Entries Tagged as 'Technology'

Virtulization, Virtulization, Virtulization

For a decade now I’ve been a fan of virtulization (of course, that’s partially predicated on understanding what virtualization is, and how it works — and it’s limitation).

For software developers it offers a large number of practical uses… but more and more the average computer user is discovering the benefits of using virtual machines.

In Windows 7 Microsoft has built the “Windows XP” compatibility feature on top of virtualization (which means to use it you’ll need a processor that supports hardware virtualization — so many low end computers and notebooks aren’t going to have the ability to use the XP compatability feature).

While Windows 7 might make running older programs a seamless, you can (of course) install another virtualization package and still run older software.

Which virtualization package to choose???

Well, for me it’s an easy choice…

  • Windows Server 2008 on machines that have hardware virtualization – HyperV
  • Windows 7 on machines that have hardware virtualization – Virtual PC
  • All others (Windows, OS-X, Linux) – Virtual Box

Now, the disclaimers… if I were running a commercial enterprise; and I didn’t want to spend the money to buy Windows Server 2008, Microsoft does offer Windows Server 2008 – Virtual Server Edition for no cost (you really need one Windows Server 2008 in order to effectively manage it — but you can install the tools on Vista if you really don’t have it in your budget to buy a single license).

And no, I wouldn’t choose Linux OR OS-X as the platform to run a commercial virtualization infrastructure on… simply because device support for modern hardware (and modern hardware is what you’re going to base a commercial virtualization infrastructure on if you’re serious) is unparalleled PERIOD.

If you’re running Vista or Vista 64 you may decide to user Virtual PC ( a better choice would be Virtual Server 2005 R2); but Virtual Box is being actively developed, and it’s hardware reference for virtualization is much more modern (and I feel a better choice).

To make it simple… the choice comes down to Microsoft HyperV derived technology or Virtual Box.  Perhaps if I were a *nix biggot I’d put Xen in the loop, but like with so many Linux centric projects there are TOO MANY distributions, and too many splinter efforts.

One last note; keep in mind that you need a license for any operating system that you run in a virtual environment.

Originally posted 2009-08-12 01:00:34.

Cloud Storage

 There are tons of free (and paid) cloud storage services… and you can use more than one of them (I actually use all of the following myself).

 

Amazon

Amazon changes their cloud storage option fairly often, currently it’s 5GB free with 250 songs — the subscription for storage and music storage are separate now.

 

Box

50GB of storage.  Works with Windows, Max, Android, and iOS – plus there are several other apps that allow easy migration of files to Box.

 

DropBox 

2GB of storage plus an extra 500MB for using the above link to sign up (there are other bonuses you can get as well).    Works with Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, iOS, and BlackBerry.

 

GoogleDrive

If you have a Google GMail account (or Google App account) you already have this, just sign in to activate it.  Works with Windows, Mac, Android, and iOS — probably others as well.  The storage amount you get seems to vary based on when you sign up.  NOTE:  Google Music is stored separately.

 

SkyDrive

If you have an MSN, HotMail, Live or any other Microsoft hosted/provided account you already have access to it.  Works with Windows, Android, iOS — probably others as well.  The storage amount you get seems to vary based on when you sign up.

 

Ubuntu One

5GB of storage, plus an extra 500MB for using the above link to sign up.  Works with Windows, Mac, Ubuntu (Linux), Android, and iOS – plus can be used automatically to store large Thunderbird attachments (great if you’re sending the same attachment to several people).

Originally posted 2013-08-27 11:10:21.

Affordable RAID5 NAS

What a difference a year makes in the storage market… 1TB drives cost under $150 each and Network Attached Storage devices are almost consumer grade.

For about $300 you can purchase a Promise Technology SmartStore NS4300N; put up to four SATA-II hard drives in it and have yourself a fault tolerate storage device that your Windows, Mac, and *nix computers can access via their native file sharing protocols, and manage it via your browser.

The device is derived from an Intel reference design, obviously using Intel technology.  It’s got relatively good performance, very easy to use, and provides anyone with any computer ability a simple fault tolerate storage device of up to 1.5TB (assuming you buy four 1TB drives, and configure it for RAID5).

