Saturday, December 27, 2008

Beta Testing Skype 4.0

As a long time user and a paid user of Skype, I’m interested to try out the new beta version 4.0 I downloaded it tonight and so far am slightly impressed AND slightly paranoid at the increase in real-estate it takes on my screen.

Here’s what we have so far:

New Look:

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What’s up with the new splotchy thingy that comes with the new Skype download? It looks like they’re marketing to 12-year olds with this.  Then again, they’re very European with their designs anyway. That’s what I’m calling it anyway; Neo-European meets the Power Puff Girls!

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New fancy installer… ok seems workable. You don’t download the entire app, which I don’t like. Instead you download a 2.1 mb installer file and it contacts Skype’s servers for the full app. That’s great unless I’m deploying it across a network in which case I have to download the same app 300 times when I could just download it once and save the bandwidth… why do people like the idea of Live installers so much?

New Splash Screen



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What’s up with the splash screen? That’s not even full size. What you’re seeing is about 90% of the actual size of the splash screen. I could have done better with the smaller version. And the rainbow? WTF gives with that? Hi, we’re really really hoping to attract the kindergarten market!

N00B Guide"

 

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If you’re into the whole “read-me” thing, you will find this useful. It pops up each time you load skype unless you uncheck the “Show Welcome Screen at Startup” at the lower left side of the screen. I can deal with this feature. It’s actually helpful considering all the new stuff they’re adding to skype. I clicked on most of them and read through ‘em. They have added Plugins for skype now, recording plugins, outlook integration plugins, etc. I downloaded one that looked really neat, until I saw the full version costs 99 british pounds. Lemme see, that’s about $200.00 US for a plug-in that works on my FREE program, right? Ok.. not sure how long THEY’ll be in business!

New Chat Interface


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This I like.. if I could get rid of it. It’s really cool to have complete access to a contact during a chat session, but really all I want to do is chat. Do I need 3/4 of my 22” monitor taken up with a chat screen?  You can do just about EVERYTHING from this screen though, see their screen name, their full comment tag (which used to be cut off if it was too long) their web site, contact history, etc, all from one screen.


Private Notifications in Taskbar

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This part is pretty cool, I have to admit. The chat notification appears as a number on the taskbar, signifying how many messages or calls you have waiting. When you click on it, you get the little screen shown above. If you double click that screen, you see the large screen shown in the previous picture above.

New Contact Status Icons

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This is another change, and a nice one. I can easily see who’s online (Green), who’s “away” (yellow), and who’s an outlook contact (light green with a phone icon).

CONS:

There are a few things I’ve noticed so far:

  • The footprint is a little bigger (46mb running unloaded)
  • The Skype plugin manager (skypePM.exe) runs all the time and takes 25 more MB, making Skype now more bulky in its footprint than Yahoo Messenger 9.0 Beta, which has the largest most horrific footprint of all.
  • To get to the compact view you have to set it manually rather than it being the default. To do this click on View –> Compact View.
  • History: I hate how Skype handles history. I use Skype for work. My clientele contains financial, government, and medical clients. As such, I’m strongly urged to keep logs of all chats for record keeping purposes. However, I definitely don’t want my personal chats archived with my business conversations, so I have disabled the history feature. It doesn’t matter how many times you set it to NOT remember the chat history.. it still does. I’ve got chat histories going back 45 days in my program history, right through two version upgrades, AND i have my Skype set not to save history. When I hit the enter key and send the message, I usually hit the ESC key and clear out the screen. From that point on, I never ever want to see that conversation history again.. usually at least. Why can’t Skype completely disable the history feature? It’s retarded that they’ve kept this bug through the last two versions through hundreds and hundreds of user complaints regarding it. Tonight, I went in and manually cleared the history. After doing so I tried to pull up chat history and poof, there it was again, even after manually clearing it out.

It’s a great telephone and teleconference program, which is 95% of what I use it for, but it’s never going to be a decent messaging appliance until they take user privacy into consideration. They’ve made small steps in this area with the discreet notification area changes, but its still too open. Anyone who has ten seconds at another user’s skype-connected computer can pull their entire chat history. That’s WAY not cool for a lot of my clients, and I’m not too keen on it either. If I just spent ten minutes ranting with a friend about what an ass some guy at work is, the last thing I’d want is that same guy checking into my PC to process an invoice and see my Skype history.
Overall, I give the new version a solid 4.0 out of 10. Bigger, Bulkier, Messier, tons of useless frills but no core changes that reflect user input, gay logo…

Home after the Holidays

This was the road home today as I was leaving to come back to Greenville. I took this on Alligator River bridge, heading home from East Lake. The fog was eerie. I thought it was a neat picture, worth sharing.

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It’s 8:15 Saturday evening and I’ve just gotten home. We left Mom’s today around 1:00 and stopped by to see Gerald and Priscilla Holliday (Doc’s parents) on the way home. After a visit of about an hour we were back on the road again bound for the house, but only long enough for BookWorm to cook a green bean casserole, and then we were off again to Michelle and Gary’s. (Bridget’s cousin and his wife, also one of her best friends). We enjoyed a nice meal with them and then watched Clayton play WII everything for about an hour and just now returned home. Now comes the unpacking, the unboxing of gifts, trying to find new places to put things, more enjoyment of my new coffee pot, and a massive uploading of pictures to FlickR. I’m actually doing that now, while I write this post, so maybe I can have the link generated by the time I’m finished writing.

My Digital Life:

DSCN0334 
That photo is my actual life… on a daily basis. I just had to get a picture of it to share, just for the sake of humor. Right there in that shot I’m charging my iPhone, iPod, a Motorola Razr, and a Samsung BlackJack. The only things NOT shown, but currently turned on, were my iPod remote control and my GPS.  If electronic devices really DID generate deadly radiation I would have been dead long ago from gamma exposure. On the other hand, this could be a commercial for the quality of the alternator installed in my Jeep.

Well, I’m going to take a break for a moment. I just had company come over. Marcus’ wife is working tonight until 10 so he’s got some time to kill and decided to stop by and say hey. I was hoping we had some holiday food to pawn off on him, but I think it’s actually all been eaten. Thank God!

Finally, The Photos:

It took long enough, and as usual, the flickr uploader goofed up, but I finally got the 55 photos taken over the last two days uploaded to the web site. If you want to see, feel free to check ‘em out. They’re located at: http://flickr.com/photos/tommyjordan/sets/72157611750637572/



Buried under presents

Here is a picture of TJ, buried under gifts - 2008
Posted by Picasa

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas in the Harbor

Well, it's Saturday as I compose this. I'm using this time to blog rather than to fall asleep in the chair.

We came down to Mom's today for Christmas with her and my daughter and we've just finished opening presents. Mom 2.0 is cooking fried chicken for lunch with  sweet potato casserole.

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iChild is sitting contentedly on the couch watching Cesar the Dog Whisperer and bookworm is reading a novel she swiped off mom 2.0's shelf. Me, well I'm sitting here in the chair with my new house-shoes writing this and looking through all the pictures we just took.

I thought I'd blog some of them before adding all of them to FlickR later this week.

I've decided that people need nicknames. That's my new blog niche. lol Sad huh? Technically I can't take credit at all because I first admired the idea when Merritt did it a few years ago on her blog. She run the Coffee-Talking blog and you'll often see her reference coffee-kid or coffee-husband, rather than call them by name. I've been playing with the idea for about a year and gotten nowhere, so I figured I'd just start trying out ideas and see where it takes me.  I even ran across the perfect new name for my blog the other day... Coffee and Code.. but alas I ran across it because it belonged to someone else. Rather than impinge on their creativity I will instead wander around in search of identity a little while longer.  Scooby Central is no longer the home of the Scoobs, so it's only fitting that it be renamed, much like an old diner that's been purchased by new owners and serves a new clientele. I need a new name. Jordan's Java? Nah. I really do want a coffee theme.. it's what I do. It's me. I'm always drinking coffee, from the time I get up until the time I go to bed. My best ideas come from the bottom of a coffee pot, having wired my brain into overdrive until it has no possible alternative except to rise to a new level of hyper-creativity and jittery awareness.

