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Showing posts from September, 2008

DRM hits you coming and going

If you re unfamiliar with the term DRM, it stands for digital rights management. The record (RIAA), movie (MPAA), and software industry has used forms of DRM to prohibit you from sharing your purchased digital goods with others. This continues to be a headache for the honest, while the less honest folks are able to find free "cracked" version of the same materials.

Take for example if you purchased music from the likes of Microsoft or Yahoo! You were notified (hopefully) this past year that they will no longer support these services. For reasons that appear to agree with what has been argued all along -- that DRM only impacts honest, paying customers -- Microsoft, Yahoo!, and now Wal-Mart are reversing their business models by discontinuing the DRM practice. Microsoft and Yahoo! have easied up some what on their position, to give you more time to find a work-around, but nevertheless you are left either with losing the music once your current PC dies or the burden of transfer …

Is your ISP keeping you safe?

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Recently a new vulnerability was found in the core of the web surfing systems... the DNS server. The DNS server, short for Domain Name System, is used to translate a websites URL to a websites ip address, the addressing system of the Internet, so your web browser can find the website you are looking for.

In order to manage the load of users, there are many, many DNS servers. In fact DNS is provided by ISPs -- either their own or third party systems that they have paid for -- so when you connect through your ISP, you can find the website you want. When the DNS you connect to cannot find a website, it will contact another DNS server to update its records. Likewise, websites will have DNS servers to tell other DNS servers what ip addresses are required for their website.

Here's the problem at hand. It has been figured out how a hacker could tell a DNS server a wrong ip address, when the DNS server is updating its records. It does this through forcing the server to ask for a new update …

Referencing the value of a cell, not its formula

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In Excel, I will use formulas quite frequently for my analysis. At times I want to reference the resulting value of the formula for comparison or to feed another formula. Unfortunately, if you are doing a comparison, Excel will try to compare the formula instead of the formulas results. Well, turns out there is an easy way to correct this.

If you want your formula result to be a number, then use the VALUE function. If you want the formula result to be text, use the TEXT function.

Here is the syntax for each:
VALUE(text)TEXT(value,format_text) -- The format_text value can be any format from the Category box on the Number tab (in the Format Cells dialog box) except General.
Here is an example of each:
=VALUE(MID(A2,46,FIND("&",A2)-46)) -- this actually finds a number beginning with the 46th character of a string, and continues until it finds the ampersand character. By wrapping the formula with VALUE, I can now compare the number to other numbers in my lookup table.=TEXT(IF…

Faster Firefox

With the release of Google Chrome just weeks ago, speed tweaking tips are popular topics for Firefox. I found a list at TechRadar to be fairly good. Of the 8 tips offered, I am trying the following: 1 - 3, 6, and 8. Not that some of these are as much about perception as really making any difference. But isn't perception all we really care about? If we perceive it to be faster, it must be faster.

Microsoft goes Back to the Future to kick-off TechEd 2007

With all the buzz around Microsoft's latest ad campaign, prior videos are re-appearing. Thanks to Digg, I found this video with Christopher Lloyd as Microsoft kicks-off TechEd 2007. I found most of it quite funny.

"Oh, Biff..."

Real iPhone speed, not the commercial speed

As published on the Silicon Alley Insider, here's a video that compares the real speed of an iPhone against the speed you see in the iPhone commercials.

In looking at the ad, Apple has clearly cut out much of the connection and load times. Now let's examine the reality of cell phone network speeds. As reported by tests done by Computer World, AT&T's network averaged download speeds of 755Kbit/sec. and average upload speeds of 484Kbit/sec. Computer World also included a 3 second network connection time. With this information, let's calculate the load time for an average 50kb page.
Convert our download rate to Kb: 755/8 (8 bits in a byte) = 94.4 Kb/secDownload page time: 50 / 94.4 = 0.53 secondsTotal time: connection time of 3 sec + download time of 0.53 seconds = 3.53 secFor us to really get the performance we have come to expect from our computers, it appears the issue right now is the connection times. We can grow our page sizes 6x (and many have) before they would…

Language Bar keeps returning to Taskbar

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I recently got a new laptop with Windows XP and I'm slowly getting it configured to all my preferences. One thing I noticed is that everytime I rebooted, the Language Bar would reappear in the Taskbar. No matter how many times I removed it, it would rear its ugly head again.