The technology of this device is very similar to the 16-channel SATA-II RAID5/6 controllers I use in my servers, and the device is somewhat like the Infrant ReadyNAS 600s that I was quite fond of (Infrant was acquired by NetGear, and since then they have been slow to innovate, and maintained what I would say is an outdated pricing model).

There’s a host of reasons beyond just having a fault tolerant storage device that makes something like this a potential buy.  You don’t need to keep computer’s your using on to access data (that can be important if you have multiple computers), you don’t need to worry about backing up your data if you need to re-install your operating system, you don’t need to worry about how to share data between Windows and Mac.

The only downside I’ve found to the Promise verses the Infrant devices is that Promise botched the implementation of spin-down; so the devices keep the drives spinning all the time.  Yeah, it would say a little power to spin down the drives when they weren’t being access (at the cost of taking longer to access data once they’ve spun down), but with today’s drives we’re not talking about that much power — and you have options when purchasing drives of ones that have “green” / high-efficiency ratings.

For both small business, and personal use for those who depend on storage I highly recommend you consider a device like this.

 Promise SmartStore NS4300N

Originally posted 2008-05-15 22:11:53.

Image and drawing programs

Most people don’t need a very sophisticated image editing or drawing program to meet their needs.

It’s simply insane that many people shell out the money for crappy products like Adobe PhotoShop, Adobe Illustrator, or Microsoft Visio for the work they need to do.

Simple image (digital photograph) editing can be done with a number of free software packages.  For many Google Picasa or Microsoft Live Photo Gallery will do everything that’s needed and allow for easy posting of images to a web site for others to view.

For people who want a little more power, and not to be so tightly wed what Google or Microsoft think you should do with your digital assets there are other good choices.

Paint dot Net for Windows is a good basic image editing program.  It will satisfy most of your digital image editing needs.  It does only run on Windows, so if you’re looking for something for your Mac (because you don’t like iPhoto) or something for Linux…

GIMP is a highly portable image editing program.  It isn’t basic, it’s sophisticated and can require a moderate learning curve (think Adobe PhotoShop).  There are versions of it available for most any Linux distribution, Windows, and OS-X.  It’s totally free, and the choice of many casual and professional users.

If your needs are more along the lines of diagramming, you could simply use the Draw component in OpenOffice.  Draw is plenty capable to do meet most of your diagramming needs.  However, if you want something with more capabilities…

Dia is intended to create structured drawings.  It has many of the capabilities of Visio and simple CAD type programs.  It’s absolutely free, and available for most Linux distributions, Windows, and OS-X.

Obviously there are cases where you will need to pay a licensing fee for software; but if you’re a home user I’m sure you have much better places to put your hard earned cash.

Also, if you do feel you must buy PhotoShop, make sure you allocate the time and money to take a course at your local community college — it’s not likely you’re going to become very proficient using it on your own.

Originally posted 2010-01-16 02:00:46.

Smartly Made Smart Phones

I’ve owned a Windows based smart phone for around a decade; when I first saw and played with the iPhone I thought it was interesting, but it really brought little more to the table than HTC had already done with their UI on top of Windows mobile had… with one notable exception — the app store.

I’d probably have been willing to try the iPhone except for a number of characteristics I found totally unacceptable.

  1. The iPhone was only available on AT&T (I’ll choose my carrier, thank you very much);
  2. The iPhone didn’t have a keyboard (and I mean a real keyboard, not a virtual keyboard that takes two thirds of the screen);
  3. The iPhone was a closed platform totally under the control of Apple; and
  4. The iPhone was overpriced.

Any one of these would have likely prevented me from buying an iPhone, but in total it was a no-brainer.

Then, a little over two years ago (23 September 2008); Google released a handset manufactured for them by HTC running an open source version of Linux specifically designed for use on portable devices.

That was the T-Mobile G1 running Android (aka HTC Dream)…

Today there are a large number of Android based handsets on the market — and the number grows almost daily — and we’re not limited to just a single vendor or single carrier… almost every cell phone handset manufacturer has at least one Android based handset, and every US carrier supports Android handsets.