There's an idea. LMAO! How about Java Jitters? That's only funny if you're aware that I stutter... sometimes horribly so, other times less pronounced. The Jittery part is definitely me. I don't want to stretch for it though. I'll let it come to me in its own time.

Other Highlights of The Day

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Bookworm looks like someone Santa left behind by mistake, all decked out in her holiday wear she got this year.

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Mom got a pretty unique gift this year. I'm not sure where in the world she'll put it, but she got it. The story goes... I took a picture of Mom in Christmas of 2004. Her pose was an exaggerated "Oh Boy!" poses. She already knew what she was getting, but being the good sport she is, she put lots of energy into looking surprised. Well, 4 years later I got an email from a gentleman in London who had found the picture on FlickR and wanted my permission to use the photo of "my mum" as he so quaintly put it. They were doing an advertising campaign for National Express Trains in London station and wanted to use this photo as part of their test campaign.

I guess the client liked the photo. After checking with mum and getting her permission, I told him it was OK to use, but that I had one favor to ask; if possible, I'd like one of the posters signed by the ad creation team so I could frame it and give it to Mom. His reply was pretty quick and informed me that my poster would be printed and mailed in time for Christmas. Sure enough, DHL delivered me an almost-life-size poster in plenty of time for wrapping. So, this year I got a picture of Mom being surprised with picture of Mom being surprised. Nope, I didn't stutter. I had to think hard to get that right.

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I was surprised again this year, though I shouldn't have been. Mom always says "there's not much under the tree for you this year" and this year I was reminded half a dozen times that I had nothing under the tree.... looks that way huh? I'd hate to see the year she says there's a LOT under the tree. I was sitting there comfortably in my chair letting iChild play Santa Claus this year expecting a small box or two. Obviously I was surprised when inundated with boxes. I got shirts, some new cargo slacks, some really nice pictures of iChild and of my, my brother, and Dad, new house-shoes (which I've been dying for) and lots of other stuff. It was a day full of nice surprises for me. The older mom gets, the better her taste in clothes gets. Or maybe its that the older I get the more I fit into her buying patterns??? I choose to believe the former, rather than the latter. I'm not really one to have picked out the sweaters I got, but I think they'll really look good on me.  We just had a two minute discussion on whether they're Polo sweaters, crew neck sweaters, or something else altogether. I'll just have to take a picture and show them to you later. One of you can tell me what they are. They remind me of a british college professor... if that's any indication of the style I'm thinking of.

( I ended this post early. I'll catch it up later)

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Coffee Concoctions

hamilton coffee pot

 

My old coffee pot finally gets what it deserves… to die! Cathy and Frankie gave me a Hamilton Beach one-cup coffee pot for Christmas this year. I used to have one like this that uses a thermal holding tank to hold hot coffee, rather than depending on the warming plate to keep it hot. The warming place usually results in my coffee tasting scorched in less than an hour after brewing and I wind up throwing half the pot away. I haven’t been able to find one I liked in years though. Most of the new styles actually make the coffee one cup at at time and I’m far too impatient for that!

Presently, my new coffee pot it sitting right next to its smaller predecessor on my  countertop, happily burbling away on a fresh pot of coffee as my old pot sits there and faces its imminent demise! I’m sitting here right now drinking the last cup of crappy coffee that pot will ever make!

 

Merry Christmas!

I just wanted to take a moment to say




 Merry Christmas




to all my friends, loved ones, and to the rest of the world. I hope it’s a special day for all of you!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas: 80’s Rock Style and Memories of Youth

Ok, so maybe I’m a little strange, but I did get a little un-funked today. Right now I’ve got Eric Clapton’s Time Pieces album cranked wide open. I’m putting together a new iPod playlist of the Rock I grew up to. It’s so amazing.. I can remember things I was doing 15 years ago when these songs were playing. I remember listening to the Pearl Jam Ten album with my walkman (god, a walkman.. really?) and a pair of clunky headphones.

Here’s a sample of what I’m putting together in this list:



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Red Hot Chili Peppers: Blood Sugar Sex Magik



My mom found this CD when I was about 16 and threw it away. It was the first CD I’d ever gotten that I hadn’t bought myself. I remember Lauren gave it to me as a present shortly after we started dating.



Use your1



Guns and Roses reminds me of two things:



1) Lauren and her sister smoked a LOT of pot back in the day.  I like the music but hated the pot. lol. Wow.. 107 Colington Drive. I still remember living there.



Apetite



2) The other GNR memory is of riding through Nags Head Woods (before it was paved) with Richard. He and I in the bid “Red Bird” 1970 Chevy Nova, two lipstick red and black. God that was a bad ass car!



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Def Leppard and my appreciation for all things one-handed is another thing I owe to Lauren. I have to admit, the woman had an amazing taste in music. I HATED it back then, because I was forced to learn every word to every Def Leppard, Metallica, Smashing Pumpkins, Aerosmith, and Jim Morrison song ever written.  I love it now. All that music is just full of cool memories now.



New Additions to My Collection:



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I added a little new material today too. I’ve been on a female-vocalist country music kick this week. I’ve just gotten some new Sugarland and Miranda Lambert. I decided to sample the Miranda stuff before I committed to it, but she’s got a really awesome voice; country and twangy without being nasal or too pop (read as Taylor Swift).



Now I can’t decide what to mix up next. I’m on a kick here.



Memory to Share:

In memory of my younger days running the roads with Richard, I found a picture of our old car. I say “our” because he paid for it but I spent more hours in that car than just about anywhere else that year. Ours was built with bondo, spackle, and LOTS of work before it was this pretty.  Richard loved that car more than any woman. If it were the Red Bird or his girl that had to go, she’d better know she was packin’ to leave.



She was hand-sanded and had custom paint ordered from Chevrolet. She bit it one day in a deadman’s curve in Currituck. Richard was driving around a curve when two camaro’s rounded the curve racing towards him, each trying to get in front of the other. He had nowhere to put her except the ditch… The red bird plowed through a cornfield with two tons of steel and 307 cubic inches of haul-ass at 70 miles an hour and never drove again. To her credit, she kept him alive. He walked away without much of a scratch.



red bird

New Look, New Feel

Well, it’s done, for better or worse. The look and feel of the last three years has been replaced with a more “me” feel, or at least as close to how I feel as I can relay through some CSS code and imagery. I hope you’ll take a moment to share you thoughts on the poll (to the right). I’m not sure if this is the final new look or just the newest look for now, but it was time for a change. The old site was stagnating and uninspiring. At least this feels… brighter.

I’ve added the navigation to the top to make it easy for those who want to communicate with me. If you so choose you can easily get to my Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, work web site, photos, and whatever else I can eventually think to add that people might want to see. The most common request lately is the photos. I’ve switched to Flickr over these last few months and am about 65% through the uploads, currently at around 8,000 photos. The link takes you straight to the Collections section. If you’re looking for photos from Christmas, they’ll be in an album under Special Events. Conversely, if you want to find photos tagged of yourself, look in the Friends collection. Any friends that I have a substantial amount of photos of will be there. You can always just search my photostream for your name; you truly never know what you’re gonna find.  I should note that I’ve purposefully not tagged or included anything from the family history section in the other sections yet. I’m going to wait until all the photos are scanned first and then just waste an entire day trying to tag them all at once.



