30 June, 2008

Lorem Ipsum, huh?

I have always wondered what the story was behind "Lorem Ipsum" used as filler text on website mock-ups. Well there's a website that has the story, http://www.lipsum.com/. Website builders will often use this Latin text to give the previewer a feel for what a page will look like once the content has been added.
It has roots in a piece of classical Latin literature from 45 BC,..

Visit Lorem Ipsum at lipsum.com and learn the entire history. Also from the site, you can have it generate your own Lorem Ipsum text to put in your next website mock-ups.

29 June, 2008

Faster and more reliable web surfing with OpenDNS

For the past week or so I have been using OpenDNS instead of the DNS service provided by my ISP. Huh? When you enter a URL into your browser, a [DNS] system must translate that into a computers [ip] address so you may visit the website. If you have ever input a bad URL and were returned a web page with search results that included your ISPs name or logo, that is the ISPs DNS "helping" you find what you were looking for.

Just a month ago Comcast's DNS systems was hacked, so whenever a user using Comcast's DNS system tried to go to Comcast.net, they instead received a web page loaded from a different website (see picture). The typical complaint from users in regard to DNS is that some web sites take a long time to respond. When I was a Comcast user, I do recall having problems whenever I tried going to Yahoo!. Perhaps a coincidence; perhaps not.

Back to OpenDNS. OpenDNS is a DNS service that you can use instead the default service (most of us use) provided by your ISP. There are several potential advantages to OpenDNS, speed and security (they are not such a big target for hackers like Comcast is) being just two. OpenDNS also maintains a watch on phishing sites, so your network users are much less likely to be caught by a phishing scam.

Using the free OpenDNS system, you can also configure it to do content filtering for you. By configuring your router to point to the OpenDNS servers, you can then block access to sites or site categories within the OpenDNS system.

Finally, OpenDNS maintains a list of common URL typos, and corrects it for you. Using their example, if you left out the 'r' in the Craigslist URL (http://craigslist.og), OpenDNS would correct the error and send you to the correct website (http://craigslist.org).

Don't just take my word for it, try searching Google with 'opendns reviews' and you can read what others have to say. Or, just test it for yourself. OpenDNS has fairly easy to follow instructions, so even the novice computer user could configure their own PC to use the OpenDNS service.

Happy Surfing!

27 June, 2008

Firefox 3 Stable and Good-To-Go

As with all updates, I always recommend waiting before updating your main computer. The recent problems with Windows XP SP3 is a good example (and here) of why you should wait. Well its been a little over two weeks since Firefox 3 has been released, and it looks like it has worked for the most part without any significant problems.

I have now installed and ran it successfully on my work laptop and home desktop. What I was most pleasantly surprised about is my custom toolbars (using TinyMenu) stayed intact for all but one item which was easy to add back in. As you might of expected, not all my plug-ins worked though.

In the case of RoboForm, Firebug, and the Digg toolbar, it required some manual download and install. For the following though, no additional work was required -- they continued to work:
  • Del.icio.us toolbar
  • TwitterFox
  • Download Statusbar
  • BugMeNot
  • Forecastfox
  • FoxClocks
  • IE Tab
  • No Script
  • PicLens
  • Read it Later
  • Web Developer
The following no longer work:
  • TinyURL
  • NSFW
  • AutoCopy
Needless to say, I am pretty pleased with Firefox 3, and it has been rock-solid. I would say if you haven't upgraded yet, it's now safe to go ahead.

While I am on the subject of Firefox and plug-ins (add-ons), here's ablog post that lists 30+ Must Have Updated Firefox Extensions. Have fun creating your own customized Firefox.

Bill Gate's last day as an active Microsoft employee

Today ends an era of Bill Gates working at Microsoft, as he redefines his priorities moving forward. There has been a tremendous number of articles written about Bill Gates in preparation for today. I found this particular video from the BBC that I thought was very interesting as he reviews the early days of Microsoft.
The BBC has also published a Bill Gates and Microsoft Timeline.

