioning perfectly — including the web cam which Windows Vista needed me to install a driver manually for.

The machine even seems to run a little faster — though honestly I had no complaints with Vista; but I just use this machine to browse the web, email, and GPS, often from a cellular data connection.

The Atom N270 processor is is a little light weight for many tasks, but for what I use my NetBook for I’m quite happy with it; and quite pleased with how easy it was to install Windows 7 on the machine.

I really wish I had a touch screen PC to try out Windows 7 on… but that will have to wait until those come down in price [a lot] more.

One word of advice if you’re in the market for a NetBook — make sure that you can put more memory in it, while you may not have the fastest processor around, more memory and a faster hard drive will definitely give you much more performance.  Also, many of the newer NetBooks use a new generation of Atom processor which actually has fairly beefy performance.  But remember, if you need to use your NetBook for long periods where you don’t have access to power — you’ll have to weigh performance against power consumption for longer battery life.  For me, my NetBook is primary used in my truck or temporary accommodations — so power is always near by.

Originally posted 2009-11-27 01:00:38.

Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008

Last week Microsoft released the FREE version of the Microsoft Hyper-V Server 2008; this is a scaled down Server 2008 with Hyper-V install that allows you to run a light-weight virtualization host (much like many of the competitors in the virtualization world).

While there are some limits on this version — maxium 4 processors [don’t confuse that with cores; I think Microsoft counts physical processors not cores] and 32GB of memory.

You can get details on Hyper-V Server 2008 here:
http://www.microsoft.com/servers/hyper-v-server/default.mspx.

And you can download Hyper-V Server 2008 here:
http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyId=6067CB24-06CC-483A-AF92-B919F699C3A0&displaylang=en.

Originally posted 2008-10-16 11:08:09.

Microsoft Live Essentials

With Windows 7 Microsoft has removed email, instant messaging, address book, calendaring,  and movie maker from the Windows install.  If you run the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor it will direct you to Live.com (a Microsoft) site for tools that will add back these features to Windows.

Live.com has offered most all of these tools in one form or another for over a year; and for quite some time now the entire suite of tools.

I’ll just quickly list the features:

  • Live Messanger
  • Live Call
  • Live Mail
  • Live Writer
  • Live Photo Gallery
  • Live Movie Maker
  • Live Toolbar
  • Live Family Saftey

Live Messanger is the replacement for Windows Messanger, MSN Messanger it’s substantially the same as what ever Microsoft messanger you might use — with an updated look and feel and of course, new features.

Live Call is Microsoft’s entry into the voice communications market.  I’ve never used it, so I can’t really comment on it.

Live Mail is the replacement for Outlook Express and Windows Mail (for you Vista users).  It somewhat resembles both of it’s predecessors, but carries forward many of the refinements from Windows Mail; and introduces a number of “bugs” that had been stomped out long ago in the code line (I reported several during the BETA — they still haven’t been fixed, and I expect until they annoy someone on the Live Mail team they won’t be).  On feature that has been added that many will find useful is the ability to interface with Hot Mail/MSN Mail/Live Mail web mail directly (at no cost).

Live Writer is a WYSIWYG editor for BLOGing.  It interfaces to Live BLOGs as well as a number of blogging engines and web sites.

Live Photo Gallery is Microsoft’s attempt to get some of the media sharing market.  I don’t use it, but I’m sure they’ve figured out some way to make money from it (like all the others).

Live Movie Maker is the replacement for Windows Movie Maker.  I haven’t used it.  The previous software might be fine for novices; but I prefer to use Final Cut Studio on my Mac; so I don’t think my opinion of this software is relevant to the target audience.

Live Toolbar is like most toolbars, a waste.  Whether it’s invasive like most of them or not I can’t say — I have no need for toolbars; and you probably don’t either.

Live Family Saftey is designed to limit access to questionable internet sites and content.  I’ve never used it; but I would guess like most it errors on the side of caution.

There is also a Microsoft Office Outlook Connector, and Office Live Add-In which provide access to Live features directly from Microsoft Office (why?) that you can read about on your own.

Overall, many of the “free” tools in Microsoft Live Essentials are probably well worth the small amount of time and energy to download and install.  One note, make sure you uncheck the items you don’t want (you can add them later if you change your mind) and pay close attention to the attemp to change (and lock) your browser’s home page and search tool.

Microsoft Live Essentials

Originally posted 2009-11-22 01:00:50.

5 Tips To Help You Get A Closer Shave

5 TIPS TO HELP YOU GET A CLOSER SHAVE

by Mike Markel, June 19, 2013

5 Tips To Help You Get A Closer Shave

Most guys learned how to shave in their late teens and never had the opportunity to pick up proper shaving techniques, leading to the development of bad habits early on. If you’re a victim of razor burn, ingrown hairs, or nicks and cuts, we’re here to tell you that a proper shave is only a few steps away. In fact, it’s easier and less expensive than you may think. Throw out your notions of costly gels, eight-blade razors, and overpowering aftershave. Just follow the steps below for the closest, most comfortable shave you’ve had in years. Our tips will save you time and money so you can get on with your day and concentrate on the things that matter.

Step 1: The Pre-Wash

One of the most important steps for a close shave is the pre-wash. While you’re in the shower, be sure to wash your face thoroughly with a deep-cleaning product to remove oil and dirt from your pores. The deep clean helps to prepare your face for the shave and also softens the whiskers, reducing irritation.

