Friday, December 21, 2007

Favorite Podcasts

Monday, December 14, 2009

IT Conversations carried a recent panel discussion with Stephanie Hannon and Lars Rasmussen of the Google Wave development team.

This provides an interesting insight into where Wave is in its life cycle and contains a very candid response from Lars to a question from the floor about search capabilities.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

IT Conversations carried a recent interview with Sachin Agarwal and Garry Tan of Posterous.

Posterous is a very simple but powerful blogging platform. To get started, just e-mail anything to and it's posted. They even clean it up for you. For example, if there are multiple pictures, they setup a picture gallery!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A recent edition of Leo Leporte's FLOSS (Free Libre Open Source Software) podcast featured Aaron Newcomb and David Brittle of Sun Microsystem's ZFS team.

ZFS is available in Solaris 10 and reportedly will be in Apple's OS X server edition.

According to the ZFS web page:

ZFS is a new kind of file system that provides simple administration, transactional semantics, end-to-end data integrity, and immense scalability. ZFS is not an incremental improvement to existing technology; it is a fundamentally new approach to data management. We've blown away 20 years of obsolete assumptions, eliminated complexity at the source, and created a storage system that's actually a pleasure to use.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

At the Emerging Communications Conference 2008, Jonathan Christensen, General Manager of audio and video at Skype, speaks about the development of IP communications over the past 10 years, giving a brief history of VoIP. He talks about its evolution from being a technology for geeks only, to a mainstream application, and concludes the talk by discussing the threats and opportunities for the IP communications industry.

Friday, April 25, 2008

History lessons from the master of the browser

Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Netscape and co-author of Mosaic, sits down with John Battelle, founder and chairman of Federated Media publishing at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco. Andreessen talks about his current social-networking site Ning, and the impact of Facebook apps and Google’s OpenSocial.

Friday, April 25, 2008

I always listen to Leo Laporte's podcast Security Now with Steve Gibson. The current edition covers the 2008 RSA Conference. The keynotes were recorded and are available as webcasts.

This one is John W. Thompson, Chairman of the Board and CEO of Symantec Corporation.


Thursday, March 6, 2008

This is a little different. This is the worst podcast I've ever listened to.

This is from IT Conversations. The speaker is Moshe Yudkowsky, President, Disaggregate.

His web page is here but you'll run away screaming before you get there.

Don't feel bad. It won't play for me either. Maybe IT Conversations has put it out of its misery.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

This is from IT Conversations. The speaker is David Ulevitch, founder and CEO of is a free DNS alternative that claims better performance and phishing protection. We'll see.

His web page is here and his wikipedia page is here.


Friday, December 21, 2007

This is from The Register Semi-Coherent Computing. The speaker is Jim Barksdale. In the IT community, Jim is remembered as the CEO of Netscape during its wild ride. However, that was just one of his chapters.

I've known Jim since the early '60s. He was my older brother's big brother in Sigma Chi at Ole Miss. I worked for him at Federal Express in the '80s. The first time I was in a meeting with him, he stopped, looked at me and said "What are you doing here?" Obviously, I didn't use my connections to get that job!

His wikipedia page is here.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

This is from TWiT. The speaker is Harrison 'Jack' Schmitt, the lunar module pilot on Apollo 17. Harrison Schmitt was the last man out of the lunar module and as such the last man to set his foot down on the surface of the moon. He took the picture known as "Blue Marble."

His wikipedia page is here.


Monday, October 29, 2007

This is from The Register. The speaker is Dave Patterson, Professor in Computer Science at UC Berkeley. He is one of the pioneers of both RISC and RAID. He was instrumental in the development of Sun's SPARC. The talk is not just retrospective but discusses the problems he sees in the future of computing.

His wikipedia page is here.


Sunday, October 7, 2007

This is from IT Conservations. The speaker is Guy Kawasaki, Managing Director, Garage Technology Ventures speaking at the 2007 MySQL conference. His wikipedia page is here.


Friday, August 4, 2007

This is from TWiT.TV's series Security Now. The guest is Michael Vergara, Director of Account Protections at PayPal. He is speaking about PayPal's product PayPal Security Key. In it he refers to VeriSign's Identity Protection product (VIP).

VIP Authentication Service allows a business to easily issue and/or accept multiple credentials from each user. ... VIP Authentication Service includes a number of options for supplemental factors, including stand alone hardware devices such as One Time Password (OTP) tokens ...
Translated, this means that an RSA token can be used to authenticate with multiple organizations.