The official release of Android is version 2.2; and while some manufacturers have not provided that updates to older handsets, the open source community has put a great deal of effort into providing custom builds of Android that bring the newer features to older handsets (including many phones originally intended to run Windows mobile).

Android is a revolution in smart phones.

Not necessarily because Google has done everything right, but because Google has leveraged many parts of the development and manufacturing communities and allowed each to do what they do best.  These contributions push Android in multiple directions simultaneously; allowing Google to use the best and most promising along with their own ideas to pave a path for Android.

Now it’s worth noting that Google didn’t do this because they’re philanthropic and just want what’s best for everyone — they did it because having control of the smart phone market (and tablet market) or at least not being locked out of it; allows them to generate a revenue stream through advertising and collecting demographics to target that advertising.

But are they any different from cellular carriers and other companies offering smart phones — not really; but they are better at doing what they do (and I don’t mean developing technology, I mean making money with advertising).

As consumers we’re not really interested in the technology under the hood; we’re only interested in what it does for us, what it costs, and the eye candy it presents.

To me, though, what we should praise in Android is that it will not be a platform that limits, but rather accommodates.

Originally posted 2010-10-09 02:00:43.

SPF / DKIM

SPF (Sender Policy Framework) and DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) are two methods to help indentify email which is likely not SPAM.  SPF was originally proposed in 2003 by Meng Weng Wong and Wayne Schlitt (SPFv1 RFC4408) as an open standard (SPF is backed by the Sender Policy Framework Council); DKIM originally merged and enhanced DomainKeys from Yahoo and Identified Internet Mail from Cisco (RFC4870 superseded by RFC4871) forming an open standard (DKIM is backed by an industry consortium).

Both SPF and DKIM attempt to provide information to receiving SMTP servers about whether or not a particular email message is authentic.

SPFv1 uses a very simple approach where a domain’s DNS server provides a root level TXT record that supplies information about SMTP mail servers that are permitted to originate domain email.

DKIM uses a more complex digital signature on each message (information about which is stored in a sub-domain in domains DNS containing self-signed keys).

You can read up on the specifics of each through the reference links provided below.


SPF (Wikipedia)

Microsoft SPF Record Wizard · OpenSPF Wizard

DKIM (Wikipedia)

Originally posted 2010-03-06 02:00:56.

No Facebook

As I’ve said more than once, I view Facebook as something people who don’t have a life who want to pretend they do use… people with lives are too busy living them.

 

No Facebook

Originally posted 2013-12-20 20:00:48.

HTML5

Both Apple (in an essay by Steve Jobs) and Microsoft (from the general manager of IE) have put a stake in the ground — the future of the web is in HTML5 and Adobe Flash is nothing more than a transitional technology that had no place in the future… of course with that, Microsoft has also indicated the IE9 won’t be supported by Windows XP, so it too obviously will have no place (in their minds) in the future.

I would agree that Flash has no place in the future; of course, I felt it had no place in the past either… but the glut of mediocre web designers and the masses need for eye candy seemed to give Flash a leg up in the past, and my bet is will continue to keep it alive long into the future.

Additionally, my guess is Windows XP will do just fine — after all, you can run Operate, FireFox, Chrome, and Safari today on that platform, and all of those will likely continue to develop for and support Windows XP in the future.  All of those are far better browsers than IE is today, and I suspect that’s a pretty safe bet for tomorrow.

In fact, Chrome, Opera, and Safari all support HTML5 today (and score 100/100 in the ACID3 tests)…

Apple on HTML5

Microsoft on HTML5

Originally posted 2010-05-05 02:00:07.

How To Bid On eBay

Let me start by saying this isn’t eBay for dummies — you should familiarize yourself with the basic operation of the eBay web site through another resource.  What I hope to provide you with is a rational for how to bid successfully on eBay to enable you to purchase items at a fair price.

Let me start by prefixing all of this with the statement that what eBay has tried to do is create the feel of the type of auction commonly refereed to as an “Open Ascending-bid Auction”, also known as an “English Auction” — though they have modified it slightly to have a time limit rather than just go until their are no more bidders.  You can read many resources on auction types if you’re interested; there’s actually a body of game-theory that covers auctions for those so inclined.