With a little research, I found out how to stop this nasty behavior. You need to un-register and re-register a DLL that controls the behavior. Specifically, here's what you do:
Go to Start and click Run...Enter"Regsvr32.exe /u msimtf.dll" and click OKGo to Start and click Run...Enter "Regsvr32.exe msimtf.dll" and click OKNext time you reboot, it wont show up.

Microsoft Ad Campaign, Phase 2 is much different than Gates/Seinfeld

It's hard to figure whether the Gates/Seinfeld ads ran their course as expected or were they cut short because thy missed the mark expected. Regardless, Microsoft has releases some new, more relevant ads that displays all types of people and their roles as PC users.

I'm a PC: Pride


I'm a PC: Not Alone


I'm a PC: Stereotype

The New York Time released an analysis of the Microsoft strategy to combat the Apple TV spots, and they point out that Microsoft isn't the first company to try and take some very bad press and turn it around in their favor.
“This is just the beginning, the first phase of the campaign,” said Mich Mathews, senior vice president for marketing at Microsoft. “We’re on a journey to reposition the PC.”Looks as if we may have many more entertaining commercial spots ahead of us.

Open additional mailboxes within Outlook

You may have the need to open and view more than one Outlook Inbox at the same time. Take for example an employee quitting... who's going to monitor his inbox until a replacement is hired? In my office, email support is handled through a shared email account, with designated individuals watching it at various times.

Here's how you can add additional inboxes to Outlook, so you do not have to switch back and forth between accounts:
Start OutlookGo to Tools | E-mail Accounts...Make sure View or change existing e-mail accounts is marked and click NextMake sure your Microsoft Exchange Server is highlighted and click ChangeClick More Settings...Click the Advanced tabClick AddEnter the name of the additional inbox you want to add. This is the same name you find in the Outlook Address Book.
Click OK -- you may have multiple choices, if the name you gave matches more than one account. If so, select the account you want and click OK, again.Click OKClick FinishHere's a few things to kee…

Improve right-clicking options by expand SendTo's list

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How often do you use the right-click on your mouse a s a shortcut to tasks that otherwise would take much longer? Sometimes I find I want to open a file in an application that is different than the default application. For that purpose, I right-click the file and hover over Open With Other times though, I may want to send the file in an email, or zip it up, and sometimes, OpenWith is not even listed. For these times, I use SendTo.

Microsoft has made it very easy to customize SendTo to meet your needs. The default options include all the drives on your computer, zip, shortcut on the Desktop, an attachment in your default email, or to My Documents. For my own list, I have added all my web browsers (except the default), because when I right-click on an HTML file shortcut (URL), there is no OpenWith option. I also added Dreamweaver, as it does not always show up in the OpenWith dialog for file formats. Notepad has also been a good addition, as often times there are file formats I want to v…

Tweak for even more speed from XP

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Windows XP (like all Windows operating systems) uses a technique of storing some content of its system memory (RAM) to the hard drive, therefore using less memory for functions that are used less often. So what Windows is doing is keep functions used most often in RAM and "swapping" out less used functions on to your hard drive. Though great in principle, if/when a function is needed that is stored on the hard drive, the system must reload it in memory before it is used, which makes things work slower. This is particularly true when Windows stores central parts (referred to as the kernel) of Windows itself on the hard drive.

If you have 256 MB or more of RAM, a simple Registry change keeping the kernel from being swapped to the hard drive can give you some performance improvements. Here's how you do it:
Click StartClick Run...Enter Regedit and click OK (opens the Registry Editor)
Navigate to HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE \ SYSTEM \ CurrentControlSet \ Control \ Session Manager \ Memor…

Execute ASP in HTML pages

This is a little 'techy' for my typical blog posts, but I had a heck of a time finding an answer online. I recently got a new laptop and needed to reconfigure my ASP development environment. I kept running into one problem, where my home page displayed ASP code at the top (<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="1252"%> <% var openMenu; ...), instead of executing.

