In A Windowless Room

April 4, 2012 at 11:38 pm (Cool Tech, Internet tech, Rent Me) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Hey, bloggy-types and Internet trolls! I’m back again, making a bit of an effort to “feed” the blog. (And hoping to drive my traffic back up!) But in this installment, the content isn’t quite as poetic as the title might lead you to believe…

A recent post on e-week caught my eye. “Microsoft: 10 Fascinating Facts About Windows, Other Products”. I’ve got Fascinating Fact #11, kids. I am successfully and happily living my life without any of those products. Okay, without most of them. We’ll come back to that in a few paragraphs.

To begin – I’m not using Windows much any more. (My Windows machine is down, but when it runs, it’s running XP.) I’ve been on Linux almost exclusively (something like 99% of the time) for the past year or so, and very seldom do I run into an issue with it. I do have a couple apps that can only run on Windows, but – I’m getting along just fine, thanks. It’s surprising just how much work you can do on Ubuntu Linux, loaded on a second-hand Acer netbook. (Good-natured Bronx cheer, Mac and Windows adherents.)

As for Windows 8, (mentioned early in the e-week slideshow) I wonder how that new approach to the user interface will work out. People tend to resist change, even if it’s “good” change. The Redmond Rat Pack may have shot themselves in the foot here. I read a recent article to the effect that Windows may have one foot in the grave already, and if Win 8 goes over as well as Vista did, well – it’s not going to be pretty. Though – as a veteran Computer Tutor – it may mean more work for me. I can’t tell you how many thousands of dollars I have earned because Microsoft’s OS is such a P-O-S. Maybe I should send a “Thank You” card to Bill Gates.

Gaming – the X-Box is also featured in the slideshow… Since we are talking about my lifestyle here, bluntly, I have so little time to play games that an X-Box is about as much use to me as a skateboard is to a duck. I can just about manage a few games of Klondike before I fall asleep at night. Beyond that, gaming is an undiscovered country. A bit like me and any sports, to be frank. But I hear the X-Box is a well-regarded gaming system, though they do seem to die rather often and unexpectedly.

Bing – don’t get me started. Seriously? A search engine whose name is an acronym for “But It’s Not Google”? Nah. I’ve been Googling almost since there was a Google. So are 76% of the world’s Internet search engine users, as of Feb. 2012. Sorry, Bill. Nice try.

Zune. Yeah. (Trying not to laugh.) Another “me-too” product conceived in Apple’s shadow. I’ve had 3 or 4 MP3 players, none of them a Microsoft product. (No iPods, either. Overpriced, IMHO.) I’ve carelessly managed to kill all of them, sadly. There are times when I really miss them. Like when I am shopping during the holidays, and wherever I go, there seems to be some truly dreadful Christmas music playing on the store’s PA. “Pa-rum-pa-pum-pum” indeed. I’ll have to see if I can get a replacement before Hallowe’en this year…

Phones. Windows Mobile / Windows Phone? Not a chance this year. Or next. Currently, I don’t even have a smart phone. In fact, my phone couldn’t be any dumber, unless it was a rock. But in the future, given that there options such as the iPhone iOS, or the Linux-based Android, what do you suspect I would choose? Good guess.

Finally, we come to slide #10. Skype. Well, you got me, Microsoft. Guilty of being a Skype user. But only because I’ve been using Skype for personal and business calls since 2007. Microsoft bought Skype in 2011, mostly to keep it out of Google’s hands. Redmond only wins that one by default. And hey – Skype works fine on Linux! (I love this slide, below. Ballmer looks like some sort of gnomish version of a guy you might encounter in the waiting room of the oil-change place, getting fresh fluids poured into his Lexus. Big thumbs up there, Steve. Oh, and I will readily admit that I’m no beauty queen myself. In fact, I look increasingly like the comic book store guy on The Simpsons. Sigh. What ya gonna do, eh?)

We’re now at the end of the slideshow, and I’ll have to be done taking snarky pot-shots at Microsoft. Although, e-week didn’t mention Office Live (soon to be replaced by SkyDrive), the MS version of Google Docs. Or MSN. Or Hotmail. Maybe that’s because they are more or less invisible in the marketplace.