Friday, August 3, 2007

This is from IT Conversations' series Tech Nation. Dr. Moira Gunn speaks with Greg Papadopolous, the Chief Technology Officer of Sun Microsystems. Sun is celebrating 25 years in the computer industry, and he describes the ups and downs.


Monday, June 25, 2007

This is Steve Wozniak speaking at Google. It's an hour long so get in a comfortable chair. A lot of this is from his book iWoz.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

This is from TWiT.TV's series Security Now. The guest is Marc Maiffret of eEye Digital Security. He is speaking about eEye's product Blink Personal Edition.


Monday, April 30, 2007

This is from IT Conversations' series Tech Nation. The speaker is Christopher Jones, Director for Solar System Exploration, NASA. He is speaking about the astronauts stuck on the Space Station after the shuttle Columbia crashed on re-entry.


Friday, April 27, 2007

This is from IT Conversations' series Technometria: Virtualization. The speaker is Bogomil Balkansky, Director of Product Marketing, VMware. I thought it was interesting as he spoke about the penetration of virtualization into data centers and particularly the emergence of virtual appliances.


My intent is to make this a collection of podcasts that interest me (and hopefully you). I have put a link in the column to the right for easy access.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

I was in a meeting at work this week and one of my co-workers complained that our company had blocked She said she had a blog there.

I googled her name and found her blog. She's artsy and on it she had a little Flash app from

I went there and got to playing with it.

Here's what it does.

Isn't that cool! Play with it some. Click the buttons. See what it does.

Of course, it's FREE!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Skinning My Mio C320

As I wrote about earlier, I got a Mio DigiWalker C320 GPS at RadioShack on Black Friday.

It's worked real well but I always like to play with things.

The Mio forums are full of threads on skinning various Mios.

I tried to talk myself out of it for a while but I finally found a "must have" feature only available by skinning. Mio normally offers 3 routing options, Fastest, Economical, and Shortest. Most of the skins offer a 4th option of Easy. I wasn't sure what that meant but I had to have it.

The GpsPasSion forums are rich with help on Mios but they are impossible to navigate. I had found a skin submitted by user phi38. Here's a link to it.

Unfortunately, many of the skins are built on top of a Belgian update. When you start MioMap with this skin, you'll get the following error:
FFUIERROR: Unknown command
Script [sc_detectSKU] at tick 0
To correct this is tricky.

Extract the .zip file into a folder. Go to \mio\480_272\ui\default_setup.ui and open it with Notepad. Find the line "HAS_AUS_MAP vIsAUSSKU" and comment it by putting a semicolon in the first column. Save it back and rezip this folder.

To change the skin on a Mio, all you have to do is connect it to your PC via a standard USB cable. It will then appear as a USB drive to Windows. By the way, if you have an SD card in the Mio, you'll also see that as a separate drive.

After you can see the flash drive, rename \miomap\miomap\ to something else, e.g. Then just copy the skin .zip file to the \miomap\miomap\ on the flash drive and rename it to

That's it. Restart MioMap and you'll have your new skin.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Office 2007 File Sizes

My company is planning to implement Office 2007 soon. One of the things I wonder about is the sizes of the various file formats. PowerPoint 2007 will create the legacy .ppt file format as well as the new .pptx file format.

I also get a lot of questions about PDF tools and have performed some PDF file size tests at home.

Today I had a moderate sized PowerPoint deck. It had some graphics in the template and lots of text boxes and maybe a table or two but no SmartArt or animation. It was less than 10 slides.

I had created it as a .pptx file. As I prepared to share it, I saved it as a PDF using Adobe Acrobat 6.0 (I know that's old but it still works). Then getting a wild hair, I also saved it as .ppt and Microsoft's .mdi and .xps formats.

.mdi is a "high resolution, tag-based graphics format. .MDI files are only supported by the Microsoft Office 2003 version."

.xps is Microsoft's new "XML Paper Specification." The wikipedia explanation is here.

Here're the results:

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Linux Desktop - Part 2

More than a year ago, I tried to build a Linux ThinkPad 600E without much luck. Here I go again.

I used a 366MHz ThinkPad 600E with 288MB of memory and a 10GB hard drive.

Since I planned to give this to an elementary student, I started with gOS thinking that it would be simple for him to use. It wouldn't boot at all. Eventually, I pressed ESC and got into the line mode and entered some cryptic commands about ACPI. It set at "Loading /casper/vmlinuz..." for over an hour and then hung on the next line. Can't remember what it was and don't want to wait an hour to recreate!

