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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.

“Honest Services” Law

Last Thursday the Supreme Court greatly narrowed the scope of a federal fraud law frequently used to prosecute white-collar criminals.

And guess who might benefit from the decision…

Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling among a host of others.

The Supreme Court ruling was the result of an appeal Jeffery Skilling brought before the court.  Skilling actually ask that the “honest services” law be struck down as unconstitutional as well as asking for a new trial since he claimed he didn’t get a fair trial in Houston (I personally don’t recall him requesting a change of venue — so apparently he felt he’d fair better there than most other places people felt he’d defrauded them out of their life savings).

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s written option stated that prosecutors could continue to seek honest services fraud conviction in cases where their is sufficient evidence to show defendants accepted bribes or kickbacks.  Of course Jeffery Skillings isn’t accused of accepting bribes or kickbacks, just filling his pockets with money at the expense of his investors and customers by knowingly manipulating the energy market.

The court did not specifically throw out any of the nineteen counts against Skilling, nor did they agree to a new trial.

I’m sure former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, and ex-HealthSouth CEO Richard Scrushy, former newspaper magnate Conrad Black, former Alaska lawmaker Bruce Weyhrauch as well as other will be quick to see what this new ruling might do to help them.

Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, and John Paul Stevens were the dissenters; and I once again have to ask what box of cereal Justice Ginsberg clipped her law degree from.

I know, this is America, land of the free; but where the more cash you have, the more “equitable” the law.

Originally posted 2010-06-25 02:00:00.

AT&T Cell Phone Rates

I was looking at AT&T cellular rates; primarily because I was thinking about getting a SIM card to play with, and it struck me that the pre-pay rates seemed like they were less than the regular contract rates (yeah — you get a discount phone with a contract, but unlocked GSM phones are fairly easy to find).

So, AT&T wants $69.99 for an unlimited talk/text plan per month; plus an activation fee — and for that 2 year contract you get a discounted handset.

AT&T also offers and unlimited talk/text plan for $60 per month (pre-pay) and there doesn’t seem to be any activation fee and of course no contract (you don’t get a discounted handset; but often you can buy GoPhones for “free” when you consider some of them have SIMs loaded with airtime).

AT&T also offers the unlimited talk/text plan for $2 per day (only days you use)… so if you weren’t a heavy user you might find this works out great for you.

Now there is a catch with pre-pay; you can roll over you minutes from period to period as long as you keep add money to your account; and if you add less than $25 you’ll have to add more in 30 days, if you add $25 or over then you have 90 days, and $100 (or more) you have a year… so it probably makes sense to add either $25 when you need it (or every 90 days) or you could do the $100, but that’s a fair amount of money to have sitting in an account not being of any real use to you.

There is also a $75 plan that provides unlimited talk and text for the month, plus 200MB of data (that’s a little over $20 worth of data for $15, which only makes sense if you’re going to peg you data usage right at 200MB — if you go substantially under you may well be better off just paying the $0.01/KB).

You can still get a much better deal for cellular with other companies; and their are unlimited flat-rate resellers of AT&T GSM service ($40/month) in many areas; plus there’s MetroPCS (which offers 4G service in metro areas they serve) and Cricket (which has fairly good roaming coverage) that offer very aggressive pricing in markets they serve.

Bottom line, figure out how you’re going to use your cell phone, and find a plan to will work the best for you.

FYI – if you need/want an AT&T SIM card, look on eBay, you can get a 64KB new SIM card for $3.49 delivered (AT&T would charge you $24.95 plus tax).

Originally posted 2010-10-28 02:00:15.

NoFlix

Perhaps NetFlix should consider changing their name to NoFlix.

I can’t get over companies that charge for services, fail to deliver the services they promise, and then tell you that they’re not going to refund you a penny.

Yep — that appears to be NetFlix’s policy. I’m waiting on confirmation from Reed Hastings NetFlix CEO (I’ll follow up with anything I receive, if I receive anything) — but that’s what I was told by Sean Callaghan today after I called because NetFlix was down (unable to stream to any of my multitude of NetFlix enabled devices — or any of my friends either) for quite some time.

I was told it was due to a “service outage” beyond NetFlix’s control.

But let me provide a few more highlights of my call. When the agent I spoke with proved to be unable (or unwilling) to resolve any issue I was having — I requested a supervisor. Originally I was told that he was a supervisor and he did not have any manager there. That was then modified to be that he would not escalate the call (suggesting there were actually at least one manager there), and when that change was questioned he again modified the statement along the lines of there was no reason to escalate the call because he had answered my questions. Of course, he was apparently to say anything he wanted since he also told me that NetFlix does not record customer service calls when I ask him. That one statement really does say it all… I don’t think there’s much I can add.