Nor did they mention Internet Explorer. Yet another “Billy-come-lately” product, and the stuff of which antitrust lawsuits were made. If IE didn’t come bundled with Windows, I kind of doubt it could hold its own in the browser marketplace. In fact, one startup recently took the audacious step of dropping all support for Internet Explorer. And it saved them over $100K, plus countless hours of development time. Pretty gutsy move, but one that I understand completely, as a webmaster. IE is a pain in the neck, because Microsoft insists on implementing Java, CSS, and HTML in their own special way, even though standards exist that they can follow. They simply choose not to. (Heh heh, you thought I was done being snotty, didn’t you? Okay, I’ll quit now. Rant over.)

Not sure what I’ll post next time. There’s a fair number of things rattling around in my old fat head. Come back soon, and see what fell out first. And don’t forget to comment below, if you are so moved. Thanks for reading!

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Well, I sure am shocked.

June 3, 2007 at 11:28 pm (Cars & Trucks, Die Rat Bastard, Politics, Rent Me, The Economy, The Environment)

Smokestacks in ChinaYou could knock me over with a feather off the butt of a Peking (Beijing?) duck. Turns out the Chinese intend to put economic development ahead of controlling their emissions of greenhouse gases. Can’t say as I’m a bit surprised. The G8 nations did exactly the same thing during the first 100 years of the Industrial Revolution. We didn’t begin to take note of the stinking air and dying lakes until the 1960’s. And now, just because we are aware of the damage that is being caused, we want the developing nations like China and India to make (apparent) sacrifices that we never did. To quote the BBC News article:

“In explaining the plan, the chairman of China’s National Development and Reform Commission, Ma Kai, said rich counties who have already industrialized would instead have to do more to tackle climate change.

“Mr Ma said they (emphasis added) were responsible for most of the greenhouse gases produced over the past century and had the money to tackle the problem.

“Mandatory emission caps ‘would hinder the development of developing countries and hamper their industrialization’, he added.”

Dammit, he’s got us red-handed. This is mostly our problem. (You hear that, Dubya?) The Chinese are going to feel like they are being punished for trying to create their own version of the American Dream. No matter that they are crapping in their own backyards to do it. They want the consumer society, no matter the cost to their air, water, land, and children.

Look into it, dear reader. The cost of oil, steel, concrete, and other raw materials has gone up since China (and the rest of Asia) entered the industrial economy. There’s only so much oil and steel to go around, and if more people are bidding for the same commodity, the price goes up. Econ 101.

So. The genie is out of the bottle, and the toothpaste is out of the tube and running down our collective wrist. What’s there to do about it? For one, we can stop competing for scarce resources, and use something else. Something local, like wind, geothermal, natural gas, solar… does this make any sense? Maybe stop shipping all our scrap to China, and recycle it here – cleanly?

Windmill SunriseI suppose I also ought to explain my parenthetical “apparent” above, when speaking about sacrifices. There is some recent data to indicate that being “green” is actually good for business, and may be more profitable, short and long term, than being a polluter.

We in the west have got a lot of work to do. We need to put our own economies back in shape, and not trash the air & water all over again in the process. Plus, we need to finish cleaning up the mess we’ve made, and show some leadership to the developing world. We as Americans must demand that our leaders actually lead in this direction, or get the hell out of the way.

UPDATE: January 26th, 2008

Here is the first of four videos from the UK’s Channel 5, entitled “Big Ideas That Changed The World – Consumerism“. It’s a wonderful and sobering look at the changes human need & greed have wrought upon the world.

Part two:

Part three:

And finally, part four:

Click here to see all the videos posted by this YouTube user. There are some excellent BBC documentaries here.

UPDATE: April 9th, 2008

I couldn’t resist this. The Urban Dictionary has selected “consumerican” as their Urban Word of the Day today. (Be advised – much of the content on UrbanDictionary.com is NOT safe for work.) “Consumerican” is defined as:

An individual suffering from the particularly American brand of consumerism.

You’d have to be a real consumerican to always think you need the newest, most expensive computer every two years.