New Thoughts

Picture courtesy of http://flickr.com/photos/damseldesigns/2707515706/

I’ve been in one of those get to know myself moods for awhile now, finding out again what I want in life, thinking how to get there, determining what is important to me and what’s not. I’ve determined that of all the things I miss, I miss the country side of me the most. That’s not really the right word, but the word doesn’t come to mind at the moment. I’m not talking about pickup trucks and handguns, though those are nice too. I miss the outdoorsman I used to be. I miss working with my hands, being outside in the cold of the early morning while the frigid air pulls the heat from my firmly held coffee cup. I miss the smell of nature when the sun comes up in the morning. The grass has a decidedly cleaner smell in the early morning. I miss having my dog around my feet, searching and huffing at the scents and the sounds that are unique to each morning.



My working life is that of a tech-head. That’s not going to change unless I have a mid-life crisis, sell the business, go in debt for a red convertible, and become an hard rock roadie. Considering the unlikelihood of that course of events in my near future, I’m pretty much stuck as a tech head, a geek, computer-nerd, what have you…  Anyone that knows me knows I really don’t fit the geek mold, but it’s my career path, so I embrace it.



Spending all that time each week at work and again at home behind the computer is starting to get to me. I probably spend 12+ hours per day on the computer, not because I want to necessarily. Even on the days I get to go out and work in the field, I still have to come back to the office or my home-office and play administrative catch-up because no one in my office knows how to invoice, prepare estimates, follow-up with customers, take out the trash, break down cardboard boxes, remember to pay the bills, or anything else remotely related to the actual running of a business. I’ve got the greatest team in the world when it comes to implementation,but the worst possible team when it comes to follow-up…



So, putting all this together into what makes up my average day just really leaves me longing to be able to DO something with the little free time I do have. I want a barn.. not a nice high-tech office ( I already have one of those), but a tobacco-board barn with a wood floor and lights that are strung against the roof trusses with a switch on the wall. I want table-saws and band-saws, my hand tools, a plywood work bench to craft on, and then I want an old coffee pot in the corner and an old radio with no cd player, iPod hookup, and nothing but an old pair of stereo speakers in those huge unwieldy old-style box cases. I want to smell saw-dust with the lightest hint of turpentine from where I left my paint brushes drying the day before. I want a wood burning stove that I have to cut wood for myself to have heat. I want to sit for hours in my free time and on weekends and build patio furniture, or bird houses, or new cabinets as I get the money.



What I really want is a horse in a stall outside, a little property to run him on, and a labrador retriever to keep us company while I feed up in the mornings and evenings.



I spend so much time Doing what I do for a living that I’m becoming what I do, not what I want to be. I don’t know how to fix it yet, but I do know that its becoming an ever increasing desire, so much that I don’t stop thinking about it much anymore. I’m not looking to change who I am, just to get a little bit of “me” back into my life, just enough that I can appreciate the high-tech side of my life and then come home to the low-tech relaxation that you can only get from working with your hands.



 

Holidays

 

I should take a moment to say Merry Christmas to every one while I’m at it. I really DO wish everyone a very very Merry Christmas, though I haven’t been in much of the Christmas spirit this year myself. I’m not sure if it’s just because money is tight or other reasons altogether. I’m not a humbug by any means, but I’m not my usual holiday self. I’m usually that guy that’s playing Christmas songs the day after Thanksgiving and only stop at New Years because my friends threaten to break my iPod if I don’t. This year I’ve played two Christmas songs, and neither all the way through to the end. I’m just not Christmasy this year…  It seems I’m not alone in that though. There’s been a run of the mill blah attitude with lots of people this year. Maybe its the economy. Maybe its the weather. I dunno. I just want it to go away and to cheer up and be uber-holiday-spirit-man again like usual.



Well, I think I’m gonna shower and go to the office for a bit and check on things there. I’ll write more soon. Merry Christmas Everyone!





Tuesday, December 23, 2008

0 Day Microsoft SQL Vulnerability

Important News Some of You Might Want to Hear:

 

Microsoft has confirmed the existence of a new and potentially serious security threat to users of its SQL Server database software.
The threat is exploitable software code that hackers could use to access or alter corporate databases built with SQL Server. The malicious code could allow remote code execution - a process by which hackers could, as one example, alter a bank account via remote access.
Microsoft said SQL Server 2000, SQL Server 2005, SQL Server 2005 Express Edition, SQL Server 2000 Desktop Engine, and Windows Internal Database (WYukon) are all vulnerable to the threat.
Microsoft is urging customers who believe they've been targeted by anyone using the vulnerability to contact Microsoft customer service, as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internet Crime Complaint Center.
They don't appear to be releasing a patch at this time. There's a shoddy workaround.
http://www.microsoft.com/technet/security/advisory/961040.mspx

 

Happy Holidays?

I’ve decided that crap is like kitty presents under the tree. My cats are celebrating the holidays by taking a dump on my hardwood floor. There’s nothing quite as refreshing as cleaning up cat-crap at 7:20 in the morning to get your day started off right. Today I’m going for one of those “It can’t get any worse philosophies.”

Monday, December 22, 2008

Out from the Ether

In case some of you think I have fallen off the face of the earth, I'd like to assuage your fears, or hopes as they may be, and assure that I am still here.

 

It's been very busy in my life lately. To say more would be to insinuate that I could adequately explain what I've been doing for the last two months since I posted. If I could do that, I wouldn't have been gone so long in the first place now would I?

 

Suffice it to say that I've been lurking and learning with fervor lately. I'm not here on the blog as much because most of what I've been doing you would find more boring that just reading nothing at all. Hence I've actually saved you all time by not wasting it any more than I am right now.

 

I'm hungry for knowledge lately, working more than ever, and sucking the information from every source that will voluntarily give it.... those that won't are locked up in a vault in my basement until they break fromt he strain of watching I Love Lucy reruns.

 

In the recent months, I've spent the vast majority of my time restructuring my business to ride the wave of this new economy. Some think that it's just business as usual and that life will return to normal shortly. To those, I extend my deepest condolences. You have no idea what you're talking about.

 

Others think that falling gas prices are a good sign (they're not), and that the specials they get in stores are because of the holiday season. (again, they're not).

The world around us is changing and if I am to be successful I must throw away what I think I know and open my thick head to learn from those who are better and more accurately able to see where the economy is going, where the IT market it going, and where the business market will be six months from now, 1 year from now, and three years from now once our economy actually starts to return to something it can call a status-quo.

 

I've spent a lot of time implementing the lessons I've learned; spinning down my break-fix mentality and ramping up my Managed Services Platforms to be able to offer full-suites of complementary services that can actually help my customers better survive their own economic troubles. If my customers are losing money, and they are, then I need to be able to better support them with less headache, more profit for myself, and less overall expense to them; creating a win-win that insures their trust as well as my continued operation and growth potential.

 

Thanks to brilliant minds like Erick Simpson, Vlad Mazek, Stuart Selbst, Anne Chase, Ted Roller, and a slew of others I've had the pleasure to speak to and learn from, I'm finally able to bust out in this market and grow when those around me fall into tatters. In the last three months our economy has taken the largest downturn in recent history. In those same three months I have managed to increase profits over 100% from just a quarter year ago, without ever raising prices, and in effect lowering prices on some items that have a sustainable margin.

 

I’m currently in what I call the “Squirrel” phase of the year, putting money away in case the worst does happen and I need to be able to sustain a month or two of no growth. Expenses have tripled, but the profitability of services has risen to match without costing my customers any more so I’m fairly confident that I’m doing most of it right, though I can definitely see spots where improvement is needed, mainly in my understand of how best to implement certain technologies or business practices. 

 

On a recent highlight, I’ve just acquired my first SLA customer this year. It took me two months to put the policies in place, test the technologies, form the necessary partnerships with the big vendors, and put tires to asphalt to get it moving. Even the damned contract took me over a week to get right.