Before we digress too far off topic…

First you need a little background on how eBay’s proxy bidding works, and an understanding that if everyone were to just enter in the actual price they were willing to pay when they first bid that would be all you’d need.

What happens on eBay when you enter a bid is fairly simple — eBay records the maximum amount you’re willing to pay for the item, and then will automatically bid as much as needed to satisfy the bid rules.

So if there are no bids, eBay will place a bid for you equal to the minimum bid set when the auction was created.  If there is already a bid, eBay will place a bid for you equal to the lesser of the maximum you set for your bid or the current amount plus the bid increment (which varies based on the current bid — it increases as the amount of the current bid increases).

If two people were to set the same maximum bid, the person who placed the bid first would be the one to have his bid recorded.

Like I said, if everyone just entered in what they were really willing to pay then that would be it, and when the auction closed the person who was willing to pay the most would win the auction.

But, that’s not how it really works out.

You see, people aren’t always honest (even with themselves), and people like to play games (even with themselves), and people always like to get a steal (or read that as great deal if you like)… and of course, people are emotional (so they get caught up on the splendor of the train ride — even when it’s clearly going to wreck).

So, what many people do is record a bid for the amount that they’d really like to get the item for — even though they are willing to pay (significantly) more.  That means that lots of people are continually upping their bid as they get outbid, and because they see other people “wanting” the item, they get caught up in a frenzy that they often loose control of… and end up paying more than they actually are comfortable with.

Remember, no one forces you to keep bidding — and no one forces you to watch the train you’re on slam head on into another (in fact, you’re free to jump off).

If you’re head is spinning — or you’re saying that I would never do that (many call that doing the back-stroke in that famous river in Egypt — d-Nile, or denial if you like) then you’re just an average Joe trying to win an auction on eBay.

I’m not here to slap anyone on their wrist; if you want entertainment, excitement, need to fill your copious amounts of free time, and don’t mind spending more than you’re comfortable with — by all means, keep getting caught up in the emotions of “winning” a bidding war; but if you’re just looking to get things you want/need at a reasonable price — read on.

How to bid on eBay…

You could use eBay exactly as it’s designed.  Just place an initial bid for exactly what you’re willing to pay for the item and be done with it.  Don’t watch the auction, don’t enter in any more bids… be content with your honesty (and do something more useful with your time).  But you’re not going to win very many auctions — in fact you’re probably just going to fuel the fire because of the interactions of eBay’s proxy bidding and people who have got caught up in the frenzy of bidding.

So how to bid on eBay successfully…

The answer is easy, you snipe.  Basically sniping the auction turns the English Auction into something more resembling a First-Price Sealed-Bid auction (at least from your view point).

Wait, what is a snipe?

Well, a snipe is a bid placed at the last moment.  Sniping basically allows you to place the bid you would have right away at the very end of the auction, giving other bidders no time to respond to your bid — and forcing the eBay proxy system to do it’s job without creating a frenzy of bid-and-re-bid.

There’s nothing wrong with sniping; in fact all you’re doing by sniping helping prevent other bidders from getting carried away with bidding.  It doesn’t make it any more likely that you’re going to get an item (if there are wild bidders — they may have driven the item up well beyond what you’re willing to pay long before the last few seconds of the auction).  And the number one thing it will do for you is prevent you from getting caught up in the bidding war and paying more for an item that you’re interested in.

You can bid by hand; just open up the auction; actually open up two copies of the auction, one to watch the count down clock, and in the other enter the maximum amount you’re willing to pay and click to the confirm dialog.  When the count down timer reaches under 10 seconds, submit your bid (you may need to submit earlier if you have a slow connection — and you may be able to time it to less than 10 seconds if you have a very fast connect — but remember as long as the amount of time left is less than the reaction time of a human being you’re not going to be fueling the frenzy).

Obviously sniping by hand is tedious and time consuming… so there’s automation to help you out.

