29 November, 2008

Apple TV (ATV) remote not working

Recently my Apple TV remote quit working. When I pressed the buttons, the light on the Apple TV lit, but nothing happened. I've since learned, similar to "pairing" your wireless key for your car, the Apple TV remote needs to be "paired" with your Apple TV. It's an easy process:
  1. Hold the Menu and Previous buttons for 6 seconds. You should see a new graphic appear, a remote and a broken chain.
  2. Then, Hold the Menu and Next buttons for 6 seconds. The graphic will go away, as you have just "paired" your remote with your Apple TV.

28 November, 2008

Cannot format new hard drive

I got a new external hard drive to use for backups. Before starting, I wanted to format the drive as NTFS, instead of the default FAT32. When I tried though, the system always gave me an error message,"volume is in use by another process." Of course I checked and checked, and was certain nothing else was using the drive. It turns out that the drive when initial setup was added to the System Restore Monitoring; I needed to remove it to format the drive.

Here's how to do that:
  1. Go to Start >> All Programs >> Accessories >> System Tools >> System Restore
  2. Click the System Restore Settings in the right pane
  3. Highlight the drive
  4. Click Settings
  5. Check "Turn off System Restore" on this drive
  6. Click OK
  7. Click OK again
  8. Click Cancel (to close the Welcome to System Restore dialog)
For a drive that I am using as a backup drive (a data only drive), there is no reason to use System restore, so after formatting, I did not re-enable.

Note that if you are a Windows Vista user, you will find System Restore within the System Properties dialog box under the System Protection tab.

25 November, 2008

Amazon search tip

I recently discovered a very helpful search tip for Amazon. When I shop, I like to sort by price, low to high. What usually happens though is I then have to go through all the match but irrelevant items before I get to what I really want. What I learned is that if I use a minus (-) for the items I don't want to see, then I no longer have this issue. Here's an example:
  • Searched for "upconverting DVD players"
  • Sort by price: low to high
  • First thing I get is a bunch of cables
  • Change search to "upconverting DVD players -cables"
  • Sort by price: low to high
  • Now the first results are the low-end upconverting DVD players
You can also add multiple items to exclude. For example: "upconverting DVD players -cables -progressive".

BONUS Tip: Use this URL to find all Electronic items that are 85% or greater off of list price: http://www.amazon.com/gp/search/?node=172282&pct-off=85-. Change 85 to any number to get the percentage you are looking for. Thanks to ProBargainHunter.com for this tip.

Before you buy a gift card, check this list

Many stores have plans to close some or all locations after the Christmas holiday. Before you buy that gift card for little Johnny, better check out whether they'll still be around.

Delete empty rows in Excel

When I get data from the screen view in Salesforce.com, the results have an empty row between each row of data. With a little VBA help to create a macro, it's easy to clean it up. Here's how to do this:
  1. Go to Tools >> Macros >> Visual Basic Editor OR press Alt-F11.
  2. The Project Explorer should be open in the upper-left corner. If not press Ctrl-R.
  3. In the Project Explorer, double-click the worksheet name to add the macro only to a single worksheet. Double-click ThisWorkbook to have it available to all worksheets.
  4. Paste the code (option 1 or option 2) into the worksheet.
  5. Go to View >> Microsoft Excel OR press Alt-F11.
  6. Select column A.
  7. Go to Tools >> Macros >> Macros OR press Alt-F8.
  8. Highlight the DeleteRows macro and click Run.
  9. Wait as it process through each row. To make it faster, only highlight the rows you want checked.
OPTION 1
Sub DeleteRows()
RowCount = Selection.Rows.Count
ActiveCell.Offset(0, 0).Select
Application.ScreenUpdating = False
For i = 1 To RowCount
If ActiveCell.Value = "" Then
Selection.EntireRow.Delete
Else
ActiveCell.Offset(1, 0).Select
End If
Next i
Application.ScreenUpdating = True
End Sub
OPTION 2
Sub DeleteRows()
Dim theRows As Range
With Application
.Calculation = xlCalculationManual
.ScreenUpdating = False
Selection.SpecialCells(xlCellTypeBlanks).Select
For Each Rw In Selection.Rows
If WorksheetFunction.CountA(Selection.EntireRow) = 0 Then
Selection.EntireRow.Delete
End If
Next theRows
.Calculation = xlCalculationAutomatic
.ScreenUpdating = True
End With
End Sub
Option 1 seems a little easier, while option 2 is a little faster. Option 1 checks for row value (= ""), while option 2 counts the number of empty cells in to see if it is equal to 0. Option 2 also turns off calculations, which is where the real speed is gained.

