Entries Tagged as 'Communications'

CompactCMS Review

CompactCMS is an extremely light weight and fast Content Management Solution (CMS).  Actually it might be a bit of a stretch to call it a CMS, it’s more like a content management foundation.

CompactCMS is an open source software project and is totally free (nothing related to it has any costs or restrictions beyond the Creative Commons License).

No question it makes managing a small site very easy, and it has a huge selection of (free) CSS templates that offer a wide variety of layouts and appearances.

Why do I say it’s a foundation?

Simple, it provides the basic of editing pages and content, builds a sitemap — but it really doesn’t offer modules that provide enhanced capabilities.  Now in it’s defense, it does provide the ability to build pages that can call PHP directly, but it doesn’t provide any framework to use managed content within your PHP code (well — you can access the MySQL database directly, but there’s zero abstraction).

Several days ago I made a comment about most users only need a two page (mostly static) web site — and that’s true, and CompactCMS certainly provides that ability to users with very little understanding of web editing (it certainly provided more than that to users who have some understanding of web editing).

The main problem with CompactCMS for users who just don’t know anything at all about web technology is it requires a little understanding of how to setup a database, import a schema, and edit configuration files (by hand).  Yeah, that’s not really much to ask a techie for sure, but there’s lots of people who know where the power button is on their computer, but re-arrange the icons on the desktop and they’re lost…

I personally like CompactCMS — I’m not sure I have any real use for it, but it would be fine to use to setup simple web sites for clients that actually wanted to be able to make modest changes to the site themselves (remember, most low end web site offerings don’t include unlimited changes — and generally don’t include any changes).

http://compactcms.nl/

Originally posted 2010-04-07 02:00:28.

Anti-Malware Programs

First, malware is a reality and no operating system is immune to it.

Malware is most common on operating systems that are prevalent (no reason to target 1% of the installed base now is there); so an obscure operating system is far less likely to be the target of malware.

Malware is most common on popular operating systems that generally do not require elevation of privileges to install (OS-X, *nix, Vista, and Server 2008 all require that a user elevate their privileges before installing software, even if they have rights to administer the machine).

The reality is that even a seasoned computer professional can be “tricked” into installing malware; and the only safe computer is a computer that’s disconnected from the rest the world and doesn’t have any way to get new software onto it (that would probably be a fairly useless computer).

Beyond exercising common sense, just not installing software you don’t need or are unsure of (remember, you can install and test software in a virtual machine using UNDO disks before you commit it to a real machine), and using a hardware “firewall” (residential gateway devices should be fine as long as you change the default password, disable WAN administration, and use WPA or WPA2 on your wireless network) between you and your high-speed internet connection; using anti-malware software is your best line of defense.

There are a lot of choices out there, but one of the best you’ll find is Avast! — there’s a free edition for non-commercial use, and of course several commercial version for workstations and servers.

My experience is that on all but the slowest computers Avast! performs well, and catches more malware than most any of the big-name commercial solutions.

For slower computers that you need mal-ware protection for, consider AVG (they also have a free version for non-commercial use); I don’t find it quite as good as Avast! at stopping as wide a range of threats, but it’s much lower on resource demands (and that helps to keep your legacy machine usable).

Originally posted 2009-01-02 12:00:01.

AT&T Provides Exceptionally BAD Customer Service

Yesterday morning (and well into the afternoon) I spent over two and one-half hours on the phone with AT&T trying to resolve an issue with a “$50 Cash Back”.

First I call the customer service phone number on my bill; and was quickly told I’d have to resolve it online since it related to an online order.

Then I brought up a chat window with online customer service, who was quick to tell me I needed to call the rewards center (which I did was I was chatting with them — and left the chat open exchanging information slowly).

With the rewards center I talked with a useless individual who transferred me to a supervisor who was actually some what helpful; but she told me I had to go through customer service and have the rewards center conferenced in (they apparently can’t access customer records, nor can they make outbound calls).

