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Google Music – Beta

Google has launched their cloud based streaming music service as a beta; you can request an invitation (using a Gmail account) via the link below.

What does it get you?

Well, up to 20,000 songs in your cloud storage; play back support on most Android devices; play back support from a browser; and an upload program that will sync your library to the cloud.

Not bad for free.

Apple provides a similar service for $25 per year; there’s no limit to the amount of music you can store.  The main differences being that there’s no Android support (basically devices iTunes supports is supported), and Apple actually finger prints the files and serves their iTune version of the music rather than your copy (likely at a higher bit rate — they, of course, don’t incur the storage overhead).

Amazon provides a similar service for $20 per year (you also get some storage for other files); and there’s no limit to the amount of music you can store, but you might find their uploader is a little less friendly to use (OK — to be fair it’s been updated since I tested it — so maybe not).

You can play with the free 5GB version of the Amazon service and decide if you like it, and it’s worth the $20 (I was hoping they’d just bundle it into Prime — but if they’re serious about Hulu they really need to start Al-a-cart charges for services, or Prime is going to have to go up).

Anyway, if you have an Android device, I highly recommend you go ahead and request an invite to the Google Music Beta — you can try the Amazon out as well… if you have an iOS device, you’re probably stuck with the Apple solution (but you’re an Apple customer, so you’re used to having to shell out money for everything).

Also, the Amazon tablets will reportedly ship with a free Prime subscription, possibly a free year of cloud storage might be thrown in as well (that’s speculation on my part).

http://music.google.com/about/

Originally posted 2011-09-10 02:00:28.

Joomla Review

Joomla is one of the most popular open source Content Management Systems (CMSs) around.

The core of Joomla is open source and free to use; however, there are many add-ons and themes for Joomla that are commercial.  In fact, what I found is particularly with themes, almost none of the free themes are what I would consider “professional”.

Joomla has an extraordinarily steep learning curve.  You can do almost nothing with the CMS right after installing it without reading a fairly significant amount of documentation.

Even after reading the documentation, it is fairly involved to differentiate a Joomla site from every other Joomla site (which is why generally it’s so easy to identify a site that uses Joomla).  Don’t get me wrong, you can build a very customized site using Joomla — however, mere mortals might have to hire a consultant.

Joomla to me is unnecessarily complex technology looking for problems to solve in a way that creates job security.  Did I say that? LOL

If Joomla does what you want, and Joomla will create the look-and-feel that you like, and you can understand (and are comfortable with) the paradigm — then have at it.  It certainly works, and it’s very solid.  However, you should consider the total cost of Joomla before you dive head on into it (and while the core system is free, you may find that themes, modules, and consulting adds up quickly).

http://joomla.org/

Originally posted 2010-04-04 02:00:27.

Domain Registrars and Hosting Companies

All domain registrars and hosting companies aren’t created equally…

If all you need from your domain registrar is just to get a domain, then find the absolute cheapest (and many have discounts for some TLDs from time to time)… but in general you might want DNS services, web redirects, email, etc… or even a full blown hosting plan — so it’s work looking around.

My domains are registered with, and hosted by 1and1.com — do I think they are the best… NO, but I do think they have a very good price for the services I happen to want, and their system works reasonably well.

But before you make a decision, you really need to decide what services you want, and look to see who offers what.

Ask your friends, a personal recommendation is one of the best ways to narrow the field.  Remember, though, not everyone wants the same services, so make sure you ask what services your friends get from the various companies, any problems they’ve had, anything they particularly like or dislike — and ask if they chose it because of a special promotional price.  The best deal today, won’t always be the best deal tomorrow.

Do you need your hosting company and your registrar to be the same?  Well, no you don’t…  Often though you’re going to find you get a better price overall by having the be the same.  That said, if you’re looking to move your domains from one place to another you might want to “try before you buy”.

I’d say the only requirement that a company has to have for you to consider them is a “money back guarantee”.  You can look over the information, play with their dummy control panel, etc all you want… but you won’t know if you like it (and it does the job) until you actually try to use it.