I found this blog entry that promised to walk you through the install of ubuntu on a 600E.

I picked xubuntu and downloaded and burned another CD.

It booted as a live CD and I went through the install. So far so good! Maybe I'd turned the corner.

Then I tried to enable the wireless card to connect to my WPA network. This forum post pretty well describes my next disaster. It's still dead.

I had less problems with Vista.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Thanks, Microsoft

The December Microsoft patches held a special surprise for Windows XP SP2 users of Internet Explorer 6.

One of the Critical fixes was KB942615. It appears that this was packaged without the registry addition added in KB942367. Here's a thread from Microsoft's Internet Explorer newsgroup describing it. Here's a Microsoft engineer's comments.

Without this, IE6 crashes sporadically, especially when opening gmail. One comment suggested that it was triggered by pages which validate their login with https:// before the page proceeds to load normally with http://.

Here's a link to a zip file that contains the registry hack from KB942367.

You don't even have to restart your PC. Just close all the copies of IE6 before you apply the registry hack.

Sunday, November 25, 2007


I had to fax something this week. It was 2 printed pages and I wanted to add a cover page. I don't have a multi-function device so I use my scanner and printer.

For single pages, Photocopier from Nico Cuppen is simple and fool proof. But it will only do single pages and you have to change your default printer to your fax beforehand and remember to change it back.

I found SimpleCopier from Neogie Software. It is a comprehensive solution including OCR and PDF creation. The current release is 6.05. It is shareware and costs 29.90€.

But all I wanted to do is scan a couple of pages to fax. I have SimpleCopier 2.20 and that's pretty much all it does.

There is no help file for Release 2.20 so I'll put a couple of screen shots here with my understanding of what they mean and do.

Here's the first screen. "Photocopy" seems to be a one page to the printer much like Photocopier. "Scan" will scan and put the image in a queue.

Here's what the result of "Scan" looks like. Notice the button at the bottom to "Add to queue." That is where you can collect images to fax multiple pages.

Here's what the queue display looks like.

When you're done, click on the cryptic "Print -> n*1" (printer) or "Print -> n*2" (fax). "Send by Email" gives me an odd error that there's not enough disk space available.

Here's the "Advanced" tab where you set most of the options including what "Print -> n*1" means!

I couldn't find a copy of SimpleCopier Release 2.20 on the web so I have uploaded simplecopier_setup.exe to If you're nervous about downloading from there, add a comment and ask me to e-mail you a copy.

Mio DigiWalker C320 GPS

Just after Christmas last year, I wrote about my Mio C310x. I was remiss in not following up. As I mentioned, my primary objective was to have a GPS for my upcoming (now completed) trip to Ireland. I never found European maps for the C310x so I returned it.

Subsequently, I came across a Mio H610 but I didn't read the specifications closely enough. The "H" stands for handheld and it was tiny! Smaller than a deck of cards. Too small for these old eyes to see while driving.

While watching the Black Friday ads, I saw that RadioShack had the Mio C320 on Doorbuster for $149.99.Well, there I was Friday morning at 5:15AM in line at the local Radio Shack. I got a C320 and was out of there by 6:10AM.

Friday afternoon I played with mounting it in my 2007 Toyota Camry SE. I discovered that the supplied bracket had a tab on the back that would fit into the CD slot on my dashboard. I put a couple of layers of black duct tape on the tab to make it a snug fit and it was perfect! So I thought.

Off I went riding around to play with my new toy. But it wouldn't sync with the GPS satellites. That was odd. It had worked inside my house. It would work when I held it in my hand but not when it was on the dash.

After about half an hour of playing, I realized that the dashboard was causing electronic interference with the GPS receiver. If I would turn the car off, the C320 would work fine. That made it less than useful however.

Back to the box and I got the windshield suction cup mount. I mounted it next to the A-pillar. I like it up there because it's pretty much in your line of sight but it is low enough that it doesn't block your visibility.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Christmas Wish List 2007

Sunpak - PlatinumPlus Tripod

My old tripod has given up the ghost.

This is on sale at BestBuy for $9.99 with free shipping through 11/24.

Mini Extension Cords

These are hard to explain. When you plug in a little power supply (like for a camera) into a power strip, it is fat and tends to block additional plugs limiting how many gadgets you can plug into a power strip. These little short extension cords let you get more gadgets plugged into the same power strip.