That's it, now you have a worksheet without empty rows.

Remember, extra security is required for wireless hotspots

Forbes reports on recent work that has identified many airport hotspots not being secure. This is a good reminder to all of us who use hotspots that we need extra security. First, if you can get on the hotspot, so can anyone else. With a little work and help from programs such as Cane and Abel, anyone can intercept everything you send and receive. Other people may just set up their laptop to look like a hotspot, so when you connect, you are actually connecting to their laptop. Again programs are readily available to make this work with relative ease.

Your job, if you're going to use hotspots, is to only communicate with VPN on. VPN will encrypt data as it is sent and received between your laptop and the VPN server. If your company does not provide you with VPN or you need it for private use, try services such as PublicVPN or HotSpotVPN. For a small fee, these services will protect you .

The same rule also applies to any public network that you physically connect to such as from a hotel room. After connecting to the network, fire up the VPN before doing anything else. It is also a good idea to make sure you are not sharing any files or folders. If you are, when you join the network, but before you access the VPN, anyone on the network can get to those shares.

How does this differ from private physical connections such as in your place of byusiness? You are trusting that the only people on your business network are safe, and not snooping the network. If your business network is also available via wireless, it should be protected with WPA using a strong security key.

You're keeping up with Microsoft updates, aren't you?

Ars technica reported yesterday that a recent Microsoft update, with its Malicious Software Removal Tool (MSRT), removed nearly 1 million fake anti-virus programs from users' machines. This is a good reminder to us all -- make sure you're keeping up with the Microsoft patches, which are typically released the second Tuesday of every month.

Unless you're technically astute enough to critically review each and every patch, I would recommend you set it for auto-update. Here's how to do it.
  • Go to Control Panel
  • Click on Security Center
  • If not already set to "ON", click on "OFF" next to Automatic Updates to change it
  • In the "Manage security settings for category" click on "Automatic Updates"
  • Click on the radio button next to Automatic (recommended) and set the frequency to every day at an hour when you rarely or never use your computer
This is a great example to why security protection is the number one reason you should be running a legal copy of Windows.

24 November, 2008

Convert text fields in Excel to Proper case

Excel provides an easy formula to set text values in cells to the correct or proper case. This is very helpful when cleaning up data before entering into a database. If the source was from a third-party -- perhaps from user registrations, it's not unusual to have users not capitalize proper names.

Here's an example:
  • You want st. paul to read St. Paul
  • You want project manager to read Project Manager
Here's the formula:
  • =PROPER(A1) where A1 is the cell of the value you want to convert
If you are going to reference the value later, remember you can use the Text command too.
  • =TEXT(PROPER(A1),"#")
If you want to convert the entire value to upper case, use the UPPER function.
  • =UPPER(A1)

TIME releases the Best Innovations of the Year

TIME has put together a great list of innovations for 2008. Here are just of few of the 50 that TIME lists.
  • #4, Hulu.com. The TV and movie site from NBC and Fox. A good site, but not worthy of making it to #4. In fact, I'm not sure it's even worthy of being on the list.
  • #9, the Internet in space. Though it can't operate the same way; it requires confirmation of each packet being sent from every router.
  • #20, Spore, the "Everything Game." A disappointment for many users, both in game play and in the DRM used.
  • #30, the Internet of things. Now your toaster and refrigerator can have their own social network.
  • #32, Facebook for Spies. So that spies (CIA, FBI, NSA, and others) are no longer left out.
  • #36, a new ping-pong server from German Dimitrij Ovtcharov -- yep, a ping-pong serve made the top 50.
  • #38, Instant replay for baseball.
You think I kid... these actually made the list. Intermixed with these innovations are some really valuable innovations too, such as:
  • #6, the Global Seed Vault. 4.5 million seed samples stored at -18 c -- this is something to be excited about. I saw a feature on 60 Minutes about this.
  • #34, Made in transit packaging. Designed so your fresh food can continue to grow as it is being transported -- now that's fresh.
  • #37, Smog eating cement. Currently being used in Segrate, Italy, it seems to reduce nitric oxides in the area by 60%.
Go to the TIME website to read about all 50 of their top innovations for 2008.