 

My personal life? Well, not that I’ve had one much lately, but I’ll fill you in on that too in case you’re interested.

  • Went to see Dad and Becky and took Mom and my sister Karen out with me. Had a wonderful weekend and got tasked as the family historian; meaning they gave me every photo album ever collected and I’m in the process in my rare spare time, of scanning all these and putting them to a chronology. It’s been really interesting, though it’s also a crap-load of work. I’ve seen photos of family members that I never even knew existed.
  • Spent a week in Mississippi and another week in Alabama working for a new contract client. 14 days of bouncing around hotels in 4 states, $2,000 in gas, and 8,000 miles on my truck later I was back home again.
  • Installed two new security systems for new customers in Virginia, both up and running very smoothly.
  • Increased my remote services client base about 50%.
  • Wait… this was personal stuff wasn’t it? See, I told you I don’t have a personal life. I have work. That IS my personal life.
  • Got most of the Christmas shopping done, though it’s a much slimmer Christmas than in years past. My apologies to all of you who I wanted to buy for but just couldn’t this year. My only solace is that it’s not just me who’s broke, so I feel a little better sharing in the recession with the company of loved ones and friends.
  • Got a new laptop! Since Dave hasn’t made any effort to get in touch about mine, I can only assume he plans on keeping it and never returning it. That really scalds my goat but what can I do? He’s six thousand miles away with my laptop and has absolutely no reason to want to send it back other than that I asked for it and he promised to send it. Where I come from that’s enough, but Scottish customs apparently dictate less stringent bindings between friendly agreements.

Other than that I haven't’ been up to much. I mean I’ve been up to my freakin eyeballs, but not in stuff you’d care to hear about. The only thing left on my personal creative agenda is to recreate the blog. I get in this mood about once a year, but I think it’s about time the site had a name change. When I first started Scooby Central, it was for all the Scoobs, most of which weren’t techno-literate at the time.  Most of them now have married off, gotten other hobbies, mastered FaceBook and MySpace, or just gotten bored with the site. I’m pretty much the last one standing on here in the last 12 months who posts.

 

I’ve still got carolinaregion.com for my personal posting site, but the Google results are significantly higher here on SC, so I’m going to keep the address, but likely will change the name and the layout to reflect a more “me” feel and drop the community userbase off, unless there are some that actively want to stay. It’s not that I don't love all my Scoobs, just that there’s no point in having it advertise everyone else if it’s really just me ranting and raving about my own personal thoughts while masking that singularity in a pretend community. I haven’t decided on a new name, new layout, or new idea though, and I’m certain not to get around to it until at least the new year. It will mean re-categorizing every post on the site, which is over a thousand at the moment at least, though I’m not sure of the exact number. That’s a task I dont look forward to…

 

Well, I’m off to watch some TV now. You all have a wonderful evening and a Merry Christmas!

To those who prefer “Happy Holidays”, bite me you Jew.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Photo’s from Ray

In case you’re wondering where I’ve been for the last month or so, it’s just been really busy. I’m crazy at work, running all over the country trying to learn, train on new technologies, get more clients, and generally just haven’t had the time to blog the way I like to. I did want to take a few minutes to share some pics that Ray sent though. Here’s a sample of what I call the Man in Trees album.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Why I could never be president?

 

The current price of wheat for export would cost $97.00 per barrel and would be shipped in 60 gallon barrels.

 

That cost  of the above item would be double for countries who screw us on oil.

 

Banks who make bad loans would be closed, like every other business and executives would be fined for screwing over the American public knowingly.

 

If you can’t read out loud the immigration paperwork, in our native language, then you can’t stay. Get back on the boat, raft, dinghy, or floating tire you came here on.

 

Any government entity (read as president) who promised a 1.5 billion dollar war that ends up costing 12.5 billion per month would be shot for treason and publicly hanged in front of the Supreme Court. If you can’t do basic math, you cant’ be in the White House.

 

Any senator/congressman/postal worker, or whomever who is no longer a high-paid government employee can pay taxes and social security like the rest of us. He wouldn’t get rewarded for money-grubbing and ass-kissing by a tax-free retirement for the rest of his life. If we vote you out, you obviously suck and therefore we shouldn’t have to pay for you.

 

Afghanistan would be a place where Afghans are made. It’s very convenient and wouldn’t even require changing the names on maps. It would provide them with a great national product and they would be able to export it to all the countries who need blankets.


The WHO and other American funded aid agencies would be mandated to purchase their blankets from Afghanistan. I’m all about helping other countries prosper.

 

North Korea would be the world’s largest Wal-Mart, not a country.

 

PETA wouldn’t exist.

 

Horses would be perfectly acceptable to use as a meat product as long as countries wanted to buy it by the pound!

 

Anyone who suggest human milk for ice cream would be summarily shot.

 

Convicts sentenced to death would live exactly as long as it took for a trained shooter to reload his 45 handgun and would cost the US tax payer approximately .50 cents each.

 

Nuclear disarmament would be simple: You throw away yours or we throw ours at you until you supply. We have way more than you do, so don’t be stupid. We will happily throw away ours as soon as every other country on the planet empties their pockets for UN Inspectors.

 

Failure to allow a UN inspector into a premises would be immediate grounds for global warfare, with you as the red blinking dot..

 

The term “inhumane” would no longer be applied to animals. They exist to feed us. They aren’t HUMAN, so we don’t have to be HUMANe.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Air Sharing for iPhone 3G: Great Feature

Air Sharing's IP Screen For those of you who are looking for great file sharing apps for the iPhone, I would greatly suggest Air Sharing. It’s currently the top app in the iPhone store and is Free until this end of this week. Next week it goes on-sale for 6.99 at regular price.

 

What it Does:

Basically, you setup a network connection on your Windows XP or Windows Vista PC to your iphone using your wireless network. It’s a complete breeze to use. Simply turn on the app and it will give you it’s IP address on the wireless network. Mine set itself to 192.168.1.112:8080. Alternatively, you  can also use Bonjour to access it at iphone.local:8080 if you prefer.

 

Why I would use it:

Customer's:

I downloaded the programming manuals for our telephone systems, customer pricing guides, payroll forms, and other files to it. When I am on site at a customers, as long as they have wi-fi, I can connect to my iphone with no software needed on their end and transfer the files to their PCs on their network, or just have quick access to my files.

 

Office:

I do my own payroll, so having files like the IRS payroll calculations on hand is great for pulling up the info when I’m ready to do payroll. The screen is ultra-sharp and the program has built-in readers for most every common document type; pdf, docx, xlsx, jpg, html, etc.

 

PC Repair:Current files I can access on Air Sharing.

I get a call to a new customer’s home who is having spyware or virus problems on their PC. Now I can leave my flash drive at home. I simply type in the IP address of my iPhone  on their network, turn on the app on my iPhone, and download the repair tools wirelessly to the customer’s PC.

 

All in all it’s a great app!

Any comments or questions about the app are welcome.