26 June, 2008

Tiger causes slow down on the Internet

That would be Tiger Woods. While the US Open was being played on June 17th, Internet Service Providers (ISP) were caught off guard by unusually high traffic. Of course their first reaction was to investigate to see if their systems were under attack. In fact what they learned was that the US Open was being streamed across the Internet. According to Arbor Networks,
For several ISPs, traffic into their network grew by 15-25%. In one provider, inbound traffic nearly doubled.
Traffic dipped and peaked corresponding to Tiger’s initial misses and subsequent spectacular comeback...
What really amazes me is that how much one event can cause so much impact on an ISPs network. What's going to happen to these same networks during a live reporting of a major catastrophe? For example, what if the 1989 San Fransisco earthquake repeats itself in 2009? Could the ISPs handle having all their subscribers watching live broadcasts and other video feeds to a majority of its users? I suspect not, though lets not test it out.

On a side note, I think this supports the argument that P2P technology used to distribute content is a great alternative to millions of direct links to each downloader's computer -- it would consume less overall bandwidth. It's this same technology that could help solve some of this capacity issue, as it is exactly how Skype works. Skype uses a form of P2P to transmit 2-way phone calls on the Internet.

21 June, 2008

Why should Yahoo! sell out to Microsoft?

John C Dvorak just posted an interesting opinion piece on Microsoft's bid to acquire Yahoo!. I like his rationale here. Did you invest in a company (Y!) for what the company has to offer and its potential future or did you invest, waiting for Microsoft to buy it? For most, it is (or should be) the former. By going with the Microsoft buyout, you're giving up on your investment. Further I would add, sure you get Microsoft stock (which you can get anyways without the buyout), but you really have no idea what's in store for the future merged company. What parts of Y! stay and which parts go?

Oh, and if you've ever been one of these acquired companies, how often has the "new plan" panned out? Typically the highly skilled employees from the acquired company leave for new jobs; the acquiring company never lets the newly acquired company influence and teach the valuable parts they bring to the table; and so you are left with a bunch of assets now being ran by inexperienced folks stuck in an old business model. (You could say I carry some baggage.)

So if you're an investor in Y!, we don't need one less company in this space; we need a company that's allowed to try new things in a new space and continue to give the Google and Microsoft giants some competition once in a while.

19 June, 2008

Bill Gates Highlights

With May being Bill Gates last month at Microsoft, Wired.com posted an article with a chronological view of his life. Did you know that at 13, Gates was acting his shoes size? Seriously though, at 13, along with Paul Allen, Gates worked out an agreement with Computer Center Corp to report software bugs in exchange for computer time. This was after spending his schools annual budget for computer time in a matter of weeks.

Here's a couple other highlights:
January 1977
Gates takes a leave of absence from Harvard and establishes Microsoft in Albuquerque, New Mexico,...
On several occasions, Gates' secretary enters the Microsoft building to find him crumpled on the floor, asleep.
August 28, 1980
Gates signs a contract with IBM, agreeing to develop software for the PC.
November 10, 1983
Windows debuts.
August 1, 1989
Microsoft Office debuts.
August 24, 1995
Microsoft introduces Internet Explorer.
June 15, 2006
Gates announces his retirement from day-to-day activities at Microsoft, his role to be phased out over the course of two years.
Despite the many things we dislike about Microsoft and Bill Gates, he has brought a lot to the computer industry. Bill Gates showed us how being a super-geek can be a good, profitable thing, too. I wonder what the Gates-less future for Microsoft holds?

12 June, 2008

3G iPhone follow-up

On Monday we learned about the new 3G iPhone: lower purchase price ($199 for 8MB version), GPS integration, longer battery life, and more. A lot of the buzz was around the lower price, but if you look at the total cost of ownership you will find out that it is actually more expensive.