I couldn’t agree more. Yes, it takes some time, effort, and a bit of knowledge to deal with today’s tools and technology, but it’s worth the effort to keep perfectly serviceable appliances, computers, and other manufactured goods out of the landfills. We throw away so much that is still usable. And yes, that’s been said before, by people more intelligent and notable than I.

But that’s because it’s true.

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About the Blogroll

May 25, 2007 at 8:52 pm (Cool Tech, General, Internet tech, Media, Rent Me)

Over there - the blogroll!It occurred to me just now that I have not drawn any attention recently to my Blogroll. (That’s the list of links in the right sidebar.)

There are a lot of useful links there for very good free security software, as well as some entertaining content. I just added a few more links, such as Belarc, and the Spyware Warrior page.

The Spyware Warrior page is especially important if you see a pop-up on your computer screen, claiming that you may have X number of infections and should “click here to buy CrapWare 2007” to fix the problem. This is never a good idea, in my experience. It’s like buying stock based on the recommendation of a spam message. Just don’t do it. And don’t send your bank account info to any so-called Nigerian princes, either.

If you are the sort who doesn’t heed these kinds of warnings, then may I respectfully suggest you keep your will updated, because you’re going to be found in the bathtub with a hairdryer one of these days for sure.

Be careful out there, okay?

Oh yeah, I almost forgot.  If you’re in the Portland / Vancouver area, and need a trustworthy geek to disinfect your computer, give me a shout.  I’m very affordable, and am available evenings, weekends, you name it.

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What the heck is a “favicon”, huh?

May 10, 2007 at 6:15 pm (Cool Tech, Internet tech, Rent Me)

Why do I need one? How do I get one? Okay, Uncle Dave gonna tell you. Pull up a bean-bag chair, plunk your butt, and hearken to the experience, if not the wisdom.

WP LogoA “favicon” is that funny little teeny picture in the address bar of your browser, right next to where it shows the web page address (or URL). In the case of this web page, for example, it’s a white capital “W” on a circular black background, identifying this page as a WordPress page. And Google has a blue capital “G” in a white square.

Now that we have defined what it is, why do I need one?

If you are creating a web site, and you want to “brand” your web site with your company or personal logo, then a favicon is another cool way of doing that. It helps to identify your web page if people are surfing with a tabbed browser like Firefox or version 7 of Internet Explorer. Besides, it’s just plain cool. Okay, it’s cool if you’re a total nerd like me.

How do you get one? It’s easy! You can make one, with software you can find in your mommy’s kitchen computer. Here’s how I do it:

  1. My logoFirst, get or create an image file (JPEG, PNG, BMP, GIF) of the logo you want to have for a favicon on your site. Like this one, to the right.
  2. Next, use a program like Irfanview or Gimp to bump up the color saturation and contrast just a bit, using your calibrated eyeball. Colors in a smaller image are better perceived (at least by me and my CE) when they are made a bit more bold. (With this example, there are no colors, and the contrast can’t be increased, obviously. Your results may vary.)
  3. Still in Irfanview (or Gimp), resample your image along its major axis to 16 pixels. 16 pixels is the magic number for favicons. Your goal is to have a finished image that measures 16 x 16 pixels.
  4. Save the resampled image as “favicon.bmp”.
  5. Open “favicon.bmp” in MS Paint or Gimp, zoom in, and fiddle it about, pixel by pixel, until it looks like it will convey the sense of the original logo when seen at actual 16 x 16 size in the browser.You may have to zoom in & out a few times, squint your eyes, and take several passes at it until you get a good finished result. Hey, nothing good comes easy. This is also a good time to resize the image to make it 16 x 16 pixels square.
  6. When you’re happy with the looks of it, save the image and exit Paint. Rename the file “favicon.bmp” to “favicon.ico”.
  7. Bravo! You now have a finished favicon file, ready for the unthinking abuse of the web surfing masses. It gets placed in the root directory of the web site, i.e. http://www.mywebsite.com/favicon.ico

It took longer to write the how-to than it did to create the favicon. Certainly you can try other programs. I just wrote about what I know and use, and because the programs I use are free. (Those of you who know me in meatspace know that I am frugal, or “cheap” as I have also been called.)