 

Monday, September 15, 2008

Boeing Strike:

Am I the only one who thinks the whole Boeing vs Hardworking American is a sham? Lemme see if I understand this right; I'm going to boil it down to the barest essentials that I can. Boeing: Since we have been able to hire contractors, we have had record profits and great success, because we're not restricted to what the union demands. Union: Now I don't have any job security! You can replace me with non-union contract employees instead and I have to get off my ass and actually compete to keep my job, rather than depend on working here for the next 8 years and retiring like I'd planned. Did I get it basically right? As both a past contractor and a current business owner, it would only make sense to me. One of the complaints from union employees is "we don't get a percentage of your profits." No, you don't. You're an employee! If you want a percentage of profits, you can A) Invest a few million into our company as a shareholder like everyone else does or B) go invent your own multinational aircraft company! Why the hell would Boeing give anyone a share of their profits? No. Guess what folks, it's called effective administration! There ARE people who are getting a share of the profits. Are the engineers? No, probably not. They're the executives who oversee, hire, educate, and spend their lives making sure the company DOES continue to profit. Why would I pay the ball-bearing-greaser-dude a percentage of profits? If his ideas are so great and he's contributed so much to the company overall then he should have had enough sense to go sell his wondermous idea to lockheed-martin or some other fill_in_the_blank company! As a contractor myself throughout times in my life, I love the idea that smart creative people could come in from the outside and work for a company like Boeing. Do I expect to be awarded health benefits? No. Do I expect to be able to work towards retirement? No. I'm a contractor. I'm only going to be hired by this company as long as my performance remains profitable for me to be here. I think that's what America is all about, but that's just me. A guy like me coming into a company like Boeing for somethign like Project Management would only last as long as his drive and determination to be better than the other guy subsisted. When you get lazy, dependent on someone else to "secure your job" for the rest of your life, you deserve to be canned. If Boeing can do it cheaper AND just as good or better, then hell yeah, go for it. Having said all that, I DO think the union should have the right to compete for the same jobs... well, I guess I so. If that means that Joe Union Guy gets his "job security" then no I don't. This country wasn't ever founded on Job Security. There IS no such thing as Job Security. I am only secure in my job as a small business owner as long as I deliver BETTER service for the same or LESS money than the next guy. Wait a minute, that's like being a contractor... Ok... back to my real day job...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Fox 8 Fox 14 Sucks: (Suddenlink Cable, Greenville, NC: Comments Welcome)

The Constitution of Abused Viewers:

We the people who watch your network, in order to form a more perfect viewing experience, write this request to establish better programming, insure glitch-free TV shows, provide for high-quality viewing, promote the death of frozen frames, and secure the blessings of better television for ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish that YOU SUCK AND NEED TO FIX YOUR PROGRAMMING!

 

History has proven that “fill_in_your_name_here sucks” posts actually work pretty well. I’ve received TONS of responses from my Vonage Sucks post and the Powweb Sucks post generated a HUGE mess at the corporate offices of powweb.com. In an effort to garnish attention to an issue that is driving me absolutely bonkers, I’m writing this post about the Fox8 Fox 14 affiliate that covers Greenville, NC Fox broadcasting.

 

In simple terms, Fox in Greenville, NC SUCKS! ! I’ve searched the web and found I’m not the only one with complaints about the company, but no one seems to have an answer as to why they suck. Suddenlink Cable blames the local affiliate. I asked them why we can’t change affiliates and was informed that we are stuck with Fox8 Fox 14. Not being an individual who likes to be told that I have to settle for poor service, I’m setting out on a mission to either correct the issue, or to have the ability to watch an affiliate that DOES have good programming. I pay almost one hundred dollars a month for the ability to watch what my family wants to watch and I’m tired of hearing my girlfriend yell “No… no… not again.. damnit” at the HDTV because Fox has frozen up yet again. If Fox can afford to host the Superbowl, and to gather up all the good shows on its network, why can’t they afford the technology or staffing necessary to ensure we get to SEE the shows they’re paying big money for?

 

I started with sending an email tonight to the local fox affiliate. I’ll keep you posted on what I hear, here on the blog. In the meantime, in the event that someone at fox DOES read this, I encourage you who have personal complaints with the programming to leave comments. I would also encourage all of you to email them yourselves and let them KNOW you have a complaint.

 

 

My Email to Fox8Fox14:

To business@fox8fox14.com and program@fox8fox14.com

“I’ve been a Fox viewer for years and have finally had to resort to communicating my dissatisfaction with Fox personally. I’ve already called Suddenlink to ask why we are not allowed to receive Fox out of Raleigh as they appear (from what I read everywhere online) not to have the broadcast problems your network does. I actually asked my service representative if there were a list I could get on to complain about the broadcast quality of Fox and he informed me that YES, they actually have a list of customers who have requested to have their names added to the list of people who want better programming, however they state that we have no choice in our fox affiliate and are stuck with Fox8 Fox 14.

I’ve recently upgraded to HD service in an effort to achieve better signal quality on your programs, assuming that at least the HD channels would be error-free. That has however proved to be incorrect.

In the last ten days, Fox8 Fox 14 has had three season premieres that my family has been waiting to watch for months now. Prison Break, Fringe, and Bones have all aired in this time frame.

  • Prison Break was glitched in the first five minutes, completely going out more than once.
  • Fringe aired last night. The signal froze so many times that my DVR had to record the show in 5 segments, meaning the DVR completely lost signal from your station and had to reacquire the session when broadcasting resumed.
  • Bones has aired twice now, and this last episode had three different segments of blank screen for approximately 60 seconds twice, and 30 seconds the final time.

As a fan of these great shows, I’m really sick and tired of the poor programming coming out of your office. I would sincerely appreciate a response from someone as to what the problem is, what is being done to address it, and when we can expect to receive adequate programming quality. This has been going on for two seasons now that I can personally recollect, but many more if the reports on the web are to be believed. We pay for this service and you owe it to your customer base to either correct your programming issues, or allow cable customers the choice in fox affiliates who can better provide a decent viewing experience.

Best Regards,

Tommy Jordan

tjordan@carolinaregion.com

Update from Fox News

After almost a week with no response, I was starting to assume no one was going to reply. Then, I got a brief email from Don Fisher, the vice president of Bonten Media, the company who owns the local fox affiliate. His email said he was out of the office that week but he promised to respond in detail later when he was back at his office.

 

A few more days went by and he did as promised. I’m including his response to my email here, minus his contact information.

 

Mr. Jordan,

Thank you for your recent communication regarding FOX Eastern Carolina.  I appreciate the fact that you took time to express your concerns with our television station.  As you may be aware, Greenville viewers have suffered a long history of technical issues with FOX dating back to the original owner’s purchase of channel 14 in the mid 90’s.  The core issue with the signal has always been the difficulty in sending the FOX signal from the studio in Morehead to the transmitter site in Ayden.  The distance between those two facilities made for unreliable signals in both the analog and digital transmission.

In January of this year, the FOX station was purchased by a new owner and is being operated by Bonten Media which also owns WCTI Newschannel 12, the ABC affiliate in our market.  Bonten has invested heavily in improving the FOX Eastern Carolina signal and made a significant improvement to the overall signal after moving the Morehead FOX studio to a new facility in New Bern in July.  This move reduces the distance the FOX signal has to travel and therefore eliminates most of the technical issues that have long plagued the FOX station. 

In addition to the move, Bonten has purchased new digital spot delivery and automation systems which were installed over the summer.  These systems have improved the quality of the FOX product as well, but like with any new software, they have also created some issues that we are learning to overcome.  The specific problems with the HD signal you mention could be related to our new system or the equipment that Suddenlink uses to pick up and deliver our signal to their customers. 

Regardless of where the technical problems originate, it is our goal at the new FOX Eastern Carolina to work toward completely eliminating all of the problems. We have several more planned technical upgrades that will continue to improve our product.   I am confident that you will see major improvements in our signal quality going forward through the digital transition.  As the new operators of FOX Eastern Carolina, we are working hard to earn the trust of our Greenville area viewers by being the best FOX affiliate we can be.

Please feel free to contact me directly with any additional questions or concerns.  I do appreciate your consideration and support.

Best Regards,

Don Fisher

Vice President, General Manager

Bonten Media

Basically, it says Fox has moved to New Bern from Morehead to try to remedy some of the problems they were having, such as the Superbowl nightmare from earlier this year. (They use microwave transmission which involves one huge antenna casting the signal to another huge antenna 50 miles away through the air) It also says they’ve invested a lot of money in the company and that they DO acknowledge there are still problems remaining they are working on. It’s not what I wanted to hear, but at least they do admit to problems with the network and didn’t blame it on Suddenlink. I’m guessing the root of the current problem (and this is pure conjecture on my part) is that they still cant’ get a good microwave technician who understands their system. Back in February they were scrambling to hire an engineer who could actually work on their Microwave transmitter without wreaking further havoc.