I found them at RadioShack for $9.99. I would expect them to be available in the store also.

There could be more people in our family that could use these.

6' Fiberglass Stepladder, Type II

This is available at Lowe's for $49.00.

Philips DVP5982 DVD Player

This DVD player will upscale to HD (when we get an HD TV) and play from a USB flash drive.

This is on sale through Phillips Outlet for $39.99 with free shipping.

Power Cradle with built-in speaker for Mio C320

This is a bracket for my new GPS.

This is on sale at Semsons for $28.99.

Cork Pops I Wine Opener

This is an easy wine opener.

This is available at Homebrewers for $17.95 plus $7.99 shipping.

Update 12/25/07: Thanks Santa!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Bloglines Beta

Remember way back when I wrote about Bloglines? I'm still using it. Oh, I tried Google Reader but I came back to Bloglines.

Recently, Bloglines has been offering a beta. It's all AJAX and overcomes one of the few complaints I'd had about Bloglines.

In the current Bloglines, when you click on a feed, it is loaded in the right frame and marks all the items read even if you haven't looked at them. Google Reader doesn't do that.

In the beta Bloglines, when you click on a feed, it is loaded in the right frame and the items are marked read when you look at them. Much nicer.

It's still a beta and some things are broken or flaky.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


This is an oldie but a goodie. I ran across my use of KeyTweak last week.

Dell, in their infinite wisdom, remapped the keyboard on their Latitude D-series. This put the Insert key right where the Home key is on ThinkPads. Needless to say, this gave me fits toggling Insert.

KeyTweak will let you remap (or in my case UNmap) any keys. The author has a great manual here.

KeyTweak doesn't have to be installed. I keep a copy on my USB key and run it from there when needed.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Damn Spam Part III

All year I've been tracking spam by recording the number of e-mails in the Spam folder in my Gmail account each Monday. Here's the chart of the results.

There's been a drop-off since early 2007 to about 1/3 of what it had been. I'm not quite sure why but I'll take it.

PS. I also want to follow-up on my previous post on Globat e-mail, Part 3. For my customer, I'm still using BellSouth (now AT&T) for spam filtering. However, I've been noticing that there was very little spam in the MailGuard folder. I'm still forwarding their e-mail through Globat so I went back over there to see what was happening.

Globat has instituted a new mail system with a new spam filter called SpamShield Pro. It really looks like it's doing a very good job, removing most of the spam before it gets to BellSouth.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Lesson Learned

I guess I learned a lesson tonight. I should have learned it earlier.

I have a D-Link DI-624 wireless router. Last week I upgraded to WPA (should have done this much earlier). Twice since then, I've lost access to file shares through the router. A reset of the router gets everything back to working.

I checked the firmware level against the latest firmware on D-Link's site and I was a couple of revisions back. So I downloaded the .bin file and loaded it using the router's administrative page.

When it finished, it wouldn't reload the admin page like it usually does. It took a few seconds but I realized that the router had reset to its default IP range. That wasn't all that it had reset.

It was completely back at the factory defaults!

Gone was my unique IP range. Gone was my SSID. Gone was my WPA key. Gone was my port forwarding. Gone was my ntp server. Gone was my log e-mail settings. Gone was my ...

Well, you get the picture.

30 minutes later, it was pretty well back where it was. There was one difference though. I had backed up the settings to my hard drive.

Monday, October 08, 2007

ThinkVantage Active Protection System

I just built a new (to me) ThinkPad T42. I installed all the IBM Lenovo software.

Included in this is the ThinkVantage Active Protection System. I kinda knew what this was so I downloaded and installed the software.

Active Protection System uses a motion sensor on the motherboard and parks the hard drive's heads when it detects certain levels of motion.

Tonight when I went to Control Panel to update Java, I saw the ThinkVantage Active Protection System icon. With nothing else to do while Java updated, I fired this up. Here's what it looked like.

But it's realtime! As the laptop rested on my lap, it moved ever so slightly as I typed. The image of the laptop in the moved with it! Too cool.

You know what I had to do next. Yep, shake it!

IBM's description is here and there's a good independent article on it here.

Pretty nice stuff. Try that on your Dell.

Monday, September 24, 2007

TV Wiring Diagram

For all of you wondering how I have my SageTV box, a VCR/DVD, and a cable converter hooked up, here goes.

Input from the cable is split 4 ways. Leg 1 goes to VCR/DVD Antenna In. Leg 2 goes to the SageTV Antenna In. Leg 3 goes to the cable converter Antenna In. And finally, Leg 4 goes to the TV Antenna In.