So I called back customer service, spoke to an individual who wanted to help — but wouldn’t transfer me to a supervisor; determined I need to talk to the rewards center (duh — that’s what I told him — I needed to be conferenced in to the rewards center with a supervisor)… he transferred me to the rewards center (main number) and hung up… so I talked with a rewards center person, and was again transferred to the same supervisor (who told me again there was nothing she could do — and I pointed out that I had done EXACTLY as she ask, and again AT&T had incompetency was the issue).

She transferred me back to customer service — which turned out to be more of a hassle since it was a different office, and I had to enter all my account information.  The person I spoke with was EXTREMELY rude, and the supervisor she transferred me to was an absolute BITCH (trying to play the power game).

I then called back to customer service, was transferred to a supervisor, who did conference into the rewards center and then got an absolute BITCH there.

After that (and noting all their names and operator IDs — at least the operator IDs of the ones that would actually provide them to me) I decide to just call and go through the complaints process…

I explained the whole thing to the woman, she read over the notes; ask me a few questions, and then just said “How ’bout I just credit your account $50 and put this issue to rest”.

It took her less than five minutes to understand the previous two and a half hour nightmare with AT&T individuals who were for the most part in a hurry to say NO, tell me I didn’t know what I was talking about, or tell me I needed to talk to someone else…

And all of this is a result of AT&T designing a system of rebates / credits / incentives that is difficult for an individual to navigate through and redeem… after all, they don’t really want you to get the money, they just want to defraud you.

HORRIBLE company (yeah — I already knew that)… and certainly AT&T doesn’t do anything to retain customers…

I’m already making plans to change my Internet provider as soon as I get the credits for the other promotions.

As far as I’m concerned, if I have to deal with crappy customer service, I’ll just play the providers against each other and maximize my savings.

All I can say is…

Just say NO!

Originally posted 2009-08-04 01:00:18.

Blogging Software

I looked at quite a few blogging solutions before I settled on Word Press, and I wanted to share some of my thoughts.

There are a number of free blogging services; indeed Word Press operates one.  Generally when you use a free service you get advertising on your pages (I really didn’t care for that, just like I don’t care for advertising on my web page).  But the one thing that always is the problem with free services is, you get what you get… and you’re stuck with it.

I tend to like to have full control over my information, so I decided to install the software to run my blog so that I could change ANYTHING I wanted to about it.  And Word Press is open source, written in PHP, so it’s realatively straight forward to make any changes you want.  And, of course, the price is right — FREE.

There are tons of addons (widgets, themes, and pluggins); though not all of them are free.  There are commerical addons available for Word Press as well.

I looked at several other solutions, originally ASP based solutions (when I was running Microsoft IIS), but then when I switched to a hosting company something that ran on PHP, PERL, Python became a more practical solution (my hosting company provides more flexible services with a Linux hosting plan than with a Microsoft hosting plan).

Here’s a list blogging software written in PHP (in no particular order) you might want to take a look at:

And here’s a list blogging software written for ASP (in no particular order) you might want to take a look at:

 

You’ll want to evaluate blogging software with your requirements in mind; but one thing to keep in mind is most blogging software supports importing from another system via RSS.  That might not be a requirement for the first blogging system you choose (but I think it shows a level of maturity in the software), it certainly will be for any blogging software after that.

One thing to keep in mind, the information in a blog site is written into a database; and while it wouldn’t be my first choice, you can dump the database to get the text of the ariticles, but it’s unlikely your going to be able to directly import it into another system’s database (without a lot of work).

Originally posted 2008-05-15 11:24:35.

High Speed Internet Gateways

Several of my friends have ask for help on a very similar problem — they disconnect a computer directly from a cable modem or DSL router, plug in a residential gateway (wireless or wired router) and can’t get reconnected to the internet.

It’s actually a very common problem; and there are several things that can contribute to it.