 

So, for now I’ll accept that my message has gotten to the highest rungs it can within Fox and they did at least take five minutes to address my issue in person, which is more than some companies do. For now I’m content to sit and grumble and see if transmission quality improves. But…. I’m watchin’ you, Fox! I got my eye on you! Clean it up man!

 

 

Monday, September 08, 2008

Deciding Who I’ll Vote For

I’m still not sure HOW they each plan to put their policies in place, but I’m spending a lot of time going over their official policy statements to help me make an informed decision. Here are some of the stances I find important to me in my voting decision. You may or may not share the ideals, but I thought it was good information.

 

Iraq (in favor of Obama)

Obama wants to bring them home in 16 months. McCain wants to keep there until “our interests are served.” I favor bringing them home. We have enough problems of our own that could use our military presence here… border patrol?

 

 

Illegal Immigration (leaning towards Obama)

Still not completely sure on this one. They both have a plan, but I’m not sure either is workable in a four year term. Personally, I’d just shoot all the ones who enter illegally as they come across the border. Don’t you think that would deter them? After they have to cross a pile of bodies, they’d start to get the picture…

Caveat:  I DO agree with Obama’s plan to honor immigrant troops. Personally I there should be a recruiting station for all five branches of the Armed Services at the border. ANYONE who is willing to fight for our country deserves to be part of it.

 

Pork Barrel Spending (Tied)

This is another area where they both “have a plan” but no one wants to be clear enough to endanger their campaign. I want one of them to simply say “we’re shutting down professional lobbying” and ALL donations are public information, including who made it, how much, and what it was spent on.

 

2nd Amendment/ Right to Bear Arms (McCain I guess..?)

I’m not sure why, but McCain actually talks about it but Obama doesn’t. I’m not sure if that’s because he thinks (as I do) that it’s a given that we have the 2nd amendment for a reason, or if he’s dodging the issue. Personally I think it’s the former, but I’ll give McCain credit on this one until I see more from the Obama camp. According to the Washington Post, I’m not the only one trying to get an answer from Obama on this issue.

Contrary to the belief of those who know me, I DO believe Americans should have the unalterable right to bear arms, just not ANY arms. What possible good reason is there for making assault rifles legal? What’s next? Hand Grenades? We are defined by our ability to defend ourselves throughout our history, but I would accept certain limitations on the laws that proffer good sense regulations.

 

Oil (undecided)

Obama wants us all to go to electric car, which I’m not a big fan of, but I see the point I suppose. McCain wants to open up our oil reserves, which I also agree with. If oil is important enough to us (and I apparently is) I disagree with the stance that we’ll happily let the whole world drill it for us but we won’t do it ourselves because of the danger to blah blah blah.

 

Personally, I want the candidates to increase the price of ALL our exports until the price of oil comes down. Wheat? Increase the price. We’re not here to feed the world for free. Screw them until they stop thinking they can screw us. Corn? Raise it. Soy? Double it! Eventually WE will be the ones “setting the price” on our oil imports. The truth is, none of the oil exporting countries except maybe Libya can afford for the US not to purchase their oil. They’d run out of money and storage in a matter of weeks if we slapped an embargo on imported oil in the US. But hey, that’s just my backwoods thinking…

 

Education (Leaning towards Obama)

At least both candidates agree on one thing; American children are stupid. Collectively, we are the dumbest nation in the civilized world. How does that feel, America? Our kids are coming out of high school dumber than ever. Personally, I’d like to see No Child Left Behind (NCLB) dropped completely from our system. It’s a sad truth, but it’s still a truth, that not all children are created equal. Some just don’t get it, don’t want to get it, or their parents could care less if they got it or not. I don’t want my child’s education to suffer because the education system paces itself at the lowest common denominator. When I went to school if you didn’t pass the test, you didn’t pass the test… end of story. If I got less than an A, my parents were pissed. If I got a F, well, we’re not even going to go into what happened if I got an F. Suffice it to say I only ever got one… then I was back to B’s and A’s.  If your child is too ignorant to learn, or too self centered to care, and if you can’t be bothered to take an interest, they deserve to be left behind.

 

Teacher salaries? What a joke. Every teacher in the US should be hired at NO LESS than $30,000 per year, with an annual raise of at least $1,000.00, period… no discussion. That’s the MINIMUM! Take some of the money your school spent on the new (insert useless item here) and spend it on people who want to educate. I have a friend who has spent four years of her life in college and dedicated that time towards becoming a teacher. It took her two years to find a job that would pay her more than working as a secretary. She’s not trying to get rich, she’s trying to support her family on a teacher’s salary. Twenty-two thousand dollars should be an insult to any teacher in the educational system! They deserve the pay! They’re doing what YOU won’t or can’t do!

 

 

Well, I have to run. I have a client with a DHCP network issue that needs immediate attention… more later maybe.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Ramadan Mabruk my Libyan Friends

Being a self-obsessed American, I completely forgot it was Ramadan in Libya already. I was reading something today that reminded me to check the date and sure enough… Happy Ramadan! I’m so very sad that I’m not there to share in it this year. Although my American customs probably offend some in Libya during this time of year, (no eating, smoking, drinking, etc) we were welcomed with open arms into our Libyan friend’s homes the last time we were there during Ramadan. It’s an amazing season of thanksgiving and family sharing that I wish we Americans practiced too.

 

My best wishes to you all during this time of celebration and reflection. Don’t fast TOO much! And someone break their fast for me with some tea and dates! God I miss that!

 

PS: If anyone of you over there are in a position, you know we’re always looking for projects to bring us back! I’d like nothing more than to spend the next ten years over there doing what we do best, inshallah. Again, Ramadan Mabruk and the blessings of Allah all of you and your families!

India and America: Same news?

India is blaming the US because our Soy prices have risen too high to allow their people to live? Get a grip!

Associated Press News Article published on Yahoo:

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080906/ap_on_re_as/indonesia_soybean_curse

 

Have US soy prices taken a hike lately? Yes. Why? Because oil prices have taken a hike lately! Our farmers are trying to grow what WE need to survive this crappy economy and so we take the blame? One could almost replace the word “soy” in the AP article with the word “oil” and the story would tell itself the same! Quit blaming the US because your country can’t feed itself! You decreased your soy output by 50% and buy it from us, and then blame us when you can’t feed yourself? Grow up! It’s called economic hard times… get over yourself and quit whining about it and fix it!

 

“Soy has long been a staple in Indonesia. But in the 1990s, farmers complained that it was too expensive to grow because the government did not provide cheap seed or low-interest loans. At the same time, they could not compete with cheaper, better soy from countries like the United States, where farmers had advanced technology andgovernment subsidies.” Wait… YOUR government charges too much so you want to buy it from us? Didn’t you overthrow the last government for the same reason? Get off your shovels and fix your economy! That’s what the hell we’re trying to do to ours!

 

Twenty percent of our soy production now goes to produce fuel alternatives. Why? Because our families can’t afford to drive to work either! They can’t afford fuel for their cars, homes, etc. We’re in the middle of the largest industry buy-out in the history of our nation right this moment. Sorry we don’t have time to feed you for free any more.

 

“With slim profit and no cash on hand, few were prepared when soy prices started rising steadily in August 2007. Since then, soybean prices have jumped 50 percent to a record high — or about twice the rates in 2004.”