Most reputable hosting companies provide a 30-day money back guarantee.  I certainly ended up taking advantage of that at an “unlimited” hosting company.  And that’s something you just need to be sure they have.

The other thing to look at is what the contract term is for a reasonable price.  Some companies want you to sign up for three or four years to get a good price.  My advice is go with someone who gives you a competative price for thee to six months, and maybe even is offering a promotional package that extends the time you pay for.  Never sign up for more than a year unless it’s some incredible price, and then consider whether the company is likely going to be in business for the duration of the contract — and make sure they have a money back guarantee — and pay by credit card.

What if you only need domain registration?

Well, look at the prices charged, and any extra fees imposed.  You can check what the ICANN fee is currently, and contrast that with what the company is providing.  Odds are, though, you do want more than just a domain registration unless you do your own DNS, eMail, web, and blogs…

Here’s a partial list of feature you will probably want to consider:

Price

  • DNS (types of records you can create — additional domains, secondary domains)
  • email (POP, IMAP, SMTP — SSL/TLS — how many domains, how many accounts, forwarders, responders)
  • web (PHP, ASP, PERL, dot NET — how much storage, how much transfer, additional domains, secondary domains)
  • web applications (blogs, web page editors, etc)
  • database (MySQL, Postgress, Oracle, SQL Server — how large, how many)
  • access (FTP, Telnet, SSH, SFTP, SCP, WebDAV)

Here are a few companies to get you started:

  • JustHost
  • 1and1
  • NameCheap
  • Dotster
  • GoDaddy

And do an internet search on hosting companies – that will return quite a few.  Be mindful, many companies do business under multiple names.  I don’t generally consider this a very ethical practice; but not all companies who do this are dishonest.

 

One final personal note.

If NameCheap had more competative prices for hosting packages, and provided IMAP email I’d probably still be using them.  They do charge a little more than say 1and1, but they provide users the ability to control most every aspect of their domains.

I just moved all my domains from NameCheap to 1and1 when I decide I wanted to outsource my email, web, and blogs…

Originally posted 2008-05-12 13:17:53.

Just Say No Brown Bailout

Read up on the maneuvering United Parcel service is aiming for in the US Congress to attempt to limit competition in the form of the FAA Reauthorization bill that could make labor costs increase radically for Federal Express.

Time to put an end to special interest legislation; time to vote out senators and representatives who cater to special interests — hell, in my mind time to vote out every incumbent!

http://www.brownbailout.com/

Originally posted 2010-09-12 02:00:37.

Apple Apps Only???

WTF is it with businesses that have only Apple iOS Apps?  Hello, Open Handset Alliance (Android) devices account for nearly 60% of all smartphones / tablets shipped… iOS accounts for less than 20% (only slightly more than Windows smartphones / tablets)… why on Earth would a business make a decision to provide a service to far less than a quarter their potential customers and ignore over half of them???

Sure, I understand that Apple exists mainly because they’re trendy — but for businesses it’s not about being kewl, it’s about money in the bank.

Maybe what these businesses that choose to ignore me and those who choose Android need to see are people choosing to ignore them…

Originally posted 2013-05-24 16:00:38.

Quiet And Cool Computers

The last two iterations of computers I build were intended to be quiet and cool…

Like so many things about computers, keeping them quiet and cool requires maintenance.

Remember that saying “Cleanliness is next to godliness”?  Well — cleanliness definitely determines how quiet and cool your computer will be!

Dust and particulates are everywhere; and while a whole house air filter will help reduce the amount in the air, pets and open windows are going to increase it.  And unfortunately, dust restricts airflow and is a fair thermal insulator.

I recommend that twice a year you open up your computer and “dust” the inside — that can be done very carefully with a flux brush (or art type brush with natural fiber bristles) and a vacuum cleaner.  The insides of your computer are delicate, but certainly it’s fine to clean them.  Any fine fins or grates you can use the brush to break the dust free, and the vacuum to get it away from the inside of the computer.