The SageTV box also takes a Line In from the cable converter's Line Out. This uses the Left and Right audio outputs and an S-video output. The SageTV also outputs Line Out that goes into the TV Line 3 In.

The cable converter's ins and outs have been previously described except that the Left and Right audio outputs and Composite video are split and also go to the VCR/DVD Line 1 In. Originally, this was done so that I could record on the VCR from the cable converter which is no longer necessary.

The VCR/DVD Line Out goes into the TV's Line 1 In.

Yeah, it's a mess behind that entertainment center.

Sunday, September 23, 2007


Last Fall when we went to Sun for an executive briefing, I fell in love with their Sun Fire X4500 ("Thumper"). I joked that I wanted one for home.

Now Data Robotics has an equivalent for the home market. The underlying technology is obviously different than Sun's Thumper but the result is similar.

It's a 4-bay SATA enclosure with USB 2.0 attachment. You just stick in a couple of drives and it figures out the best way to protect as much storage as possible. There's a good illustration of how it uses a mixture of RAID and mirroring in George Ou's blog post below.

If you need more space, add another drive or just pull out the smallest drive and stick in a larger one. Oh, don't worry about moving your data off before you do this. Just yank it out with the Drobo running.

With 2 400GB drives, I get 371GB protected. If I add another 400GB drive, I go to 743GB! Don't you love RAID? (Ok, pseudo-RAID)

Here's a couple of blog posts that give a lot more details.
It's worth a brief discussion of the related software. Data Robotics provides a Drobo Dashboard. You'd think it was not required as the Drobo presents to the operating system as a USB drive. However, currently there is a required firmware update for the Drobo that can only be installed via the Drobo Dashboard. So I installed the Dashboard.

But, it is a .NET 2.0 application. While the Drobo Dashboard was a 17MB download, the .NET Framework was a 23MB download. And now I have 3 Windows security patches to apply!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Google Street View

When I was driving down Poplar Pike last Thursday just after lunch, I saw this little Mini backing out of this driveway. It backed out onto Poplar Pike and proceeded East in front of me. It had blinking lights so I just assumed it was a mail carrier. As we stopped at Hacks Cross Road, I realized it had lettering across the back saying "Survey Vehicle" and a funky looking gadget on top. I had spotted a camera car for Google Street View!

He turned South and paused right on the railroad tracks. I can only presume he was trying to get a comprehensive shot of the grade crossing.

He went on South on Hacks Cross Road and turned East onto Ridgetown Lane.

So when the Google Street View for Memphis is available, remember you heard it here first. And look for the silver Camry on Poplar Pike near Hacks Cross Road!

Monday, September 03, 2007


One of my many quests is for a lightweight, free, PDF creator. I know there're tons of them around but they all seem to either require ghostscript or put a watermark on the output.

The other day, I came across doPDF. I saved it away for a rainy day.

Well, that day came around today. It's a quick download and install. It works well too.


I archive copies of my phone bill (around 30 pages and no, I don't have an iPhone). The copy created with doPDF was 745KB and the copy created with Adobe Acrobat 6.0 was 93KB. doPDF was set at 300 dpi and Acrobat at 600 dpi.


doPDF worked fine but 8 times bigger is really too much.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Western Digital My Book 500GB

I've been using IDE drives in USB/Firewire enclosures for add-on storage, a 200GB and a 250 GB. I had filled up the 250GB and switched to the 200GB. But I didn't want to eat up all my UPS power with both of them running so I turned off the 250GB. The downside is that then I couldn't tell what I had on the 250GB. Duh!

One of my RSS feeds came up with "Western Digital 500GB 7200 RPM USB 2.0 External Hard Drive - My Book Essential Edition for a low $114.75 - 10% off using Paypal = $103.27 free shipping."

Not bad. And it's quiet as a mouse.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Globat e-mail, Part 3

I resell web hosting and e-mail from an account at Globat. I've written about them several times (Cheap Web Hosting, Globat e-mail, Globat e-mail, Part 2, and Globat Support). Overall, these have been satisfactory in the end.

A couple of weeks ago, my customer called me complaining about spam. I looked around on Globat and found that they have a facility called GloSpamShield. It looked like a pretty good system so I tried to order it. I got several different stories but in the end they added it to my account for $29.95. So far, so good.