 

Let me try putting that comment into perspective for those of us on this side of the pond: “With slim profit and no cash on hand, few were prepared when oil prices started rising steadily in August 2007. Since then, oil prices have jumped 50 percent to a record high — or about twice the rates in 2004.” Sound about right to you?

 

Here’s another one I like:

"If the price keeps going up, maybe the tofu and tempeh industry will disappear," said H. Akil Dermawi, who heads Bandung's tempeh and tofu cooperative. "We know the global economic situation doesn't support micro businesses like tofu and tempeh makers."

 

In America:

"If the price keeps going up, maybe the real estate and automotive industry will disappear," said John Q American, who heads Freddie Man and Fannie Mae.. "We know the global economic situation doesn't support businesses like Real Estate and Auto makers."

 

Here’s another:

"In the past, this was profitable. You can see I bought a house," said the 34-year-old father of two. "But now, it's difficult to even buy food for my children. Last year, I could go on a holiday. Now, I can't go anywhere."

 

In America:

"In the past, this was profitable. You can see I bought a house," said the 34-year-old father of two. "But now, it's difficult to even buy food for my children. Last year, I could go on a holiday. Now, I can't go anywhere." Oh wait, that one doesn’t even need to be changed. Did anyone miss the fact that the buyout of Fannie and Freddie is going to cost our country another 25 BILLION dollars? Do you know why? Because the CEO’s of those two corporations decided to take on every single risky loan they could since the first eleven national banks started closing down around their ears a year ago.

 

Do you think they probably fired the guy who suggested “Hey.. umm.. do y’all think it’s a good idea for us to be taking all these risks? I mean the last eleven banks that tried this all failed and went broke, right?” Personally I think they need to go find that guy and make HIM the CEO of BOTH companies.

 

And here’s my favorite part of it all: The government of India is considering “setting the price” for which we have to sell them soy! HA! Hey, rice boy.. this is America you’re buying from. You think we get to set the price we pay for oil? If we did, you wouldn’t be in this mess. Set the price you will pay? *cough cough*. Dude, you’ll pay whatever the country you’re buying it from is selling it for, or you’ll buy it elsewhere, just like the rest of us do! You think we’re considerig drilling holes in Alaska to make a putt putt course? There’s no way in hell America should have to suffer MORE in this current economy because India cant’ afford soy! Here’s a novel idea! Try eating meat you dope! You might even want to consider vegetables too. Hunt, Gather, Farm.. it’s what the rest of the world does!

 

Another quote:"I tell them the soybeans come from America," he said, his voice rising in anger. "It is not our fault. I'm being oppressed because of prices in the United States."

 

My opinion on the matter is probably considered a little back-woods, but I feel that if your entire country exists on soy and rice, then you are undergoing a Darwinian test. Either grow up and learn to feed yourself, or die out and let nature run its course. It’s your call. The last I checked, India wasn’t the 51st state in the union…. It is COMPLETELY your fault, not our fault. We can’t shoulder the blame for every country that can’t be taught to wipe it’s own ass!

Jon Stewart Leaves McCain Bleeding on the Floor…

Ok. This is just funny! I don’t care who you are.

 

On an honest note, I have no idea whom to vote for in this year’s election. While I think Obama is a reversal of the previous administration which we severely need, I think Daffy Duck might be just as good a candidate. I haven’t actually heard anything coming out of his mouth that’s actually meaningful… what is his plan? Write it down and twitter it to us Obama. I wanna know! WHAT THE HELL DO YOU PLAN TO DO TO MAKE OUR ECONOMY BETTER?

 

McCain and Palin? No idea on that one either. I’m starting to think they might be a good idea, but then I’m right back into George Bush’s administration again and we all know that’s been the worst mistake of our millenia.

 

SOMEBODY step up and write yourself in. I’ll vote for ANYONE at this point who can clearly tell me what the hell they plan to get our country straightened out! Let me weigh the things I like versus the things I don’t like and I’ll vote from there. I’m sick of this race. It just seems like no matter who we end up with from these two candidates, we’re bound to get screwed. Someone enlighten me. I’m actually considering NOT voting at all simply because I don’t want to feel responsible for putting EITHER of these two bumblebutts in office!

 

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Should parents and companies be concerned? - Private Browsing and “Porn Mode”

I’m posting this as a new article because I feel its an important issue that doesn’t need to be relegated to footnote status on my previous article about Chrome and Internet Explorer

 

My biggest concern with all the new browsers comes as a mixed emotion. Private browsing was released with Internet Explorer 8 Beta 2 and also with Chrome Beta. It addresses the fact that everyone has things they do on the web that you don’t want others to know about. Whether you’re browsing porn, searching torrents, or reading MySpace at work, these are all obvious reasons you wouldn’t want your history to be tracked. From the personal standpoint of a user, this could be a welcome feature for many in the Internet community, however from other aspects of the Internet community I am worried about the implications of this feature into the browser world.  This could open an entire new Pandora’s box from which we cant go back.

 

Here are a few scenarios that shed a less glamorous light on the “porn mode” as it has already become known amongst the Internet-at-large community.

 

Child Safety Online

Parents in this day and age are encouraged to monitor their children’s online activity if they want to know what is going on in their lives. Most of the headlines you read today about children being attacked through the Internet always end up placing blame on parents for not being smart enough to monitor their children’s activity. The sad truth is most of you ten year olds are already smarter than you are when it comes to navigating the web. They do it at school, at friend’s houses, at the library, and just about everywhere you can think of and at places you surely haven’t thought of. Most of them now are doing it on their phones already too. 

 

Introducing the Private Browsing feature in these new browsers means anything your children do on the Internet can be hidden from you, never tracked in the browser history, never cookied, etc. Basically they can do anything they want online and you won’t know about it. Isn’t this a little counter-intuitive to child safety on the Internet?

 

Corporate America:

Fans of privacy at the work place are going to love this feature, but I’m not sure it’s something that employees deserve to have on their corporate desktops. I run an IT company that services PCs as part of our service business. Quite frequently we are called in to correct computer problems, over 90% of which are related to something done on the Internet. Last week we were requested to search through the computer of an ex-employee to see if that client’s employee had been misusing resources while at work. Of course they had, but they had also spend most of their unsupervised work time browsing MySpace, Facebook, and other social networking sites from the confines of their office. Do their employers have the right to be upset? Of course they do! What possible work-related reason would this employee have had for installing MySpace Instant Messenger on their computer? None.

 

Features like private browsing won’t affect larger corporations who utilize heavy-duty firewall appliances, access lists, block lists, and other tools for making sure users aren’t wasting company time, but the small to medium sized business will be severely hampered in its ability to know what their employees are doing online.

 

Thoughts From The Peanut Gallery

Advocates of privacy and some of the Internet community are certain to claim that the companies can avoid installing the new browsers and simply avoid the whole issue, which is true, IF they know the safety concerns and are aware of the pitfalls. Microsoft will most assuredly make Internet Explorer 8 a Windows Update just like they did for Internet Explorer 7. Who is going to know NOT download it? It’s from Microsoft so it must be ok!

 

Companies that have to be HIPAA compliant, SOX compliant, GLB compliant and Red Flag compliant are going to be at the mercy of their staff’s Internet knowledge unless they bite the bullet and install hardware to combat this new trend of privacy freedom. I run an IT company myself, which means I try my best to hire the brightest minds I can find to help serve our customers better. Now I have to police all the work computers to be sure this ISN’T installed because we service clients that require companies like ours to be able to be audited for all our communications, whether email or Internet based to insure that we are meeting the client’s Red Flag or Facta requirements.

 

How Easy is it to Activate Private Browsing Mode?

Activating InPrivate Browsing in Internet Explorer

It’s scary how easy it is. If you’re running Internet Explorer 8 Beta, simply press Ctrl+Shift+P. That's it. You are immediately transported into an untraceable browser session and greeted with the following message:

 

“InPrivate Browsing prevents Internet Explorer from storing data about your browsing session. This includes cookies, temporary Internet files, history, and other data.