Step 2: Choosing the Right Shaving Cream

The proper shaving cream is essential for a smooth routine. These days, you can find everything from the basic $2 foam-based creams your grandfather used to $50 luxury products infused with expensive oils and ingredients. Get rid of the idea that you need an expensive cream to get the most from your shave. Pick up a mid-range cream and it will work just fine. If you’re spending any more than $10, you’re paying too much. Work the cream into a lather and apply liberally to your face.

Step 3: The Razor

Say goodbye to razors with eight blades, batteries, and expensive replacement cartridges; all you need is a good old-fashioned two-blade razor with a gel comfort strip. The reason? While multiple blades may seem like a better option, the combo can actually lead to irritated skin and rob your wallet. We use the standard two-blade razor and sharpen it using an old pair of blue jeans to keep the blade straight and free of imperfections. A pack of two-bladed razors has an average cost of $6 to $8 and will last you for months if you take care of them properly, whereas a pack of multi-blade cartridges will cost you an average of $25 to $30.

Start with your cheeks and work your way toward your chin with short, even downward strokes. The key is to let the razor do the majority of the work. If you press too hard, you’ll either nick your skin or cause irritation. For the closest shave, carefully run the razor against the grain in areas that have remaining stubble. Be sure to clean your razor properly after each use. Run it under hot water until all the extra whiskers and debris are removed.

Step 4: The Post-Shave Face Steam

Once you’ve finished shaving, it’s time to clean those pores again. By now the pores have probably closed due to the temperature of the water or air in your bathroom, and a gentle reopening will ensure that any remaining dirt or oil is eliminated. Fill your sink with hot water and drop a washcloth in. Swirl the washcloth around until it’s soaked through and wring it out. Apply the washcloth to your face by either dabbing your skin or covering your face completely. Your face should feel refreshed and free of dirt and oil.

Step 5: Moisturizing

Last but not least, we need to protect all our handiwork. Choosing a moisturizer may seem like a complicated task, but many brands offer all-in-one solutions for men. Pick a moisturizer that has several features including SPF protection and mattifying technology. The SPF protection will ensure that your skin doesn’t suffer any further sun damage, and the mattifying formula will absorb oil from your forehead and nose.

All in all, this entire routine costs less than $2 a day if you’re the type of guy who shaves daily—not even that much if you shave every other day. Follow the routine for a week and we guarantee that you’ll have a closer, more enjoyable shave than you’ve had in years.

Originally posted 2013-10-12 12:00:00.

A signature Mac Book

But not from Steve Jobs, but rather Steve Balmer.

Last week Steve Ballmer, CEO Microsoft Corporation, participated in a meet and greet after speaking at Nashville Technology Council (held at Trevecca Nazarene University) and was ask to sign an individual’s aluminum Mac Book — and he did, right across the Apple logo!

Originally posted 2010-01-28 01:00:23.

Net-Neutrality Policy

Google and Verizon have announced an agreement on a policy proposal surrounding net neutrality.

You an read up more on that on:

While the agreement provides that traffic on the “public Internet” will be handled equally for all sources and destinations; it does not preclude vendors setting up private networks to carry traffic… a policy that could see resources that once might have been available to the “public Internet” only available to those who pay.

The proposal also limits the FCC jurisdiction to wireline; and exempts wireless broadband — and that could spell trouble in the ever growing dependency of American’s on carrying their Internet with them in the palm of their hand.

I have an innate distrust of big companies like Google and Verizon, and I’m pretty sure if they’re agreeing on anything , it’s not a good deal for me.

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

So you want to be in pictures…

Or rather should I say that you want to be able to play “moving pictures” on your computer…

You computer may have come with software for playing back video, DVDs, etc — or the operating system version you installed might support some formats; but eventually you’re going to reach a point where you want to play something that you don’t have support for and you might not feel like spending a lot of money.

There are two major issues with playing back media:

  1. Your computer needs software that is able to decode the audio and the video portions of the media; and
  2. Your computer needs software that is able to “break apart” the audio from the video.

The first piece of software is call a “decoder” — or often times a codec.  And you’ll hear things like MPEG1, MPEG2, MPEG4, H.264, etc for video and things like AC3, AAC, PCM, DTS, MP3, etc for audio.

The second piece of software is called a mux (specifically for play back a de-mux) — and those take particular containers and split them into the separate audio and video streams.  The file extension generally tell you about the “envelope” the data is contained in, or how it was muxed.  Some standards mux specifications, but even when the audio/video standard includes a way to mux the data, it might be in a richer envelope that supports alternate audio streams, alternate video streams, hyperlinks, closed captions, multiple languages, etc.

A growing open standard for containing audio and video is the Matroska format.  It’s generally designated as .mkv for audio/video files and .mka for audio files.

It’s a rich standard well supported on Windows, OS-X, and *nix platforms.

For more information visit the Matroska Offical Homepage:

You’ll not only find information on the Matroska format, but links to many free tools to help you play back that audio and video format you’re having trouble with.

Originally posted 2008-12-14 01:00:52.

Illegal Immigrants

Illegal Immigrants
By Arend Van Dam, 13-May-2011

Originally posted 2011-05-15 02:00:11.