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Showing posts from January, 2007

Vista may be the beginning of the end of Windows dominance

With Microsoft's pending release of the consumer version of Windows Vista, there have been many blogs and articles about the pros and cons of moving to Vista. Before I discuss some of the details, need I remind you as I did with iTunes, you DO NOT want to be the first to adopt new software. Let others use it first and see if the reported issues play out or not.

Okay, so you are not going to be an early adopter to Vista. If you were recently in need of a PC, you bought one while you could still get XP, right? If you didn't, now is the time to give Apple another shot.

Why am I taking this position? Well for one thing, Microsoft completely re-wrote the security layer for Vista, and there certainly will be bugs (and their track record for fixing bugs in a timely manner is abysmal). But don't just take my one reason, let's consider some other compelling arguments.

franticindustries recently posted a good article on why power users will hate Vista. Case in point, with the remov…

Alternate and New Search Engines

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As companies try to develop a better search engine, it turns out it is much more difficult to dethrone Google than I believe most realize. I looked at four new search engines, Snap, Ms. Dewey, ChaCha, and Rollyo, and found that they all had a long way to go.

To be fair, I did not do an exhaustive test, but in most case the user interface is bad enough to not want to use the search engine. In two cases, if you have a particular niche need, you might find help. If you are struggling to find something on the Internet, you might try ChaCha's guided searches, where someone will actually help you. Or, if you search for the same topics over several sites, frequently, Rollyo may be worth a further look.

Before I share all the details, as I said, I did not do an exhaustive test. What I did do is search for these four phrases: 1) content effectiveness; 2) fingertip knowledge; 3) Chris Todd; and 4) Excel tips. I also considered that for a successful search, it takes two things: 1) a good searc…

Telcos Need to Inspect Your Data Packets to Filter Content

Daniel Berninger posted a great article on GigaOm about how Internet bandwidth providers would need to inspect your data packets to provide non-neutral routing. More importantly than having net neutrality, Mr. Berninger points out the privacy issue of this behavior -- something that telcos are forbidden to do with telephones. So why should they be allowed to with Internet data?

I believe he makes a good point. In addition to being no different than telephone calls, it reminds me of the AOL mistake of publishing search data of more than 650,000 users. In the wrong hands, which they could not ever guarantee it wouldn't be, would provide data about everything you do, all your account information, your hobbies, and any other information you want to keep private. Remember that Thelma Arnold was the first person (publicly) found from the AOL data -- and this was only search data, not websites, account numbers, and other data you enter into websites.

Perhaps it is time to use the same priv…

Load Web Data into Excel

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Did you know that you can easily load data from a website into Excel? You can even do it with a Macro for sites you visit often. For example if you were tracking your investments or you were monitoring the stats for fantasy basketball. Collecting the data is 7 easy steps.

Select Data from the menuSelect Import External DataSelect New Web Query...



Enter the URL of the page that contains the data to import
Excel will recognize tables. Select the table(s) that contains the data you want to import
Select the Import buttonConfirm the first cell of where the data should be inserted

That's all there is to it. If you want to create a Macro, use the Macro Recorder (Tools menu) and repeat the steps. You can then add additional code if you want to import different sites into different sheets.
Happy data collecting!

Set your own Hot Keys on Windows

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I ran across a clever utility, HoeKey, which is used to configure keyboard shortcuts. HoeKey is a small program (only 12k) that with a little configuration, can make daily computing much easier. You can use it to launch programs, modify existing windows, eject a CD, and more. It may sound a bit hokey, but HoeKey can be a big productivity boost for those who prefer the keyboard over the mouse.

While you're getting HoeKey, check out the other little utilities available.

You are keeping your security tools up-to-date, aren't you?

Apparently if you are a user of Symantec's security software, and have not kept your software and virus definitions up-to-date, you have been vulnerable to Spybot -- malware that will use your computer in malicious ways. In November of 2006, Spybot (a varient of the original Spybot from 2003) started showing up on machines with Symantec security products; and a fix had been available since May. Clearly there is an issue with folks not keeping their security software up-to-date.

Unfortunately if you are a Windows user, your machine is much more likely to be under attack -- hackers looking for vulnerabilities. And the general user population just want to use a computer, not be a technology geek, which seems to be the requirement. I think it is worse than owning a car.

With a car, the buy-in cost is much higher, so in general terms, there is more recognition that maintenance is required. Further, there is an infrastructure in place to make it easy to keep up on basic maintenance. But …

Is Your Autorun Not Auto Running? Having Troubles Deleting a File?

Windows XP has a tendency for the autorun feature to quit working. It is a great feature, and a big headache if you are not real familiar with computers. I found this easy utility that will change your settings and/or fix your corrupt Registry, so that autorun works again. You can download it from The Software Patch. Run it, follow the prompts, and reboot. That's all it takes.

The Software Patch also has a handy tool to help you remove files that Windows XP wont let you delete. Once you tell the tool what file you want to delete, reboot your computer and your file will be deleted before Windows XP starts again.