InPrivate Blocking helps prevent the websites you go to from automatically sharing details about your visit with other websites. To help protect your privacy, some website content might be blocked.

To turn off InPrivate, close this browser window.”

 

Activating Incognito Mode in Google Chrome

In Google Chrome, pressing Ctrl+Shift+N reproduces almost the same results, with the following message:

“You've gone incognito. Pages you view in this window won't appear in your browser history or search history, and they won't leave other traces, like cookies, on your computer after you close the incognito window. Any files you download or bookmarks you create will be preserved, however.
Going incognito doesn't affect the behavior of other people, servers, or software. Be wary of:

  • Websites that collect or share information about you
  • Internet service providers or employers that track the pages you visit
  • Malicious software that tracks your keystrokes in exchange for free smileys
  • Surveillance by secret agents
  • People standing behind you

Learn more about incognito browsing.”

 

Google has gone so far in justifying Incognito browsing as to say it’s great to "plan surprises like gifts or birthdays”. I’m sure that’s the FIRST reason someone might think to activate Incognito mode. Yeah, sure!

 

All in all, though I welcome the innovation I also hope it is tempered with some sense. For example, installing a checkbox option allowing the user to choose to install private modes or not during the installation would be a good start. Requiring private browsing to be an added “program” in the add/remove programs menu would also make it easier for non-savvy users to know what’s going on with their computers at home and at work.

 

Comments, Feedback? I’m interested to hear.

 

Google Chrome: Makes Mozilla Step Up, Microsoft Squirms, Adobe is Lost

firefox_3_logoIn what seems to be an call from Mozilla not to be forgotten so quickly, the developers of Firefox have released a last second upgrade to Firefox 3. Though still in beta (recommended for developers and testers only) this new version seeks to take the limelight away from Google Chrome just a little bit. As an avid fan of Firefox myself, I’m still using it for 70% of my serious browsing, especially if I need a resource for coding or similar tasks, but for faster playing around online I have to admit that Chrome leaves Firefox sitting on the starting line in a wake of browser dust when it comes to the speed of loading sites.

 

 

 

To combat the JavaScript frenzy surrounding Chrome, Firefox 3.1 Alpha introduces the Mozilla competitor for V8, dubbed TraceMonkey, a “project to bring native code speed to JavaScript” according to Mike Shaver, Mozilla’s interim Vice President of Engineering. According to Shaver, TraceMonkey will double the speed at which Firefox handles Javascript.

 

chromeSome friends of mine have reviewed Chrome since I mentioned it earlier this week, some with positive reviews and some with negative, though the negative reviews didn’t cite and reasons why. I myself have been let down by Chrome a few times when something I was trying to do didn’t work properly, but I temper my dissatisfaction with the knowledge that Chrome has been on the market for less than 96 hours while its competitors have been in the market for four or more years. I’m giving Google the benefit of the doubt that updates in the near future will iron this issue out. 

 

My only negative experience thus far has been the failure of the Sandbox to operate properly. Chrome touts its new sandbox feature as a tool to prevent one crashing tab from crashing the whole browser, meaning you only lose one tab, not all five or ten you may have open. Thus far I have had Chrome crash on me twice and it has yet to only crash the one tab, instead crashing the whole browser. I will however admit that I wasn’t just browsing the web when this happened. I’m constantly playing around in sites that tend to strain any browser; editing my web site’s code, while remotely controlling client computers, and other tasks that tend to require many instances of JavaScript, ActiveX, and more to be playing nicely together, which they seldom do efficiently.

 

ie8logo

Chrome’s new JavaScript engine also has Microsoft slightly worried. Recently Microsoft has released a beta of Internet Explorer 8.2, which in my opinion should have stayed on the shelf a even load at all under the new Microsoft interface. The work around for this is their new Compatibility Mode, which will revert the site back to IE7 viewing mode, however this feature either crashes or doesn't seem to work at all when I need it to. As soon as I get the current page to display properly, I usually have to go on to a new page, which reverts back to IE8 mode. Clicking IE7 compatibility again reloads the page and takes me back to the previous page where I begin the monotonous cycle again.

 

Many users are complaining in forums that their web programs seem broken, but when asked they admit that it only doesn’t work in IE8 Beta 2. Quite frankly, you should have better sense than to be working on hardcore applications in a Beta browser without expecting it to fail. My advice to these people is simple; stop complaining to companies for their sites not working! Instead, complain to Microsoft that their browser doesn’t work with the site in question. Even Microsoft can’t read minds (yet). They cant’ fix what they don’t know about.

 

Back to the point, Microsoft seems to fear Chrome and its V8 technology as well. While Google and Chrome are battling with Mozilla and TraceMonkey, Microsoft has been working hard to convince people Silverlight is better than Adobe System’s flash component. Why Microsoft would invent a technology like Silverlight, which is only another way of doing what flash already does just fine, and which is only supported on Microsoft’s browser is completely beyond me. (This isn’t to say it wont “work” on other browsers, but that Microsoft doesn’t offer support for how to make it do so. Full compatibility for silverlight can be seen here:http://www.microsoft.com/silverlight/resources/install.aspx?v=2.0#sysreq by clicking on System Requirements at the bottom of the page.)

silverlight My only thought is Microsoft thinks if they can convince a majority of  the global market of programmers to switch to Silverlight over Flash that they can then lock them in to designing sites for Internet Explorer and thus recapture their choke-hold on the market. This seems to be to be back to their Nazi approach to the Internet; “Do it using our way or die!”  Maybe a screaming three year old throwing a tantrum is a better mental picture for their approach. Either way it seems they don’t want to make anything better for anyone unless it means hoarding users for themselves.

 

The inherent problem with Silverlight is the web resides firmly in favor of JavaScript programming over Flash or Silverlight. It seems the two kids (Microsoft and Adobe) are just now looking around to see that no one cares about their fight and instead have moved on to how to address faster JavaScript.  Faced with the decision to program in Silverlight or Javascript, most programmers have decided to stick with JavaScript. Its malleable and can do more now than ever and shows no signs of limitations in the near future, so why bother learning something new that has no advantage?

 

In fairness to Microsoft it should be stated that Silverlight is designed to compete more in the online video market against Flash than within the browser application market, but I can easily envision the two markets converging within the next two years or so into some mashup of programming that can perform both tasks with one application. I have no technical inside information from which to possess that opinion, but it just seems like the next logical step to me.

 

Neat Features for Chrome: Easter Eggs

There are a few neat features in Chrome some of us wont’ ever be aware of if we aren’t told about. Called “easter eggs” these features are hidden and not advertised as benefits to the browser. I’ve used most of them and they provide some interesting informative results. Try typing these commands into the browser window (called “Omnibox)

  • about:memory
    This shows how much memory the browser is using. I currently have one browser instance of Chrome running and one instance of Firefox 3 running. Take a look at the stats below for memory usage on my PC.
    Firefox takes up 400% more private memory, 53% more shared memory, and a total of 311% more of my PC’s memory to run. WOW. I opened up Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox to the same page and did a memory test. I had to open up 11 new tabs and load the same page for Chrome to consume almost as much memory as Firefox. It hands down is better on memory consumption.
    memory
  • about:stats
    Shows internal measurements of Chrome.
  • about:network
    Tracks network activity of using a particular web site.
  • about:version
    Shows your current version information about Chrome
  • about:histograms
    Shows performance measurements such as time to autocomplete text and other related information.
  • about:crash
    Crashes the tab you’re currently looking at.

If you have a comment or thought about any of this, please be kind enough to leave it in the comments section. I’m interested to see what others have to say about the new browsers.

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