Also, I pointed out — this evening was the only time this month I had cared to watch a movie (I think I had demonstrated NetFlix streaming on my Droid for maybe 3 minutes total — but I don’t really consider that using the service)… and I had no NetFlix DVD in the house, so I expected to be able to sit back and enjoy a movie via the “unlimited” streaming service I paid for each and every month from NetFlix (even though I rarely use it).

Well… not only do I have to say I find NetFlix’s service questionable, but when you consider how difficult they make it to contact them on an issue (NetFlix enabled devices aren’t even an option to report an issue to them) — how long they expect you to stay on hold, and how completely inept their customer service staff impressed me as being — I see no reason why I’d want to send them any of my money, much less putting up with them almost doubling the cost of what I have in a month (which I might add will be four times what I paid when I first signed up for NetFlix, not all that long ago).

I would say that the only thing the agent on the phone was able to do competently was cancel my account; but even that he proved to be inept at — and failed to tell me before doing so that NetFlix wasn’t going to refund anything for unused service.

It’s a joke — and the customer service agent couldn’t reference me to anything that provided information support his claim that NetFlix wasn’t going to refund any of my service fees (even though over one third of my bill cycle remains).

Then I tried to access both there “Terms of Use” and their “Privacy Policy” through both links in the emails they send and the footer on their web site as was presented with “The page isn’t redirecting properly” — I guess yet another “service outage” that was beyond their control.

I’ve closed the virtual card number I used to pay for NetFlix services; and I’ve filed a charge back dispute with Citibank… if they decide not to reverse the charges to my account; well, then I guess I can eliminate a credit card from my wallet as well.

Personally I’m tired of companies promising to provide services, then continually increasing the charges, decreasing the services, and feeling like they have no responsibility to actually fulfill their commitments to customers.

I can say this categorically — I will never use NetFlix again. Amazon provides similar services at better prices, and I have great faith that Amazon will work very hard to meet the expectations they set for their customers… and if they fail, I’m betting you won’t even have to ask for a refund, they’ll be one step ahead of you.

Most every one I know is canceling their NetFlix service before the rate increase in September, and that was my intent anyway — but as of today, I live in a NetFlix free zone, and encourage everyone to ban those red envelops from their mailbox and streaming services from their devices and computers — support a company that deserves your business and watch yet another failure shrivel away and die.

Originally posted 2011-07-22 02:00:36.

Google +

So I’ve had a Google+ account for awhile, and now I guess everyone else in the world (who has a GMail account — Google hosted accounts are excluded for the time being) can have a Google+ account now.

My questions is…

What do I do with it?

I mean why would I use it verses Facebook or Twitter (or any one of the other useless sites I’ve avoided like the plague)?

Originally posted 2011-09-20 01:00:26.

Bait and switch rates?

Yesterday (Monday 6-Jul-2010) at 4:15pm I stopped by Gulf Winds Federal Credit Union to open up an IRA Certificate of Deposit; I’d been in the process of transferring money from one institution to another (and it took much longer than it should have — but since two institutions were involved, it’s hard to know which was responsible for the delay).

Anyway, I ended up having to wait 45 minutes to be helped; that gave me plenty of time to look over the posted rate board — and I’d decided that the 2.09% for a 24-month IRA-CD looked reasonable (I’d have preferred 18 months or less, but I wanted a reasonable return rate, and I don’t really expect the economy to start to rebound for several years).

The customer service representative that helped me (the “Financial Services Representative”) ask me which CD I was interested in and I told him — the 24-month 2.09% APR; he immediately said, that the 24-month IRA-CD was 1.97%, not 2.09% — that it had changed on Friday 2-Jul-2010 and they simply hadn’t gotten around to posting it on their rate board.

WTF?

I’ve long been under the impression that financial institutions understand the importance of posting accurate rate information — and I thought most any ethical institution understands the legal (even if they don’t understand the moral) implications of posting fraudulent information.

When I got home I filed complaints with the State of Florida Attorney General’s office (in Tallahassee, FL) and the National Credit Union Administration, Region III office (in Atlanta, GA) requesting that they investigate the business practices of Gulf Winds Federal Credit Union.



Post Note: The VP of Operations contacted me this morning (7-Jul-2010) and Gulf Winds Federal Credit Union will honor the rate as posted yesterday (for me at least).

Originally posted 2010-07-07 02:00:32.

Windows Component Clean Utility

When you install Windows V6 SP2 you will also get the Component Clean Utility (compcln.exe).

This utility will remove previous component versions from your computer, saving disk space and reducing the size of the installation catalog.

The caveat is that once you remove previous components you will not be able to go back to them.

Before running this utility it’s prudent to insure that you computer is stable after the last update and to create a backup (using something like Acronis or with the included tool that comes with Vista).