The first thing you should do is make sure you that have the newest firmware available for your device — particularly older routers have issues with DHCP (that’s how most of the devices get the connection information from the service provider).

Also, you’ll want to check your computer to make sure what type of connection you were using to get to the internet (some older DSL modems particularly required that you setup your computer to do PPPoE — most newer DSL modems will handle all of that transparently, but even they may not be setup that way).

But after you check all that you’re still likely to find that you simply cannot make a connection to the internet.

The problem is that the internet service provider setup the profile of your modem so that it will only allow a single device to connect to the internet at a time (the MAC address to DHCP table has a limit of one).  Each Ethernet device in the “universe” is supposed to have a unique MAC address; and the specification allows for what’s called locally administered MAC addresses as well, but no two devices should ever have the same permanent MAC address (and technically no device should be allowed to copy the permanent MAC address of another).

There are two ways to get around this.  One is to use the MAC address cloning feature of your router (that’s long term a HORRIBLE idea — it violates the rule that no two devices should have [or use] the same permanent MAC address; and the only advantage to it is that it might provide instant gratification).  The second, and better, way is to simply allow your modem time to reset — and you can hasten that by unplugging the power from it and letting it sit for about ten minutes.

There is potentially another way to hasten the re-binding of a new MAC address to the modem.  Some modems have a hardware reset button — but you’ll have to check the manual to see how to use it.  Most modems also have a web interface and resetting the device is one of the options.

Most cable modems have the ip address of 192.168.100.1, most ADSL modems have the address of 192.168.1.1, and VDSL modems have the address of 192.168.1.254 — but let me underscore I said most, not all (you’re going to have to read the manual if these don’t work — and to make it worse, some inexpensive modems have no web interface at all).

Once you bring up a web browser and point it to http://192.168.1.254/ (or what ever the address for your modem is) you’ll probably be able to just view much of the information with any authentication (and you need not have an internet connection for this to work).  However, to reset the modem (or possible run diagnostics) you probably will need to log in.  Many ADSL and VDSL modems will simply want you to enter the information printed on the modem (that’s to prevent a hacker from doing it, since it require physical access to the equipment), but again, you really will have to review the manual to be sure.

The option you’re looking for will be called something like “reset: or “restart”… and there should be a warning that the internet connection will be interrupted, and that it will take several minutes (worst case) for the connection to be re-established.

If all this sounds like too much work; there is a third way, and that just involves patience.  The MAC address from the old device connected directly to your modem will age out over time — you just have to wait for it to happen (and it could be a hour or more).  If it’s late at night, just hit the sack, and when you wakeup the next day everything should be working with your new residential gateway.

Also, many service providers offer a wireless residential gateway (with built in modem) in place of just the modem — for most residential users just selecting that instead of the modem makes sense… for “power users” you might want a router that has more features or better performance; but the service providers residential gateway, out of the box, will allow you to connect as many devices as you’d like (including another gateway if you like — just make sure the ip network addresses they use are different).

  • DOCSIS is used by most cable companies, and technically it’s not a cable modem, but a DOCSIS “cable” modem.
  • SDSL isn’t used much in the US any longer, so it’s unlikely you’re going to find one of these modems.
  • ADSL is used by most of the Telcos, including AT&T and Verizon.
  • VDSL (ADSL2+) is used by AT&T in their U-Verse service and Verizon in their FiOS service.

Originally posted 2010-10-14 02:00:49.

Android Apps

One of the initial complaints the reviewers of Android handsets underscored was that the number of apps (applications) available for Android was minimal compared to the number available for the iPhone, and most of the reviewers theorized it would take years for their to be a substantial number of quality apps.

Today, there are a tremendous number of apps; but like the apps for the iPhone I’d say most of them are of questionable quality… a few though are keepers.

Last week a joint survey conducted by Appcelerator and IDC found that 59% of developers said that Google’s Android had the “best long-term outlook” compared to only 35% who picked Apple’s iOS.