Turns out you need to add to the basic ASP configuration to execute ASP code that is in HTML pages. Of course that seems like a no-brainer, but I don't recall having done that in the past. Here's the steps to do this:
Go to Administrative Tools in the Control PanelLaunch Internet Information Services (IIS)Go to your (default) website and open PropertiesGo to the Home Directory tabClick the Configuration.. button under the Application Settings sectionOn the Mappings tab, click AddEnter the following information:
Executable: c:\windows\system32\inetsrv\asp.dll
Extension: .html
Verbs | Limit t…

Speed up XP menus

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This is a simple Registry setting that will speed up your Windows XP menus.
Click StartClick Run...Enter Regedit and click OKNavigate to HKEY_CURRENT_USER \ Control Panel \ Desktop \ MenuShowDelayChange the default value of 400
A value of 0 would open a menu even if you just pass the mouse over it, so try a value of 100 or 200.

Always have expanded menus in Office apps

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I just got a new laptop and was reminded of a common annoyance in MS Office products. The menus never fully display immediately -- you either have to click the arrow at the bottom of the menu or wait a few seconds. There is actually a fairly easy way to keep them expanded all the time.
Right-click any toolbarSelect CustomizeCheck "Always show full menus"That's it.

AT&T gets on the bandwagon with network slowdown practices

AT&T has released new information that they will also start degrading customer network throughput for those that use more than what AT&T would consider average. You can read all the terms of service on the AT&T site.

Here are some highlights in order of appearance, followed by my commentary:
Broadband access is provided in speed tiers of:
(1) 200 Kbps to 768 Kbps downstream (not available for AT&T U-verse High Speed Internet service)
(2) 769 Kbps to 1.5 Mbps downstream
(3) 1.56 Mbps to 3.0 Mbps downstream
(4) 3.1 Mbps to 6.0 Mbps downstream;
(5) 6.1 Mbps to 10.0 Mbps (available only with AT&T U-verse High Speed Internet service) (collectively “Service Capability Speeds”)...

... AT&T Uverse High Speed Internet throughput speeds may be temporarily reduced when a customer is using other U-verse services in a manner that requires high bandwidth. This could occur more often with higher speed Internet access products. ... While this performance optimization process will prev…

Microsoft Ad Campaign, Episode 2

Microsoft has released their 2nd ad, from their infamous ad campaign to combat Apple. At 4 1/2 minutes, it's certainly different than what we're accustom to from a commercial.

I don't think there are as many buried messages as the first ad; the big message here is Microsoft connects people.
"Bill, have you had scallop potatoes before?" confirms a feeling many have about Bill: he's different, therefore he has not experienced the typical American family dinner."Do we have any more ketchup" and "Nobody told me we were eating" are lines that tries to re-enforce that this is an average family and Microsoft (through Bill and Jerry) are trying to better understand ("re-connect with real people") what it's like to be an average family."Didn't we have this yesterday?" Bill implies that with Microsoft, you don't have to have the same thing every day.Bill reads a technical story; Microsoft knows technology"Jerry, I&…

Follow-up odds and ends: Google, Comcast and Microsoft

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Well it has been a week since Google released Chrome, a week since I've tracked my Internet bandwidth usage, and 5 days since Microsoft released its ads to compete against Apple. Let's take a look and see how each are doing.
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I wrote a little about Google's surprise announcement of their new browser Chrome last week, highlighting some of its features. One feature that intrigued me was the ability to "tear-off" a tab and turn a browser window into a pseudo application on your desktop. I did just that with my email and RSS reader -- I replaced Thunderbird with a direct window into my Gmail account and replaced the RSS reader with Google's RSS reader.