Performing simple maintenance tasks and reducing the amount of “fluff” on your disk (remember, the disk clean tool is a good thing to run occassionally as well — and even the included disk defragmenter will help after a great deal of use [though not as much as something like O&O Defrag]) will help keep your computer running well and running fast[er].

Originally posted 2009-06-09 11:00:12.

LTE Android

We now know about the first round of LTE/4G Android handsets from the big players…

Motorola will supply Verizon with the Droid Bionic and the Droid X 2; and will supply AT&T with the Atrix (which doesn’t get Droid branding).  Of these phones, the Atrix is by far the winner; apparently Verizon chose to have the handset neutered on their network.

HTC will supply Verizon with the Thunderbold, but Verizon delayed the release — rumor has it in order to prevent iPhone 4 adopters from potentially returning their handsets during their “no worries” return period for what may well be a far superior phone.

Samsung will supply Verizon with the SCH-i502, and not many details about that; and MetroPCS with the Indulge (already available).

LG will supply MetroPCS with the Optimus M (already available), and a similar phone for Verizon.

The really interesting thing about all of this is that none of these phones are slated to ship with Android 2.3.x (Gingerbread) — they’ll all ship with Android 2.2 (Froyo); and there are rumors that we might see 2.4 (Ice-cream sandwich) rather than 2.3 as the next update.

Google has confirmed that 2.4 will be merge of Honeycomb 3.0 (designed for tablets) with Gingerbread 2.3 (designed for phones).

Word is to expect the next version of Android in April… so we should be sorting out the rumors in the next few weeks.

NOTE1:  Keep in mind that handsets for Verizon and MetroPCS are CDMA/LTE; and those for AT&T are GSM/LTE… it wouldn’t be out of the realm of possibilities to see a CDMA/GSM/LTE worldphone soon.

NOTE2: Verizon LTE is 700Mhz (the old analog TV spectrum in the US), MetroPCS LTE as well as Leap (aka Cricket Communications) LTE is 1.7Ghz AWS (Advanced Wireless Spectrum — which is also used in Mexico) — so the handsets are not compatible unless specifically designed to support both radio frequencies.  European LTE is 2.5-2.69GHz, but there is push to clear the 700MHz spectrum for LTE there as well.

NOTE3: Sprint uses 2.5MHz WiMax technology (utilizing the Clear data network); Europe also has sectioned off 2.5MHz for WiMax.

Originally posted 2011-02-23 02:00:11.

OpenGEU – Luna Serena

Let me start by saying I like OpenGEU quite a bit; it’s a very nicely done distribution, it seems to be solid, and it seems to have most of what an individual would want loaded by default.

However…

It’s not really very Mac-ish.

So before I continue talking about my finding on OpenGEU I want to redefine the parameters…

In my mind it’s not necessary for an operating system to mimic Windows or OS-X in order to have a reasonably good usability, in fact we can see from the steady evolution of the operating system and the money and resources that Microsoft and Apple throw at the problem that they don’t have it right — they just feel they’re on the right path.

So… I’m not looking for a Mac clone (if I were I would have put Hackintosh on the original list); I’m looking for an operating system default installation that achieves a highly usable system that non-computer users will be comfortable using and highly productive on from the start.

Now I feel like I should find an attorney to write me a lengthy disclaimer…

OpenGEU may well be a very good candidate for non-computer users who wish to find alternatives to Microsoft and Apple (either because they simply don’t have the money to stay on the upgrade roller-coaster or because they feel they do not want their productivity and destiny tied so closely to a commercial software venture).

OpenGEU installs easily, it creates a simple, easy to use, easy to understand desktop environment.  Most every tool you might want or need is there; and of course the package manager can help you get updates and new software fairly easily.

While I cannot tell you that all the multimedia software that I would like to see are present by default, there’s enough to get the average user started.

The overwhelming characteristic of OpenGEU that I feel I must underscore is how clean the appearance is — a testament to the fact that a designer may in fact be much better qualified to create human usable software than an engineer is.

OpenGEU makes the cut; and deserves a thorough evaluation.

I’ll publish a much more extensive article on OpenGEU when I’ve finished going through the candidates and had more time to use it… but I’m excited at the possibilities!

OpenGEU

Originally posted 2010-01-06 01:00:41.

The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln

Friday Fourteen April Nineteen-hundred and Sixty-five (Good Friday) Confederate sympathizer (and possibly Confederate agent) John Wilkes Booth shot and fatally wounded President Abraham Lincoln as one part of a much larger conspiracy.

Assassination has a long history of being used to force political change; however, Abraham Lincoln was the first of four sitting American presidents to be assassinated (there have been many more attempts).

While it’s clear at this juncture there is a need for a radical change in our government, my hope is that it can be achieved through peaceful, constructive change.

Originally posted 2010-04-14 01:30:45.