Autumnal Equinox 2017

September 22 2017 20:02 GMT

Netbook

I purchased a MSI Wind U100 a couple weeks ago for an “on-the-go” computer.

At $299 plus $99 for a 2.5″ SATA2 500GB Seagate hard drive and $15 for an additional 1GB of DDR2 it’s a fairly economical solution to use to browse the web on the go, send/receive email, mapping, GPS, music and videos, contacts, date book, etc.

I looked at all the options, but I choose this one because I wanted 2GB of memory (most of them come with only 512MB built in so you can only have 1.5GB total and a couple only allow 1GB total).

The Atom N270 processor is by no means a top performer, but it does a fairly good job and mine is running Vista Home Premium with no issues at all (it ships with Windows XP Home).

The only thing I dislike about it is the fact that the keyboard is so small; but if you want a small notebook you’re going to have to live with a small keyboard!

No one computer is right for everyone, so you’ll have to decide what’s right for your particular needs, what your intended use is, and your budget.  There are actually models of netbooks you can purchase with an AT&T wireless modem installed for $99 (of course you have a two year contract your saddled with).

Bigger than a PDA, but far more flexible!

Originally posted 2008-12-27 12:00:21.

Media Com – Followup

I got an email notifying me of my first (and last) Media Com statement about two weeks ago, only problem, I couldn’t access my bill online without the PIN printed on my first statement… a bit of a flaw in their system (nice of them to switch me to paperless billing before they sent the first statement).

And, of course, I’d already gone through customer service and been told that they will not provide me with the PIN over the phone (nor is it printed on anything they had given me to date)… so I had to ask that they send me a paper copy of my final statement.

The statement arrived on Saturday, and it had a balance (nice how their 30-day guarantee guarantees nothing but to waste your time). 

No only did the bill not have a zero balance (they had refunded my payment to my credit card), but it didn’t have the $20 credit for a missed appointment — so by any measure the bill was WRONG.

I called up customer service bright and early Monday morning, and actually spoke to a billing representative who seemed moderately bright… as she went through the bill she found more and more issues and from the tone of her voice was almost as disgusted as I was after reading the notes and looking over the bill.

Apparently the individual who closed the account noted the money back guarantee, but didn’t do anything about it.  The supervisor who refunded my credit card didn’t process the money back guarantee either, and that’s why the system re-billed me.  The system billed me for more family cable than it should have (on the first bill Media Com indicates you have to give them a seven day notice of disconnect, technically I told them when they failed to provide me reasonable speed internet that I was disconnecting — but even using seven days from when I turned in the equipment the system billed me for over two weeks).

You’d think that companies would build into their billing systems rules that enforced their policies… and who knows, maybe they do build in rules to enforce their billing polices and sending out fraudulent statements is the way they choose to do business.

Original Post

Originally posted 2009-08-15 01:00:59.

Air Time Free

If you have a flat rate cellular voice plan, you may not be interested in this article; but for most of us who simply don’t have cost effective options for flat rate plans this might help cut down on cellular bills.

Most cellular telephone companies off the ability to add one or more telephone numbers to your cell plan that will not be charged air time for inbound or outbound calls.  It goes by various names, A-List, Friends & Family, My Favs, My Circle, etc.

Unfortunately, all of them limit the number of telephone numbers you can designate as air time free to a fairly modest number.

But… by using Google Voice, you might find that one air time free number is really all you need to greatly reduce your monthly cellular expenses.

You can go to Google and read a fair amount about Google Voice, they’re adding new features all the time so I won’t even try and cover all of them; just a few that might be of help to you (by the way, the “Call Me” widget on my web site uses Google Voice, and it’s no cost to the caller or me).

So how exactly can you use Google Voice — or really what will be covered in this post is how I use Google Voice.

First, I setup a Google Voice account a few months ago, mainly to be able to give out a telephone number that I wouldn’t be bothered answering when I didn’t want to, and still be able to get voice mail (at my convenience).  Mainly I wanted to do this because I’m going to disconnect my home phone (AT&T offers “naked” DSL here, and since all my home phone does is provide telemarketers with a number to call I really don’t see a reason to ever answer it).

The Google Voice line worked great for receiving messages; I got them in my email inbox, and more times than not the voice to text transcription wasn’t very useful, but I could just click the link and listen to the message as well.

Second, I added my Google Voice number to my Verizon “Friend’s & Family” (what AllTel used to call “My Circle”) so that it would be air time free.  Partially because there would be times when I wanted to actually route my Google Voice number to a phone so I could answer it (say when I was expecting a call), but mostly so that I could use Google Voice for outbound calls to people who were not going to be air time free.

So to use Google Voice for air time free outbound calling you need to log onto the Google Voice web site (there’s a mobile version of it as well, so if you have an unlimited data plan you don’t even need to be near a computer to make use of it) and simply instruct it to make a call.  What happens is Google Voice calls you, then calls the number you instruct it to call and conferences you together.

To make all this air time free, you need to setup Google Voice to present you Google Voice call on inbound calls (that’s the number you specified as air time free with your cellular provider).  This, unfortunately, means that you don’t know who’s calling, but there are some Google Voice features that help there too (I’ll let you go through all the features yourself).

For outbound calls you could setup Google Voice to present your actual telephone number, but it makes more sense to have your Google Voice number presented (especially for toll free calls, remember that they always get your telephone number).

Now you might not care whether or not you get charged air time for a quick call to your doctor’s office to confirm an appointment, but when you’re going to be on the line with customer service for half an hour (or more) you might want to think about the extra step of using Google Voice.