22 November, 2008

Tweak Windows without Regedit

I ran across a nice program that makes it very easy to tweak many Windows settings that normally could only be done by manually making changes to the Registry. TweakNow WinSecret is a free Windows XP and Vista application that has tweaks in 12 categories. The categories are as follows:
  1. Applications
  2. Control Panel
  3. Desktop
  4. Miscellaneous
  5. Network & Internet
  6. OEM Info
  7. Special Folder
  8. Start Menu
  9. User Accounts
  10. Windows Core
  11. Windows Explorer
  12. Windows Startup
Here are just a few of the many tweaks you can make.
  • Enable or disable Desktop icons such as Internet Explorer and Printers and Faxes
  • Disable the Desktop Cleanup Wizard prompt from showing every 60 days
  • Move special folders such as the location of My Music or Internet Explorer Cookies
  • Change the menu display speed, i.e. length of pause before a menu expands
  • Hide submenus
  • Add context menu ites such as Copy to Folder and Move to Folder
  • Disable Startup programs
  • Add text to the message box that appears before log on
This is just a small list of many configuration and tweak options available with TweakNow WinSecret. If for no other reason, use it work the management of startup programs -- disabling those programs that are slowing your computer down.

19 November, 2008

Getting too much done, too soon?

Perhaps some help from the Procrastination Flowchart would be in order. I learned about this back in September, but I'm just now getting to it. Hmm...

18 November, 2008

Twitter offers goodness

If you're not familiar with Twitter, it is a micro-blogging tool, where users can only post 140 characters at a time. The low character count was determined based on the ability of phones to SMS, with caps ranging from 140 to 165 characters per SMS message. As a Twitterer, you can post information on what your doing, a new website you found, or short news blurbs. Other people can follow you on Twitter, and see your posts as you make them.

The "goodness" I am referring to is the use of Twitter by the AMBER Alert system. Sign up as a follower of amberalert and get informed of any new AMBER Alerts. I'm actually quite surprised amberalert doesn't have more followers -- less than 500. According to TwitDir, President-Elect Barack Obama (BarackObama), the leader with the most followers, has 133,482 followers. Couldn't get at least 5% of those followers to follow amberalert?

Did you know that in 2007, there were 13 to 24 AMBER Alerts issued each month? In total, there were 227 AMBER Alerts that involved 278 children -- 278 abducted children! Statistics from the 2007 AMBER Alert Report.

If you want to follow others, once you "follow" them on their Twitter page, there are several easy-to-use clients (that you can also use to make your own posts, called Tweets). For example, I use TwitterFox, a add-on for Firefox. In this way I don't need a separate application open and most times it's my top screen on my desktop. Twitter lists several on its own website.

So whether your a Twitter user now or not, it's time you start tracking amberalert and do your part. I'm sure this is probably just one of several "goodness" opportunities on Twitter. If you know of others, please let me know.

17 November, 2008

Free PDF Hosting

UPDATE 18-Nov-08: I missed this one; not sure what changed -- Google Docs DOES NOT allow sharing of PDFs. Of course a single user can store and view a PDF; you just cannot share it.
"Please note, at this time you can only share PDFs from the Docs list, not the PDF itself. Publishing a PDF so that anyone can view has not yet been implemented."
I guess I am back to finding an alternative.
I looked into free file hosting, to see if I could find a place to store a few PDFs for this blog. The real need came from my current host, Blogger, not providing this service when I last checked in August. It is free, so I can't really complain, yet it is part of Google that gives me 10 GBs free for using their Gmail and Picasa services -- that are also free. Of course I could use Google Docs, but then that forces me to format my documents to fit their tool.