I had looked and tried many RSS readers before settling on Thunderbird, but found that over the last six months that I've used it less and less. I like the Google Reader interface much better than Thunderbird and others and Chrome has made it just a little easier to access it. In addition, in the fe…

Your biggest privacy concern could be from your own ISP

Over the last 6 to 12 months there has been several battles between ISPs, users, and the government. ISPs want to choose what type of content can run on their network and how fast it should be delivered. One such example is Comcast's blocking of P2P traffic. During their FCC investigation, Comcast changed this practice, though after being ruled that it was actually illegal practice, Comcast is now challenging the ruling. For Comcast to block just P2P traffic, it had to scan all the activity on your connection to identify what part of the traffic was P2P.

In the Comcast ruling, the FCC implied that it would be legal to monitor user traffic so that illegal content could be blocked such as child pornography and copyrighted material. While we would all like to see child pornography and other nefarious activity stopped, this would require the ISP to inspect everyone's content, from banking to love letters to new job applications and everything in between. It would be interesting to …

The new Microsoft ad with Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld

Couple funny lines, but I don't get how it applies to buying anything Microsoft.

"Bill, your a 10"

What are you and your friends reading?

Goodreads is a social network for those who like to share what they read and find new books to read. I joined Goodreads and was able to easily add a dozen books that I've recently read, and provide my rating and review for each. The site is very easy to use. It's easy to find books to add that you've read and books that you want to read. Goodreads is also easy to find other readers with similar interest and ratings on books that you've considered reading.

With goodreads, you can start your own book club or join an existing one. The groups can even go a little off-topic, such as there is a group for folks to rate and discuss recent movies they watched. You can also find over 4000 authors who participate on Goodreads, as well as some author interviews. If that's not enough, you can also test your book smarts with general book trivia or triva only from books you've read.

Now I'm seeing some value out of social networking... MySpace to keep in-touch with my favor…

3 iPhone Usability Tips

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Tip 1: When the phone is locked, double-click the Home button to access your "iPod" volume, play/pause, forward, and backward features
Tip 2: When the iPhone is unlocked (you're using it), double-click the Home button to get to your Contact Favorites
Tip 3: (Repeat from a prior post) When apps are crashing, power your phone off and on or start and stop airplane mode

New browser from Google

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Live blog from CNet Webware

Today at 11 am PST, Google will announce a new browser from the search giant, Chrome. Chrome promises to start off on the right foot with many great features.
Sandboxing: kill one tab while the rest of the browser tabs continue running
Blacklists: one for phishing and one for malware, both maintained by Google
Plug-ins: dedicated processes
Faster Javascript: designed for speed and important enough to be built by its own Google team
Multiprocessing: separate process for each task
Tabs: placed at the top of the window, giving each tab its own URL (Omnibox) box
Google has published a comic book to cover all the features.

It will be interesting to watch the responses from the current browser incumbents Microsoft (IE), Mozilla (Firefox), Apple (Safari), and Opera Software (Opera). For example, Google is signed up to be Firefox's biggest contributor through 2011, with $56 million of $66 million coming from Google in 2006.

As they say in the tech industry, only time wil…

Comcast announces bandwidth usage cap

Effective October 1st, Comcast is putting a cap on its unlimited usage plan -- instead of unlimited bandwidth, you get 250GB per month. It looks as if first-time offenders will only be given a warning, but then any subsequent violations could result in termination of your service.

At first glance, that seems like quite a lot of bits; lets check it out. Comcast claims their average usage is 2 - 3 GB per month. From the Comcast Network Management Policy page, here's how you could use the 250 GBs.
Send 50 million emails (at 0.05 KB/email)Download 62,500 songs (at 4 MB/song)Download 125 standard-definition movies (at 2 GB/movie)Upload 25,000 hi-resolution digital photos (at 10 MB/photo)What Comcast didn't publish was a realistic look at usage. For example, Comcast left a few items off such as IM, YouTube, podcasts, and 3rd party VoIP calls. With that being said, estimating usage for a family of 4 still only exceeds the Comcast estimate by 10x (20 - 30 GB p/ month). I did not calcula…