29 November, 2007

Information R/evolution

Micheal Wesch of Kansas State University, with the help of his students
... a team of cultural anthropology undergraduates led by Dr. Michael Wesch and human interaction on digital technology. exploring the impacts of digital technology on human interaction on digital technology
put together this superb video on the Information R/evolution. Check it out and see what you think. What a change.

25 November, 2007

Tired of the Reboot prompting?

Windows has an annoying way of asking every five minutes whether I want to reboot after a Windows Update. Of course most cases, I don't because I'm working. Well I learned that there is a way to change the length of time between nags.

  1. Go to the Group Policy Editor (type gpedit.msc at the Run prompt)
  2. Expand the window to Local Computer Policy | Computer Configuration | Administrative Templates | Windows Components | Windows Update
  3. Double-click on Re-prompt for restart with scheduled installations
  4. In the dialog box that opens, click Enable and enter a high number such as 1000 minutes
  5. Click OK and close the Group Policy Editor

24 November, 2007

Speed up that slow PC

As most of us know, over time our PC just gets slower. This is due to temp files, old registry entries, a full hard drive, and a host of other "features" of a Microsoft OS. Fortunately, PC World just released an article on Cheap and Free Tools to Put Zip Back in Your PC. The PC World article covers four subject areas:
  1. Speed Freaks
  2. Optimize for Speed
  3. Internet Boosters
  4. Application Boosters
For Speed Freaks, the one fully free tool is Cleanup Assistant. Cleanup Assistant will scour your hard drive and remove unnecessary files for you, e.g. duplicates and caches.

In the Optimize for Speed category, there are four free tools mentioned. Three of them look to optimize your Registry: Eusing Free Registry Cleaner, CCleaner, and Auslogics Registry Defrag. In addition, CCleaner will also look at removing unnecessary files, similar to Cleanup Assistant. The final free tool in the Optimize for Speed category is Advanced Windows Care 2 Personal, which its primary utility is to clean up your startup applications.

This reminded me to run CCleaner, which I already had installed. It found over 200MB of unnecessary files to remove from my system. I also use my own startup utility, Startup Inspector, to disable many non-required startup applications (See my blog post from October 21, 2006: XP Memory Problems and Startup Applications). Note: CCleaner provides this functionality.
On to the third category, Internet Boosters. In this category, there are four free utilities: 1) MySpeed PC Lite Edition; 2) Bandwidth Monitor 2; 3) SG TCP Optimizer; and 4) uTorrent. the only one that really will do the work for you and help improve your Internet speeds is SC TCP Optimizer. Based on my experience, though tools such as this can make some performance adjustments, it is unlikely to notice the improvements yourself (if you ran a well controlled test, you might be able to conclusively see a difference as measured in the test).

uTorrent is a completely different tool; you wont see any overall Internet performance improvements, but rather it's a BitTorrent client that you could use for downloading files. Great for distributed bandwidth usage (and getting pirated software), BitTorrent is only as good as the files being shared by others.

The last category, Application Boosters, only has one free program (it only lists two programs in total): PDF SpeedUp. PDF SpeedUp claims it will adjust Acrobat settings so it will load faster. I personally use an alternate PDF reader, FoxIt. FoxIt loads extremely fast, and it doesn't cause Firefox to crash.

So if you're looking for a way to get back some of the speed on your PC, there are many tools that claim they can help. If you don't want to go through all the programs to find out which ones really work, I recommend you get and use CCleaner and run your Disk Defrag program that is already on you PC. Oh, and of course this recommendation assumes you have a PC clean of viruses and other malware (See: Is Your Windows XP Computer Internet Safe?).

19 November, 2007

Trouble with MSXML 4.0 Service Pack 2 update

This is likely dated for most folks, but if you are still having problems with the Microsoft XP Update for MSXML 4.0 Service Pack 2, there is a rather simple fix. If you are not sure, but have had Microsoft's yellow shield in your taskbar for some time, select Custom Install and you can see what is trying (and failing) to install. If it is MSXML 4.0 Service Pack 2, then this is the fix for you.

  1. Go to Add or Remove Programs in the Control Panel
  2. Remove all instances of MSXML 4.0 Service Pack 2 (KBxxxxx)
  3. Retry the update -- that's it.

Video How-To Sites

Did you see the article from The Content Wrangler, Video Documentation: Seven Sites That Show You How To Do Things? The Content Wrangler includes some familiar names such as YouTube (How-To and DIY channels) and VideoJug, and some new ones too. Check it out.

18 November, 2007

Emergency iPod Charger

Stuck with an iPod and no juice? I ran across Household Hacker's video on YouTube that shows how to remedy the situation. It takes simply an electrolyte such as Gatoraid, an onion, and 45 minutes. See for yourself.

11 November, 2007

Miro and Internet TV options

I have used iTunes for years to listen to my favorite music and podcasts; since the early betas of Joost, I've been able to see some good TV, such as National Geographic, but I still had to search all over the Internet to get a good selection of shows. For example, I would go to CBS for CSI, AOL for a few good reruns, and Disney when my kids were over to see their Saturday morning favorites. And of course there's always YouTube.

Recently I heard about a new Internet TV interface that would solve all these problems, and it's open-source -- Miro. I downloaded and tried Miro over the weekend. Miro has an interface that is familiar -- it feels a lot like iTunes, but at version, it's still buggy. I quickly learned that Miro's primary feeds are the same RSS feeds used for podcasts and videocasts.

I took a few of my podcast feeds from iTunes, tried them on Miro, and they worked. Likewise, I took some of the Miro feeds and they worked with iTunes. So I thought, "what benefit is there to Miro when I can do this all in iTunes?" None. I can load these through iTunes and have them portable, which Miro cannot do. Also with Miro, because they are RSS feeds, I have to download the entire show before I can view -- with Joost and other streaming solutions, you can begin to view almost immediately.

Perhaps I am being a little hard on Miro; it does offer an easy search across all the major video sharing sites such as YouTube, Revver, and Blip.tv -- that's nice. It also has a nice guide of video feeds and you can download files over BitTorrent, but I still did not find it had much new to offer.

In addition, I looked at Joost again (I've been traveling, and haven't had much time for TV). Well Joost has up'd the ante. Now I can see my favorite CSI shows, late night CBS comedy, and a better interface for browsing and storing my favorites.

So while Miro is trying to offer us an alternative Internet TV option, they are a long way away from matching what I can do with iTunes and the growth of Joost. For folks such as myself that only have broadcast TV, I'm still waiting for the break-through, integrated solution that includes on-demand sports and movies in addition to the legal, free television.

01 November, 2007

Get smarter, have fun, and feed the world

From the Poverty.com folks, you can now improve your vocabulary while and feed the world at the same time. FreeRice.com has been able to sell advertisement on their site in exchange for your eye balls while you improve your vocabulary.

After starting just a few weeks back (October 7), FreeRice.com has already donated 537,163,380 grains of rice. Now I don't know how many grains of rice are in a cup, but it sounds impressive. For every correctly identified definition, 10 grains are donated -- perhaps with some traffic growth, FreeRice.com could charge advertisers more, so 15 grains of rice could be donated for every correct answer.

It's time you do your part -- work on your vocabulary and help feed the world.