STOP - I spoke too soon, Google Docs now supports PDFs; I can host any PDF up to 10 MB in size (and I can always purchase more space). This is great news, as it helps tie together one more piece in having an integrated blogging solution.

While I'm here though, I thought I'd share a little about what I learned about some free hosting services. I started on a free hosting list page, which had a number of possibilities -- most looking too good to be true. Here's the three that I clicked through to look at more closely.
  1. DataFileHost.com: This is the first site I look at. 25 MB of free space. No file management; just an upload screen on the home page with a 4-character captia. I'm returned with a download link and a delete link. When you click on the file link, you get a couple Google Content Ads -- a reasonable trade. The one caveat to the service is the file has to be downloaded at least once every 30 days. I want a more permanent solution that will persist after the newness wears off. Time to move on.
  2. FileAve.com: They offer 50 MB of free storage, and will hold your files as long as you login at least once every 30 days. I actually signed up for this one, as they made it rather easy. I was immediately able to upload files, which I stored in a subfolder I labeled PDFs. Upon completion, I realized I had a newer version of a file, and attempted to upload it. I say attempted, because I was returned an out of server space message. I tried deleting the older one, still no luck -- out of space. I figure it's temporary, so no problem, "What do you expect for free?" I then realized I made a typo in my username (lower instead of uppercase), but FileAve doesn't allow me to change it. Time to move on.
  3. FastFiles: Promises a whopping 100 MB of free storage. this site is not quite clear on what it wants to do. There's no way to register or manage files, yet the FAQs claims to have my email address and that it can limit my usage. Nevertheless, once I do upload and then look at the download experience, its not what I want to share with my users. The download page is covered with a dark shading, and you cannot view the file until you click through an ad or take a survey. This is served by cpalead.com ("Leading Advertising Solutions"), and if you have a script blocker such as NoScript, you can actually avoid this mess. Not something for more users; time to move on.
  4. GoogleDocs. This is where I realize I either need to get a different hosting solution (which will eventually happen anyway) or give up on the idea. I decide to give GoogleDocs a look, again, to see if I can squeeze something into their format -- and here I find my solution.
Speaking of Google Docs, I have now seen it used in other good contexts. One is its integration with Salesforce.com. With the Salesforce integration you can develop proposals and other customer documents, and email and track with Salesforce. You can also use it as part of a collaboration and/or workflow within Salesforce. For a startups looking to save cost in hardaware, software and IT labor, Google offers a great solution for office documents, email, collaboration. For now, I'll just be using it to refresh a few posts; who knows what I may find for it next.

Google Docs File Upload Specs:
Documents (up to 500KB)
  • HTML files and plain text (.txt).
  • Microsoft Word (.doc), Rich Text (.rtf), OpenDocument Text (.odt) and StarOffice (.sxw).
Presentations (up to 10MB from your computer, 2MB from the web, 500KB via email)
  • Microsoft PowerPoint (.ppt, .pps).
Spreadsheets (up to 1MB)
  • Comma Separated Value (.csv).
  • Microsoft Excel (.xls) files and OpenDocument Spreadsheet (.ods).
PDF Files (up to 10MB from your computer, 2MB from the web)

Other Features:
  • Trackable using Google Analytics
  • Several RSS feed options
  • Offline access using Gears

15 November, 2008

Net Neutrality looks more promising than ever before

Save the Internet reports on the change in position around Net Neutrality with the change of the guard in Washington. With President-Elect Barack Obama understanding of technology, our "representatives" need to finally get-in-the-game and not just sellout to big business. I hope this is just the beginning of much more attention and spending on technology, so the U.S. can be recognized as a leader again.

14 November, 2008

Explore and discover product keys

I reviewed two different product key utilities, with the purpose of keeping a backup of all my product keys in case I ever need to reinstall my applications. The programs I tried were Product Key Finder and MSKeyViewerPlus.

I tried MSKeyViewerPlus and immediately liked it. It separated those applications that required keys and those that did not (free). With a single click I was able to expand the window to view all the key information, and with another click I had them all copied to the clipboard. MSKeyViewerPlus was created by a guy named Todd (couldn't find his last name) and he makes it available off of his family website for free.