Then I went to my control panel to enable it. It wouldn't enable on any of my accounts. To make a long story a little shorter, an escalation to Lou Rio got Luis Banda on it and he got all but one enabled. That one NEVER got enabled. That problem might have been a sign I should have heeded.

The default level is "Medium" and is the recommended starting point. At that level, my customer didn't see any difference in spam so I bumped it to "Medium - High." Then pretty much everything got blocked. So I turned on "Held E-mails." It worked very differently on different accounts. Some would have lots of held e-mails and some would have none. There was no rhyme nor reason.

After a number of tickets with Globat support, I gave up and went to turn off GloSpamShield. It wouldn't turn off! At this point, Luis Banda quit responding. I had to contact billing and request a credit for GloSpamShield which they promptly gave AND turned off the feature. I guess money talks.

Whew. I thought I was done but I had just started.

My customer called me fuming! He sent an e-mail to a bank to meet a deadline and it was rejected by Globat as being "unsolicited bulk e-mail." This guy sends less than 10 e-mails a week.

A panic call to Globat revealed that this domain had been blacklisted. They agreed to whitelist it immediately but could never explain why it had been blacklisted.

This e-mail rejection and promised whitelisting has happened 3 times so far. Each time, I have been assured that the domain was whitelisted and that they would get me an explanation. None has been forthcoming.

Today, I think I figured it out. In attempting to rescue this customer, I created new e-mail accounts at another ISP and forwarded the Globat e-mail accounts to them. Remember that these are virgin e-mail accounts. Never been seen or used. Oh, and the account names aren't subject to dictionary attacks.

Within 48 hours, these new mailboxes are now getting bounced e-mails saying that they have sent virus infested e-mail. The only way that spammers could have gotten these e-mail accounts is to have hacked into Globat's mail servers' forwarding information.

And I'm still not getting any response from Globat support.

Friday, July 27, 2007

ThinkPad T42

The screen on my ThinkPad T20 got too pink and the 256MB of RAM just didn't cut it. I came across a T42 on RetroBox and went for it. It's 1.7GHz and 1GB or RAM. Much better.

The first question was go to Vista or not? Sure, why not?

I installed Vista Home Premium using the clean install from an upgrade DVD. Worked like a charm and quick, taking about an hour and a half.


Vista didn't find a video driver. No problem, I thought. Windows Update will fix that. Nope. No driver there. No problem, I thought. It was an ATI Mobility Radeon 7500 so off I went to the ATI site. Nope. No driver there. No problem, I thought. Off to ThinkWiki. Nope. No driver there. Problem.

I finally found a post on Microsoft's TechNet forum that gave a bizarre workaround but it worked. Kinda.

This gave me most of the expected features and controls for the video adapter but, alas, no Aero. Seems that the 7500 doesn't have Pixel Shading 2! So close, yet so far.


I ran through much of my normal install process and went to connect to my server where my printers are. No go. Vista said the print spooler wasn't running on the XP system. But it was. Fiddle, fiddle, and suddenly without explanation they worked.

In summary, that's how the whole experience went. What was expected to work didn't. Sometimes there was a fix or workaround and sometimes there wasn't.

Just to get a sense, go to Lenovo's "Drivers and software" page and note the dearth of support for Vista. Missing are items like Audio (worked), Trusted Platform Module (TPM), Intel SpeedStep Applet, Intel Chipset, Presentation Director, LCD/Monitor, and of course ATI Radeon/FireGL. Some of these could be included in the Vista base code.

That got me to thinking about what Alex Rublowsky of Microsoft had told me in an Executive Briefing in Redmond November 3, 2005 - "When Vista ships, 3 year old systems will run it." Not even close. And this T42 is an enterprise class system built in August 2004.

In the end, I punted and went back to XP Pro. Felt like an old pair of shoes.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Site Meter

I've used Site Meter for a long time on a variety of web pages including this blog. It's always been a solid set of statistics and very dependable.

This spring, when I went to check my statistics on this blog, I got some odd results. The problem has since been corrected. I quickly hit PrtSc and captured the erroneous output.

Being the nice guy that I am, I e-mailed it to Site Meter. 2 days later I got a reply.

Dear Ben,

Thank you very much for sending this through.

We attempted a launch of the new sitemeter site on Tuesday. Unfortunately we encountered problems and had to revert back to the old site.

This information was useful as we tried and diagnose the problem.

I have upgraded you to a Free lifetime paid account for taking the time to send this along.


The Sitemeter Team
Now, I wasn't familiar with the "paid" Site Meter account so here's the difference.