JBidwatcher is a Java based tool that you can run on Windows, OS-X, or Linux desktop (or server) that will attempt to snipe auctions for you from your local machine.  Which means you need a stable internet connection and you computer has to be on and JBidwatcher has to be running.  It’s totally free, and works fairly well.

GIXEN.COM is a web based system.  It’s totally free, and works fairly well.  There is no limit to the number of auctions you can snipe; but there is a $6 per year upgrade that will give you redundant servers to place your bids (decreasing the chance of not getting you snipe in).

There are also a number of other systems that charge — perhaps they’re better, perhaps they’re not… but these two certainly work well enough for you to use to develop an understanding of how to effectively bid on eBay.

While I’m giving you the 4-1-1 on sniping, I should mention that there are two basic types of snipes — individual item snipes and group (also called multi) snipes.

In an individual item snipe it’s easy to understand — you enter a bid for the item in question and your bid is placed a specified number of seconds before the auction closes.  If you have the highest bid at the end you win, if you don’t you don’t — and it’s over and done.

In a group snipe you actually bid on a series of items (generally related — but I guess you might also use it for budget constraints).  You enter a separate bid for each item of interest in the group.  The sniping system will place your bid on the first item — if you win, it cancels all the remaining snipes in the group; if you don’t win, it goes on to the next item in the group.

With group snipes you have to be careful that there is sufficient time between the ending time of two auctions for items of interest for the sniping system to handle it (most systems will flag auctions that may be a problem and allow you to decide if you want to take the potential risk of winning both… obviously that’s a bigger deal than missing the second).

Also, most sniping systems let you have as many individual snipes or group snipes as you want (you have to be careful not to have the same item in an individual snipe and a group; or in multiple groups).

Also, most sniping systems will handle auctions that have multiple items available (in other words, it will place a bid for the amount and quantity — eBay’s proxy bid does most of the work).

Sniping might seem like it’s a lot of work; but actually it makes bidding easier in the long run, and more effective.

Remember, if you don’t win an auction sniping it’s not (generally) because the sniping system didn’t do it’s job — it’s simply because you weren’t willing to pay as much as someone else… in fact by sniping you’re increasing your chances of winning an auction at the price you’re willing to pay.


Let me remind everyone that I am not a fan of eBay / PayPal — I consider them companies of questionable ethics at best.



eBay Sniper

http://www.gixen.com/

eBay Sniper
http://www.jbidwatcher.com/

Originally posted 2010-10-08 02:00:32.

AT&T, the death of Netflix

On 2 May 2011 AT&T will implement usage surcharges for their high speed internet services.  DSL customer will have 150GB included with their package, and U-Verse customer will have 250 GB included with their package.

AT&T maintains that only 2% of their customers will be effected…

As I’ve said before, if only 2% of the customer are going to be effected, AT&T wouldn’t take any action —  it’s easy to see that AT&T is doing this because they feel this is a way to produce a larger revenue stream for a service they previously advertised and sold to be “unlimited” — so you can view this as nothing short of radically changing the service after the fact, and charging more for less (remember, AT&T just raised their rates).

The effect of this type of cap is that if you used your internet service to watch movies, you’d better be careful — you won’t even be able to watch one per day; you’ll have to worry about watching one HD movie every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.

I personally have always felt AT&T was a horrible company, and certainly from my view point it reenforces that view every day with actions like this.

 

Monthly Activity 150 GB 250 GB
Send/receive one page emails 10,000 emails

-and-

10,000 emails

-and-

Download/upload a medium resolution photo to social media site like Facebook 3,000 photos

-and-

4,000 photos

-and-

MP3 Songs downloaded 2,000 songs

-and-

3,000 songs

-and-

Stream a one-minute YouTube video (standard quality) 5,000 views

-and-

5,000 views

-and-

Watch hour-long TV Shows (high quality) 100 shows

-and –

200 shows

-and –

Stream full length movies (Standard Definition: SD; High Definition: HD) 20 SD or 10 HD movies 25 SD or 13 HD movies

Usage examples are estimates based on typical file sizes and/or duration of file transfer or streaming event.

http://www.att.com/internet-usage

Originally posted 2011-03-31 02:00:25.