Over the 2 year plan with AT&T, you're going to pay an additional $10 per month for data ($240) and an additional $5 for SMS messages ($120). So instead of a total cost of ownership of $1815, you will pay $1975. For the additional features, the price is probably worth it. In comparing against other smart phones, the cost is competitive too. Gizmodo has a more detailed breakdown that includes phones from Sprint, Verizon, and AT&T.

Speaking of new iPhone features, Gizmodo also has an article that discusses the new video conferencing add-on for the iPhone. There has been discussion from the community over the missing, built-in video conferencing features, but as you can read about there is a low-cost, add-on solution.
Finally, an interview with Steve Jobs following the keynote revealed Apple's plans for recently acquired PA Semi. Apple plans on designing and developing next generation iPhone and iPod Touch chips, instead of outsourcing to the likes of Samsung. There's the obvious benefit of being able to have one less 3rd-party know about upcoming product releases (which Apple likes to be as secretive as possible), but the real benefit comes in developing technology that cannot be repurposed for other companies. So instead of competitors working with the same 3rd party chip developers, they will have to figure out similar technology on their own. And unlike the low volume of computers, the iPhone and iPod products sell enough to cover the investment all on its own.

09 June, 2008

New 3G iPhone

3G 8GB: $199; 16GB: $299
Available July 11th in 22 countries

  • 2.8 faster than iPhone 1.0 on the Edge Network.
  • Longer battery life
  • GPS integration
  • SDK
  • Push email, calendar, ...
  • Live contact searching
  • Word, Excel, PowerPoint
  • Bulk delete and move
  • Save email images
  • Enhanced calculator
  • Asian language support, including character recognition
  • MobileMe (me.com)
  • App distribution through cell network (less than 10MB), iTunes, WiFi, enterprise (intranet), ad hoc (up to 100 authorized phones)
  • Tech Specs
  • SDK / Apps article

08 June, 2008

Robots with a mind of their own

Take a look at this video -- the early stages of robots joining together to make their own hardware.

Help managing your inbox - Xobni not ready for prime-time

Based on a review I read, I thought I'd give Xobni a try. As described on the Xobni home page, "Xobni is the Outlook plug-in that helps you organize your flooded inbox." Xobni installs a new right-hand pane in Outlook and tracks your contacts communications. When you view an email, prior emails, files transfered and other cc'd contacts display in the Xobni window.

Xobni provides you additional information as well, such as the contacts phone number, the numbers of sent and received emails to the contact and how the contact ranks in comparison to your other email contacts. You can also see a graph of when the contact communicates with you (by hour of the day). And finally, Xobni has a search feature to help you find emails. The Xobni website covers the features in more detail.

The reason I'm uninstalling Xobni as I have not found the benefit in comparison to the pain. Every morning when I start Outlook, it now checks for errors because it did not close properly the last time used. It never finds errors; this started when I installed Xobni. Once that process is complete, an already bloated, slow Outlook takes longer than ever to open, due to the load time (I presume) of Xobni. Don't just take my word for it, you can check view comments from other unhappy Xobni users on the Xobni site -- see the comments for this article.

I wanted to like and use Xobni, but it just wasn't working. Assuming in the future Xobni solves the performance issues, one other things to consider is the value to your email management style. I file emails by subject, not contact, so many of the features were not as beneficial to my style. When I want to go back and find an email correspondence or file, I look under the subject, not the contact who may have sent it to me.

If you are interested in finding other Outlook plug-ins to assist you in managing email, I found a few potential helpful sites:
I have not tried any of these, so you're on your own. Happy emailing!

07 June, 2008

User Generated and Indie, or just Big Media?

Check out this 10 minute video that does a great job in putting the Internet and Net Neutrality in perspective. The big media, telcos, and cable companies are lining the pockets of Washington, so they can control the Internet medium like they already have with TV, Radio, and Newspapers. This will affect us all, whether you're a tech geek, an independent content producer, or just a consumer. Give this 10 minutes of your time, and then pass it on.