Additionally, 72% picked Android for hardware other than phones (set-top boxes, etc) while less than 25% choose iOS.

Though Apple maintained 84% of the interest in tablets (that may have a great deal to do with the fact that no mainstream company has shipped an Android based tablet yet and is very likely to shift soon).

Anyway, regardless of who’s the most popular (ie McDonald’s thinking), here’s my “short” list (categorized) of apps for Android that I like (and use).

Communications

  • Google Voice
  • GMail
  • sipdroid
  • Call Block
  • Opera

Utilities

  • Explorer
  • ASTRO
  • ASTRO Bluetooth Module
  • Spell Checker
  • GPS Essentials
  • Spare Parts
  • DynDns
  • Barcode Scanner
  • ShopSavvy
  • Tricorder
  • Wifi Analyzer
  • WifiScanner
  • Terminal Emulator
  • ROM Manager (only useful on a rooted handset)
  • Superuser (only useful on a rooted handset)

Games

  • 205+ Solitaire Collection
  • Mahjong 3D

Eye Candy

  • Sense Analog Clock
  • Mickey Mouse Clock
  • Tricorder

Everything on the list is FREE (as in free beer; some of the current versions are ad supported).

Tricoder is in two categories (it’s actually useful — though it only qualifies as useful because it will do with several other utilities in combination are needed for — though it’s gotta be considered eye candy).

I’m not a gamer, so the only games I’ve listed are ones that are pretty good for just whiling away a little time… there’s a ton of free games — have at it, you can uninstall them fairly easily (though if you install a lot of apps you’re going to want something to help manager / organize).

One of the major reasons for having a smart phone is to use it to make calls; certainly Google Voice lets you take advantage of any ability you have to call specified numbers air-time-free (plus it gives you text messaging without incurring any charges from your carrier).  If you have a very limited voice plan, but a flat rate data plan — you might find sipdroid (a SIP/VoIP client) extremely useful; at least when you couple it with a free SIP service.

One of the major reasons you might consider rooting your Android device is so that you can remove pre-installed apps or re-theme the device; with older devices you might consider it so that you have access to newer kernels and fixes.  For the average person, you probably don’t want to root your device.

If you have other favorites that do something useful, let me know… I’m likely to publish another list of Android apps in a few months; and I’ve decided I’m going to write a few of them (maybe I’ll even publish them).

Originally posted 2010-10-13 02:00:50.

Over One Billion Served

Well, not exactly… but I’m amazed at how the readership of my BLOG continues to grow.

I’ve added a widget that lets me view information on how many hits I get, the frequency, and geographic dispersion.

I would say my BLOG has global appeal, but I haven’t registered a hit from Antarctica (yet)… so that wouldn’t be true.

The vast majority of hits are from the United States, second on the list is Canada (which makes North America the heavy weight for sure); but an amazing number of people read my BLOG from Europe, Australia.  There’s a good number from Asia as well; and I need to talk to my marketing people about South America and Africa.

On a weekly basis (daily it’s all over the map):

  • I see about two hundred feed subscribers downloading posts (some daily, but most seem to do it less frequently).
  • The number of hits in the four weeks I’ve monitored has been between around four hundred and eleven hundred (yeah, pretty wide variation over a month time; but the numbers looked to be generally increasing — to tell more I’d really have to do some statistical analysis).
  • I get about six contact messages (for the month, one of those was from a company wanting to help promote my web site, in rather poor English; one of those contained almost as many explicative as mis-spellings; three of them have been from a vendor; and the rest have been complimentary).

When I decided to do this BLOG it was really a replacement for my mailings to a group of people I knew that focused mainly on technology, I’ve been aware for sometime that the readership has greatly increased (initially it seemed due to the search engine indexing); but I’m continually amazed at the number of people who read my BLOG and keep coming back.