Above is the "free" service.

Above is the "Plus" service.

Pretty nice guys.

Friday, July 06, 2007


I have photos scattered ALL over. My dream is to get these all in one place with the best of all presentations. The ultimate would be a lot like Google's Picasa Web Albums but with just a few more bells and whistles - things like the ability to store full resolution images.

My web host (Globat) gives me 100GB of web space so it seemed like the logical thing to do was to put the photos there. Now all I needed was some software to run there.

I searched high and low and found Gallery2 from Menalto. This is a SourceForge project, natch. There's a site that lets you play with all the themes for Gallery2.

Well, it seemed like a good idea.

Gallery2 has a nice php installer. You just upload it to your web site and run it. (Oh, don't forget to set the permissions.) It will actually copy the Gallery2 files to your web server, unpack them, and take you step-by-step through the install. Only one call to Globat to get the MySQL database setup. (Good support, by the way.)

So far, so good. But it was early.

The Gallery2 upload process(es), while a diverse collection, weren't nearly as smooth as my benchmark Picasa Web.

The results of the upload were pretty good. It created thumbnails and 640x480 images at the same time. Well, almost. One image of the 24 that I uploaded as a trial didn't get a thumbnail so it loaded the 4MB picture every time you went to the album page.

Some of the pictures needed to be rotated so I went into Edit Photo and rotated one. That's when I got the (first) server error. And the thumbnail went away, permanently.

It went downhill from there. The forums had lots of suggestions including recompiling the image toolkit. I don't recall having to do this with Picasa Web.

At this point, Gallery2 is pretty well hosed. Me too.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Draggable Google Maps

This has been blogged everywhere but I felt like it warranted my following up on since I had blogged on the issue previously.

As I said earlier, one of the capabilities I was looking for was "the ability to set specific waypoints along the way thereby sending the route along something other than the shortest/quickest route." let you set waypoints but you would know that Google would do it slicker.

With the new extension to Google's directions, you just grab a segment and drag it to where you want it to run. It recalculates the route including timings and distances.

Of course, it's all done in Ajax so it drives my 600MHz 256MB ThinkPad into the ground. Looks like it's time for an upgrade.

Wonder why it took Google so long to catch up with

Friday, June 22, 2007

Verizon BlackBerry 8830

My company has cellular agreements with Cingular (AT&T) and Verizon. Those with Verizon phones who travel internationally have had to take a second GSM phone with them. Verizon recently introduced the BlackBerry 8830 which has both a CDMA radio and a GSM radio.

When I traveled to Ireland recently, I took one of the evaluation units with me. It still had a sticker on it that said "Property of Research in Motion." I stopped by the local Verizon store to get them to show me how to work the GPS (more later) and they had never seen one!

Oh, on GPS. In spite of the indication from the BlackBerry 8830's web page that it has GPS (expand Features), the Verizon site doesn't mention it and Verizon's Customer Service said it didn't. I sure wish I had GPS in Ireland!

The Verizon BlackBerry 8830 worked fine in Ireland. I switched my Lotus Notes e-mail over to it from my Treo 650 running BlackBerry Connect. Each night, I would fire up the 8830 and let it download my e-mail. Verizon has a roaming agreement with Vodafone and that's the only network I observed the 8830 connecting to. I didn't try to get it to connect to other GSM networks.

One thing I particularly wanted to test was the dialing strings required in that GSM uses the "+" followed by the country code followed by the local number. Consequently, I have all the phone numbers in my Treo specified as "+CAAALLL-LLLL." On the 8830, I just put the 10-digit local number. I was worried that the 8830 would be confused by the "+" when in CDMA mode although I never tried it.

My findings were that the 8830 realized it was in GSM mode and inserted "+C" (where "C" seemed to default to "1") so the call was placed properly. This was just what you would want the 8830 to do.

Incoming calls worked fine also. One one occasion, I had problems placing calls in that I got "Call Forwarding - Conditional" and the call failed. After retrying it a couple of times it always went through. Changing the dialing string to explicitly include "+1" or "0011" didn't matter.

I still prefer my Treo 650 to the BlackBerry 8830. The keyboard feels too "smooth." There isn't enough tactile feel to the keys. You can't easily tell when you move from key to key. Also, the "pearl" roller-ball is sluggish when the device is busy otherwise, e.g. downloading e-mail. The roller-ball doesn't have any feedback when it is clicked.