Now let me make it perfectly clear.  I don’t trust Google with my personal and confidential information, so I would never have any sensitive data go through a Google Voice call; but hey, when it’s something like a customer service call people I don’t really trust with my information already have it.

You can request an invite to Google Voice, it’ll probably take ten days to two weeks before you get it.  I’d recommend setting up a Google Mail account as well (you can forward the message from the Google Mail account or you can directly access the Google Mail account with POP3/IMAP4) to go along with Google Voice.  In fact, even if you don’t expect to use Google Voice much, I’d say go ahead and setup an account now.

Also, Google Voice will be adding VoIP (SIP) service (they purchased Gizmo5) soon.

Originally posted 2010-02-10 01:00:49.

LA Auto Show

The auto show might be a no show…

With the big three US auto makers in dire financial shape, and most Americans finding themselves worrying more about how to put food on the table than considering a new vehicle… but the show must go on!

Some high lights:

  • The Mini Cooper Electric, the Mini E
  • The new Honda Insight [Concept] – redesigned to be more like the Toyota Prius, alledgedly with better fuel economy, and less expensive.
  • The new Ford Fusion and Mercury Milan hybrid sedans ($1000 more than the Toyota Camry hybrid)
  • The all-new Nissan Cube (similar to, but smaller than the Scion xB)

Several auto makers with drew plans to launch vehicles at the auto show.

Originally posted 2008-11-20 18:00:12.

Remember when…

Remember when it was just so darn easy to share files with other computers on your local area (home) network?  It was ever simple to share files between PCs and Macs.

Have you noticed that while Windows was once a very easy platform to share files with others from it’s become almost impossible to even share files between two PCs running the same version of Windows?

If Microsoft is seeking to make their operating system more secure by making it unusable I they are getting very close to realizing their objective.

I really have grown tired of the complexities of sharing folders between PCs, more and more I’m finding that just using Box or Dropbox, or Google Drive is a much more efficient way to transfer small numbers of files between two machines — even if it’s a one time transfer.  I mean, yeah, it’s kinda retarded to send files to cloud storage potentially on the other side of the country to just copy it to a machine that’s a few feet away — but let’s be serious, it’s quicker than figuring out why Windows say the same user (with the same password) on two different machines, who should have unlimited rights to a directory can’t copy a file from and certainly can’t copy a file to a machine.

Yeah, it may seem retarded, but the days of using *nix copy command between remote machines seems easier…

Microsoft needs to take a hard look at human factors, and not of all the wizzy new feature they keep adding to their operating system, but to the foundation features that people (all people) actually use day in and day out for productivity — after all, we don’t all have domains at home… and not only do we sometimes move files between machines we own, but occasionally some of us might have a friend with a laptop come over.

I guess that’s why I keep a few fairly large USB drives around, because Microsoft certainly doesn’t want to actually make computers that run their operating system usable.

Originally posted 2013-11-03 10:00:23.

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.

There is another sky

There is another sky
by Emily Dickinson

There is another sky,
Ever serene and fair,
And there is another sunshine,
Though it be darkness there;
Never mind faded forests, Austin,
Never mind silent fields –
Here is a little forest,
Whose leaf is ever green;
Here is a brighter garden,
Where not a frost has been;
In its unfading flowers
I hear the bright bee hum:
Prithee, my brother,
Into my garden come!

Web Servers

For several years I’ve used a combination of Microsoft IIS and Apache, which fits in with my belief that you choose the best tool for the job (and rarely does one tool work best across the board).

About a month ago I “needed” to do some maintenance on my personal web server, and I started to notice the number of things that had been installed on it… like two versions of Microsoft SQL Server (why a Microsoft product felt the need to install the compact edition when I already had the full blown edition is beyond me).

As I started to peel  away layer upon layer of unnecessary software I realized that my dependency on IIS was one very simple ASP dot Net script I’d written for a client of mine and adapted for my own use (you could also say I’d written it for my use and adapted it for them).

I started thinking, and realized it would take me about ten minutes to re-write that script in PHP and in doing that I could totally eliminate my personal dependency on IIS and somewhat simplify my life.

In about half an hour (I had to test the script and there was more to uninstall) I had a very clean machine with about 8GB more of disk space, and no IIS… and the exact same functionality (well — I would argue increased functionality since there was far less software that I would have to update and maintain on the machine).

Sure, there are cases where ASP dot Net is a good solution (though honestly I absolutely cannot stand it or the development environment, it seems to me like an environment targeted at mediocre programmers who have no understanding of what they’re doing and an incredible opportunity for security flaws and bugs)… but many times PHP works far better, and for very complex solutions a JSP (Java Servlet / JavaServer Pages) solution would likely work better.

My advice, think through what your (technical) requirements are and consider the options before locking into proprietary solutions.

Originally posted 2010-03-24 02:00:33.

Restoring Windows Boot Manager

If you’ve tried Linux (or another operating system) on your PC, and you’d like to return to just the Windows boot manager (and perhaps remove the other operating system) or if the boot manager that was installed is no longer working here’s a quick way to recover.

First, find your Windows installation disc (or an equivalent Windows installation disc).

Boot into install; on the first setup screen hit Shift+F10, that will open up a command prompt.

Execute the following commands:

  • bootrec /FixMbr
  • bootrec /FixBoot

Now reboot…

The Windows boot manager should be in control — you may need to correct the BCD entries, but generally those will be fine.

You may also want to review: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/927392

Originally posted 2013-12-30 12:00:31.