All I can say is THANKS — and that I have no intention of commercializing my BLOG in any way, it will continue to express my views and you need not worry about advertising!

Originally posted 2009-02-06 01:00:10.

Cricket Wireless

The continuing saga of trying to locate the best value cellular wireless plan for me has a new chapter…

About two months ago I started to make the switch to Cricket Wireless (you can use the link on the sidebar to get information directly from their site).

While I didn’t think Straight Talk (via AT&T) was expensive, it seemed like lowering my cost a little (the plan rates include taxes on Cricket) and going with a “MVNO” that was actually owned by AT&T would in the end be a better idea… and since my $50 promo card arrived today I figured it was time to share what I’ve found.

If you take advantage of the BYOD program, Cricket (like AT&T) will push out APN settings to your handset, making the transition fairly seamless (NOTE: if you move an activated SIM card to another device there is no way to have Cricket re-push the APN settings, so you’re going to end up entering them by hand… it would be nice if they at least stored the APN on the SIM).

If you’re used to AT&T (particularly pre-paid or an MVNO — remember, there’s no roaming), then your service will be just the same… and your LTE speeds will likely be extremely good (they’ll be the same as they were before).

Also, one of the huge advantages of Cricket over Straight Talk – they have real customer service, who can actually provide service.

Now, a few hints about switching.

First, definitely use my link (I get a referral bonus for you); but if you’re doing two lines, then use yourself to refer your second line.

Second, setup each line on a separate account initially and choose the $50/month or better plan with auto-pay… that will give you $5 off the second month, and it will give you your third month free (promos might change).

Third, order the SIM or handset online and avoid the $25.00 activation fee a local Cricket reseller is going to charge you.

Fourth, once you have your free month, then you might be able to combine lines together for more savings.  NOTE: the first two lines with auto-pay or multi-line discount are the same — so little reason to combine them unless you have at least three lines (the auto-pay and multi-line discounts don’t stack).


If you’re porting your number, go ahead and order your new SIM and turn off your automatic payment with Straight Talk; your number port is “pre-positioned”, so when you pop your SIM in and activate your new Cricket service online the number will port instantly, and your APN will push out within half an hour.

Originally posted 2015-05-02 12:00:21.

Xoom

Several weeks ago I purchased a Motorola Xoom (WiFi only model), I’d looked at the Acer, the Asus, the Samsung, and read up on the Thrive — I decided that the Xoom was the best candidate of the available Android/Honeycomb tablets available now.

I’m happy with my purchase, and it’s amazing how quickly a “gadget” can find its way into your everyday life.

I will write a lengthy review of the Xoom to let you know everything I like about it, and the things I really don’t think are that great… plus I’ll write a post on my rooting adventure (after all, it’s Android, why wouldn’t you root it).

Let me just close with it’s a great tool, and if you’re willing to carry something like that with you it gives you incredible access to books, news, entertainment, information…

I do expect that prices for 10″ tablets will continue to come down… but I’d definitely recommend you only consider a dual-core (or better) tablet.

Originally posted 2011-08-03 02:00:04.

iPhone no longer #2

Well, in my opinion iPhones are definitely #2 (and I’m not talking second in sales)…

Market researchers are now indicating that Android based handsets have over taken the iPhone for second place in the smart phone race, Blackberry (RIM) are first in sales with about 35% of the market (though Blackberry owners indicate, by far and large, that they are not likely to purchase another Blackberry device).

It seems that Android in a very short time has been able to soar past Windows Mobile and iPhone handsets — hard to image what a “finished” phone operating system from Google might do.

Perhaps Apple made a fatal mistake not releasing the Verizon iPhone before Android over took them in sales — we’ll have to wait until early next year to see how the retail holiday sales go — but I’m betting this might mark the fall of the iPhone; but nothing will ever humble Steve Jobs.

evo

Originally posted 2010-08-07 02:00:31.