The other program I tried, Product Key Finder lists all your registered programs on one screen and does not provide an alternate screen with your other programs. On the plus side, it offers different output options to save your records including XML, Access, CSV and Tab Delimited. These programs are not that complex, so there's not much more to it. Product Key Finder costs $30 and a purchase is required to really use it, though the site claims 15 free trial. In addition to the $30 fee, what I didn't like about Product Key Finder is that you cannot uninstall it if you do not let the program have access to the Internet.

Having to allow Internet access to uninstall any program is not acceptable under any circumstances. Product Key Finder did not give me any information as to what data was being sent while accessing the Internet. And even if it showed me some data, I have no way of ensuring that something else is not being sent. So whether using Product Key Finder or another product, whether I pay $30 or I get it for free, there are very few programs that I could recommend that requires Internet access to uninstall. For that matter, I would also be cautious of programs requiring Internet access for installation.

So there you have it. If you want to make a backup of your product keys, checkout Todd's MSKeyViewerPlus. While you're on his site, Todd offers some other free utilities that may be of interest too.

13 November, 2008

Dreamweaver Find and Replace Crash / Failure

One of my favorite applications for web application development, whether ASP, ColdFusion, or HTML and JavaScript is Dreamweaver. I currently use version 8, and for the first time I experienced a real problem. Every time I tried using Search & Replace, the dialog box would not appear and eventually Dreamweaver crashed.

I tried updating to the latest version, 8.0.2, but that still didn't help. After no luck with some Google searching on "dreamweaver 8 find and replace crashes" I tried to do some Registry exploring and I figured out a solution. Upon initial exploration, I determined that Dreamweaver held various parameters specific to Search & Replace. After trying a few things, I found the ones that seem to be the culprits.

Enough said, here are the steps:
  1. Close Dreamweaver
  2. Launch Regedit (Start >> Run...; Regedit; OK)
  3. Go to HK_users >> HKEY_USERS\S-1-5-21-1606980848-1500820517-839522115-1689
    Most of this key is going to be unique to you. If you share the machine, you need to identify the key specific to you.
  4. Continue navigating to >> Software >> Macromedia >> Dreamweaver 8 >> Find and Replace
  5. Right-click on Find and Replace and Export. This will allow you to undo in case you have a bigger problem (i.e. lockup or crash)
  6. Delete the following keys
    • FindReplaceXPos
    • FindReplaceXSize
    • FindReplaceYPos
    • FindReplaceYSize
    • Q_1_0
    • Q_1_1
    • Q_1_2
    • Q_1_3
  7. Start Dreamweaver
That did the trick for me. Good luck!

75% reduction in spam as of Tuesday

Brian Krebs, columnist of Security Fix in the Washington Post has been following a San Jose company McColo Corp due to it's contribution to spam. Over the last 4 months Brian has been gathering data, which he shared with the service providers of McColo on Monday. Upon reviewing this material, the ISPs shut down service to McColo. I think the results were bigger than Brian expected -- 75% of all spam has been reduced across the Internet -- that is 75% of all spam was coming from this one company. In his column, Brian has some graphs from a couple different sources that displays these terrific results.
Congratulations and well done Brian!

11 November, 2008

2009 Top 10 Future Outlook

I found on the Discovery website, originating from The Futurist magazine, the Top 10 Forecasts for 2009 and Beyond. Here's an exert and some opinion.
  1. Everything you say and do will be recorded by 2030. Here's some facts: Our ISPs can (and some do) record every movement we make on the Internet (including email); Google is everywhere and capturing everything; our employers are tracking our network and email usage; and we're already capturing and documenting our lives through social networks and photo & video sites. On top of that, places like London have cameras on every corner and are recording every phone call too. It is just a matter of time before everything is recorded -- I wouldn't be surprised if this becomes a reality as soon as 2020.
    British authorities have placed great faith in CCTV as a crime control device, installing an estimated 1.5 million police cameras along the country's streets, buildings and mass transport systems. Still shots taken from video feed are used to identify protesters and hooligans.
    - Wired, 2002