After you clean your computer you will probably notice that the fans make a lot less noise, which means your computer is running quieter and cooler.

Originally posted 2008-08-25 21:53:00.

ReCellular

Buy, sell, recycle…

Save yourself a little cash, make yourself a little cash, or just do a little to help the environment.

Checkout available refurbished cellular handset’s and accessories at ReCellular.com, sell your old handsets, or print a free shipping label to recycle your old handsets.

http://www.recellular.com/

ReCellular

Originally posted 2010-04-26 02:00:15.

Virtualization Best Practices, Using UnDo

One of the most powerful features of virtualization is the ability to use undo disk (also called snapshots and checkpoints).

What this allows you to do is set the machine in a mode where you can decide at a later date whether or not you want to keep the changes — which is a great way test out new software in a virtual environment (NOTE:  Acronis TrueImage provides a similar capability in physical machines).

The penalty of using undo disks is that you have to commit all the changes or none of the changes; and the system will run slower.

An alternate to using the built in undo technology of the virtualization system is to copy the disk before you start the machine (it’s just a file on your hard drive), and restore it back afterwards.  Sometimes this is a better solution, particularly if you need the virtual machine to run as fast as possible and you’re not worried about the time it takes to make a copy of the disk before you run the virtual machine (NOTE:  you can simply delete the modified disk and move the copy into place when you’re done — that’s almost instantaneous).

One other thing you’ll want to be sure of is that you start the machine with undo disabled when you want to update the operating system and do maintenance.  You’ll also want to make sure that any checkpoints the operating system has created (Windows calls them “restore points”) are deleted before you complete your maintenance cycle; there’s certainly not any reason (generally) why you’d want multiple levels of “undo”.

I often use the “undo” feature to try out software I download from the internet.  I have a test machine setup with a virus scanner and I can monitor the changes the installation and running of the software attempt to make to the machine.  Plus I can try out the software and decide if it’s something valuable of not.  And there is the case where I will only need to run it once (or very rarely) and don’t want it polluting my real machine.

Developing the discipline of using virtualization with “undo” enabled can save you from a number of headaches, and is in itself a great reason to consider installing and using virtualization technology.

Originally posted 2009-01-14 12:00:42.

Caveat emptor

Since 1817 consumers should have been aware of the need to be watchful when purchasing goods and services — never has that been more true than now.

From what I’ve been reading many food companies have been quietly changing the amounts in their containers without making any visible changes in their packaging except the labeling.

So, while that can of potato chips might look like it’s the same size as you got last month, it might not have as many in it — but the price has stayed the same (which means you’re getting less for your money).

It’s tough economic times, transportation costs are highly variable, and prices are going to vary widely from week to week and store to store…

Be an educated consumer and make it Caveat venditor… after all, it’s your money, you should keep as much of it as you can.

Originally posted 2008-11-11 08:00:15.

Tax on the super rich.

There is a good read in The Fiscal Times, an article by Bruce Bartlett that looks at the argument over Warren Buffet’s statement about raising taxes on the super rich.

It’s a one-dimensional argument; but it does bring into question the pillar of the argument has been used to support lowering the tax rate on the super rich.

One thing I will note before sending you off to read this — it’s not the tax rate so much we should be thinking of, but the effective tax rate.  When large corporations and wealthy individuals pay their taxes they often take advantage of numerous deductions that ordinary people cannot (so called loop-holes)… so their effective tax rate ends up being near zero.

I personally think that a tiered flat tax (with no deductions/exemptions), or a value added tax (assessed at each point a good or service is transferred) are the better solutions to creating a tax system that is far less expensive to implement/enforce, and much fairer overall to everyone.

If the current system is kept, not only do the tax brackets need to be changed (as well as the way they work), but the entire tax code needs to be overhauled to remove the loop-holes (and simplify it).

Buffet May Be Right, but the Top Tax Rate is Wrong by Bruce Bartlett, The Fiscal Times

Originally posted 2011-08-20 02:00:28.