The BlackBerry operating system and GUI are obviously different from the Treo 650 and my experience is probably more indicative of this than any real problems with the BlackBerry. It's been almost 2 years since I've used a BlackBerry 7290.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Excel 2007 Default Template (Updated)

This is an update to a former post of the same title.

Remember at the end of my first post on Word 2007, I promised some information on Excel 2007. This is it.

I had the same kind of issue with Excel 2007 that I'd had with Word 2007. That is the default formatting uses the Calibri font that users without Office 2007 probably won't have.

Fortunately, it's easier to solve in Excel than in Word.

Just click on the Office button, click on "Excel Options" near the bottom right and choose "Popular."

Go down to the "When creating new workbooks" section and find the "Use this font" drop-down box. Change this to Arial and click Ok.

Restart Excel and you're done.

Many thanks to Helen Bradley for setting me straight.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

PCs for Seniors

In the spirit of my previous post on DVDs for Seniors, this blog post inspired me to write this post.

One problem I've had to overcome is that they kept moving the icons all over the desktop. I found a program called IconLock written in 1999 by PC Magazine. The article is still available. You can download it here.

While the article says "IconLock runs under Windows 95, Windows 98, and Windows NT 4," I've found that it runs fine under Windows XP. Do be sure that you exercise all the desktop and Start menu items that they'll need to use as you can't completely lock it down or they won't be able to launch items on the desktop or even from the Start menu.

One other tip. I setup a Blogger blog that I set as the homepage on their Internet Explorer. With that I can add links to their homepage from anywhere and all they have to do is close and reopen Internet Explorer and the new link will be right there in front of them!

As I mentioned earlier, I use LogMeIn for remote control. Works perfectly and the price is right!

Sunday, March 25, 2007


I've been wrestling with the HD vs. SD TV issue for some time now. I really have my TV situation pretty well worked out. I use the cable-ready tuner in my old 27" Sony Wega. I feed the Scientific Atlanta 2000 digital channels through my Sony DVD/VCR (I kinda like Sony) so I can watch them on the TV or record them on the Sage TV system. The Sage system can even change channels on the SA box via a USB-UIRT.

But I still look at HD TVs. Recently, PC Connection had the Astar MP-32HB for $399.99 after rebate with free shipping. I couldn't resist that.

Delivery was QUICK, literally the next day not counting the weekend. I'm not a big HD expert, but the picture looks good to me. I feed it via HDMI from Comcast Scientific Atlanta 8300HD DVR. My plan was to replace my old 27" tube with it. It all worked but the vertical dimension is about 1" LESS than the 27". And from across the living room, the HD detail doesn't knock your socks off. In the end, I'm moving it to my bedroom and waiting until I can save up more for a bigger HD.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

More on Word 2007

I'm still using Office 2007 at work. The new UI is really growing on me and I find it easier to do things than in Office 2003. And I've been using Office since the early 1990s.

But (you knew that was coming), I keep finding little things that are left out of Word 2007.

The first was that Word 2007 no longer supports some early Word format files. Gimme a break. How much code could that have been? And it seems that they're even a little embarrassed about it. When you try to open one, you get a pop-up that says that that file type is blocked by policy.

If you follow the link at the bottom, it takes you to a KnowledgeBase article that way down the page mentions that Word 2007 no longer supports Word 1.0 and Word 2.0 files.

Then today, I realized that Word 2007 no longer supports AutoFormat in the menu system. If you don't know what that is, follow the following steps.

I copied and pasted into Word 2003 some text with carriage returns at the end of each line.
Then I went to the menu bar and selected Format.

I selected AutoFormat and got this dialog.

I just clicked on OK and voila!
I couldn't figure how to do that in Word 2007.

Microsoft even has a page in their Office Online site entitled "Where is the AutoFormat feature?" Their answer is "The AutoFormat feature, which was part of Microsoft Office 2003, is not included in the 2007 Microsoft Office system." I'm going to include a screen shot since Microsoft has been known to change pages that I quote from time to time. (I really don't think they're singling me out.)

But read that page all the way to the end. "In Word, you can add AutoFormat to the Quick Access Toolbar." Then they show you how to do that. I guess they couldn't find a place on the ribbon to add that feature.

One last rant. Look at the screen shots in this earlier post. Notice that there's no Help search field in the menu bar. There is now a blank space where the search field used to be. Go figure.

Next, Excel 2007!

PS. I forgot this one. It really isn't just Word 2007 but that's where you'll use it most. Office 2007 has an add-in that will let you create PDFs. You can download it here.