    The government of the United Kingdom leaked its plans yesterday to launch a programme which will monitor every British citizen's emails, internet browsing records, and telephone conversations. While a specific plan has not been reached, UK ministers agreed on spending up to £12 billion (USD$21.2 billion) on the new spying system. More than £1 billion (USD$1.76 billion) has already been spent.
    - WikiNews, Oct 2008
  2. Bioviolence will become a greater threat as the technology becomes more accessible. Emerging scientific disciplines (notably genomics, nanotechnology, and other microsciences) could pave the way for a bioattack. I just watched a NOVA video on how a particular bacteria, Acetinobacter aka Iraqibacter, also found as MDR Acinetobacter Baumannii, is adding its own defenses making it resistant to antibiotics. If this can spread so easily on its own, it makes sense that terrorist and anti-Amrican organization would persue this expertise.
    An ICU nurse at Bethesda Naval in Washington DC leaves work feeling under the weather. Within 24 hours she is in a community hospital, intubated, with Acinetobacter Baumannii. It was determined that the bacteria were acquired from a patient at work. She succumbed to the infection quickly and with no fan fare. The story went silent.
    - Acinetobacter.org
  3. The car’s days as king of the road may soon be over. I have mixed feelings over this one. The continued fight for energy supports this statement, as well as the improvement in social and collaboration technologies. What makes this difficult to beleive is that people still want to be together and I beleive are more productive when together. Of course you can cite many examples of remote teams delivering great products, but given the choice, most people would like to work in close proximity to their peers. Of course being on the West Coast, our community is not as compact and centralized as the East Coast and places abroad. What do you think?
Well that's just a look at the first three. Quite interesting and a bit scary. As they say, only time will tell.

09 November, 2008

Replace iTunes without replacing your iPod

Are you tired of too many bloated updates for iTunes, (Reminds you too much of Windows?) yet you love your iPod? Well there are alternatives to iTunes that will let you continue to enjoy your iPod. For Windows only users, there's SharePod; for Windows, Mac, and Linux users there is YamiPod. Both applications claim to run off the iPod, so you can avoid installing it to your computer.

With a replacement for syncing your iPod, now you can explore other music and media players such as Songbird. Songbird is an open-source music player that feels a lot like iTunes, but offers a lot more flexibility.

If you are interested in other iPod utilities, try The 20 Best iPod Utilities from LifeHacker. Enjoy!

08 November, 2008

Cloud computing and Salesforce.com

I just got back from Dreamforce '08, Salesforce.com's annual user and developer conference (see Keynotes here). I've been a Salesforce.com user and administrator for about 6 months, so this was my first Dreamforce. I came away impressed and excited about the Salesforce.com platform. Cloud computing has been a recent buzz word, and we have heard it in context of Google, Amazon, and recently from Microsoft. What I saw from Salesforce.com though was the first real example of what cloud computing can offer.

First, Salesforce.com offers their CRM (customer releationship management) application, that is used and administered through a web browser. A great application, but that in itself is not much different than many other web-based applications. What makes it extend beyond the traditional web app is the ability to add additiional applications availalbe through their AppExchange. AppExchange is like the iPhone App Store, but Salesforce.com was there first. Applications found on the AppExchange extended the functionality of Salesforce.com.

Still not cloud computing, in that these apps can be hosted by a 3rd party or even in your own data center. What finally hits the cloud computing mark are AppExchange apps that now run on the Salesforce.com backend. I like this because now it's one platform, not a distributed one. And with a worldwide organization, we can get the same performance all over the world, not the latency you can experience with apps only running from one location.

Most companies don't know how and/or do not have the resources to build applications that leverage an always up, distributed environment. With Salesforce.com, you can use their own Apex language to build your apps, therefore leveraging the cloud platform from the beginning.

Not to be confused with programs such as the Google office apps, Salesforce.com demostrates the first real solution using cloud computing. This is worth checking out for any business looking to lower IT costs, having troubles getting work from IT, or looking to focus on their core business, instead of IT. Watch for additional post on Salesforces.com in the next several days.