UPDATE – 5/25/07:

I created a YouTube video to illustrate the process. Here it is, in all its amateurish glory:

I am ZIM!However, if you want a favicon or even a logo, and can’t be bothered with all this folderol, you can hire me. I’m quick and easy, as well as being cheap. Good qualities in a creative consultant, maybe not so much in a date, but c’est la vie.

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Back up, buddy!

January 13, 2007 at 11:27 am (Cool Tech, Rent Me)

Get your attention? It should. When is the last time you backed up your data? You know, the user files on your computer? Can’t remember? Never did?? Okay, it’s time. Now.

When I worked on the phones for Charter Communications, I would get several calls each week from people who lost all their files, especially old e-mails, when their PC got a virus or the hard drive crashed. Oh, but they were unhappy people. One that sticks in my mind is a woman who lost all (ALL) her digital photos, including pictures of her (now deceased) father. Made me feel sad.

Good backup policy

Don’t be that person. Today is Saturday. Get your butt up off the couch, and go on down to Fry’s, or CompUSA. Buy yourself a CD-ROM burner (or a DVD burner) and some blank disks. Hell, even Target and Wal-Mart have burners and blanks. You could be living in East Humpback West Virginia, for all I know, and there is probably a Wal-Mart within range of your pick-em-up truck or your ‘82 Olds Cutlass.

External Drive - not LaCie(Target has a really cool USB external hard drive from LaCie for about $129. It holds about as much data as 300 CDs. All you have to do with this one is plug it in, load the software, and copy your files over. There went one of your excuses, right down the privy.)

Anyway, drives and blanks are really quite cheap these days, thanks to all those Chinese working for a few bucks a day. Go get some. They’re pretty easy to install. There are directions in the box. You’ll probably need a Philips screwdriver. (Yes, Wally’s has those, too. Chinese ones.) If it’s too intimidating, hire me. I work cheap. Not as cheap as a Chinaman, but still damn affordable. Or bribe your local teenage geek, if you live in Podunk Arkansas. All he’ll need is a large pepperoni pizza (extra cheese), and a 2 liter bottle of cola.

So, get all your old e-mails and other stuff backed up. Your significant other will be a much happier camper when the computer eats their pictures, and you calmly reassure them that you backed everything up to a CD. Might as well. It’s January, and you’re not going to be working in the yard this weekend, unless you live in Florida or So-Cal.

Good on ya. Go thou now, and be a hero. You can do this.

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For Godsake, FIRE Norton and McAfee!

January 11, 2007 at 8:57 am (Cool Tech, Internet tech, Rent Me)

Paying for software stinksThere’s no good, valid reason to keep paying for their crapware. Follow these links, and get yourself some really good, free (yes, it’s free!) software to protect your Windows PC. Here we go….

Anti-Virus: AVG Free Edition (Grisoft)

Anti-Spyware: Ad-Aware SE Personal (Lavasoft)

Anti-Spyware: SpyBot Search and Destroy (Safer Networking Ltd.)

(Generally folks use both – one catches what the other might miss)

Personal Firewall: ZoneAlarm (Zone Labs)

If you have any questions about any other possible spyware killer products, check the list of “rogue” anti-spyware at Spyware Warrior. I know for a fact, through personal use, that SpyBot and Ad-Aware are legitimate, and do what they say they do.

If you’re feeling a little more courageous, try a better browser – Mozilla Firefox – and a better e-mail program – Thunderbird. If you have an occasional need for word processing, spreadsheets, and so on, but don’t have the spare $100-150 plus to send to Bill Gates, try Open Office.

And should you be well and truly fed up with Billy G, check out a user-friendly alternative to Windows – Ubuntu Linux.

There’s a lot of really excellent free software out there on the net. Why buy Bill an even bigger house? Bah. Nuts to him.

UPDATE:

Hey, if you want any help with setting this stuff up, and you are in the Portland / Vancouver area, you can always hire me. I work cheaply and quickly, and for what you save by not buying Norton, you can easily afford me.

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