Manage Logins and Passwords Has Never Been Easier

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For the last month I have been using RoboForm to manage my passwords, and I have been extremely happy with it. RoboForm installs as a simple toolbar in your browser (Firefox, Netscape, and IE) as well as an icon in the tray. In addition to storing passwords, RoboForm can automatically complete and submit forms. This is the best tool I have used for form completion -- others I have tried seem to only work part of the time.

When I log into a website, if the login is successful, RoboForm will prompt me to save the information. First of all, the fact that it waits to see if the login was successful is a very useful feature. With other tools, they save what ever you type, and if you made an error it takes a lot of extra work to correct it. Once my login credentials are stored, I can select a login from the toolbar, similar to bookmarks, and RoboForm will call the URL and log me in.

The toolbar also has a search field. I turned off my Google toolbar and configured RoboForm's toolbar to se…

Senate Tries Net Neutrality, Again

After recent concessions for net neutrality by AT&T, "Senators Byron Dorgan, a North Dakota Democrat, and Olympia Snowe, a Maine Republican, introduced the Internet Freedom Preservation Act Tuesday." This is a repeat of the bill that failed last May in a republican controlled Congress.

CNet describes net neutrality as, "...the idea that network operators such as AT&T and Verizon should be prohibited from prioritizing any content or services that travel across their pipes..."

If we are lucky, this will get passed this time through.

Seven Firefox Features not in Internet Explorer 6

I get an RSS feed from FranticIndustries (Stan Schroeder) blog. Stan's most recent post was seven things he missed from Firefox when forced to use IE6. I thought the list was great. Not only did it point out some less common features, but it also explained how to set them up.

I'll give you the list, but you will need to visit FranticIndustries to learn how to use them:
Multipage home pageSelection sourceUndo closed tabsThe test profileSearch tricksQuick tabbing and session savingSpell checking

Office 2007 Seems to be Worth the Upgrade

I am generally skeptical about new versions of software. If I have been productive in the version I have, why would I need a newer version? Usually it seems that it is just a money grab by software vendors. In the case of Office 2007, I was additionally skeptical about the replacement of the menus with ribbons. This was partially based on the new Internet Explorer 7 design, which I do not like.

Just by chance, today I picked up a copy of PC Magazine's January edition (so I could read it on the plane), and it provided a First Look review of Office 2007. Ironically, I also happen to be listening to an older (Nov 7, 2006) podcast from PC Magazine (called PCMag Radio), which happen to also review Office 2007. In listening and reading, my opinion began to change. If that wasn't enough, today Walter Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal also released a favorable review of Office 2007.

All the reviews promise that the changes will be difficult to make for current Office experts, as the i…

Now You Know Why I Have Pushed the Adoption of Firefox

Brian Krebs, blogger of Security Fix, posted some recently completed research that clear shows why none of us should be using Internet Explorer. According to Mr. Krebs' research, Internet Explorer was unsafe for 284 days of 2006 -- 284!

In case you doubt this number, here's what Brian Krebs had to say about his research methodology.
...individually contacting nearly all of the security researchers who submitted reports of critical flaws in Microsoft products to learn from them not only the dates that they had submitted their findings to the company, but also any other security trends or anomalies they observed in working with the world's largest software maker.Additionally, he also shared the data with Microsoft before posting it on his blog. This chart shows all the vulnerabilities that Mr. Krebs included in his findings.

So if you were an Internet Explorer user in 2006, chances are you opened yourself up to compromising your PC. Mr. Krebs reports that the second most popula…

Deleted Data Isn't Really Gone

informit.com posted a great article on how to retrieve deleted data from memory cards. They did an experiment where they purchased 14 memory cards from eBay, and in most cases, were able to retrieve deleted data.
Statistically, this indicates that 78% of the cards we obtained on eBay contained recoverable data. In total, we found 240 pictures, 17 movies, and a wide range of files from the card with computer files. This was a follow up from an exercise in 2004 where they bought 10 used, formatted hard drives. In both cases, unless you know how to completely erase your data, they are suggesting physical destruction.
Fortunately, deleting the data is not too difficult or expensive. If you are a Windows XP Professional owner, then you already have the tools needed to ensure your drive is clean. All you need to do is click Start — Run and type in cmd. Then at the command prompt, type in the following:

cipher /w:[drive letter]: Where [drive letter] should be replaced by the media card drive le…

The Month of Apple Bugs

LMH (an unidentified hacker) and Kevin Finisterre have started publishing a new Apple bug each day this month (January 2007) in order to bring attention to that fact that Apple software has security bugs too. This is similar to a browser bug a day that H D did in July of 2006. H D did give the vendors advanced warning before releasing each vulnerability, though LMH and Kevin Finisterrre will not.

I believe if Apple really wants us to switch to their platform, some proof that they know how to deal with security issues is important. It will be interesting to see how Apple responds. LMH and Kevin Finisterrre claim their goal is to make OS X a better platform -- I hope they are successful.