Your personal timeline, a place to aggregate photos, blog posts, tweets and key events in your life.
Created by uprun42 on May 24, 2008
Last updated: 11/01/10 at 02:01 AM
I first met Stuart Kenneth Stokes (who changed his name to S Kenneth Stoke and was always known to me as S) in 1978 when he was my relief teacher at Taroona High School. Some time during the class he let slip that he had a computer and at the end of the class I approached him with “got any software?”S had bought an Exidy Sorcerer computer from the local Dick Smith agent, Carl Vasos (Aero Electronics) and in those days if you wanted software, you wrote it yourself.S had some beauties - space trader, star trek and many more. He was a database administrator before the world ever knew what one was.Over the years S taught me so much. I recall he did an audio recording of my school friend Stephen Hand telling Norse myths backed by recorder played by Tony Storey. This was the first recording session I ever saw and it turned me on to sound recording. I don’t think I would have had my own studio and released albums if S had not been that inspiration.Later I went with him to 7-THE-fm and watched in awe as he delivered a live radio show. Some years later I tried my hand and eventually became a committee member helping to run that station for a period of time. S encouraged me to run training sessions for new broadcasters and that was probably how I first learned to be a trainer.There were many other things S introduced me to and many of the practices I use today I learned from S. My daughters will attest to “clean side/dirty side” in relation to the kitchen sink for example.There was one fabulous night where we were brain storming business ideas. We had this venture capital idea and had figured out if we could take investments and then use that money to pay back the limited number who would want to cash out rather than re-invest, we could steam roller this thing into a right little earner. Then a raucous round of uncontrollable laughter when we realised we had just “invented” the bank.S was a founding member of “The young independents and S” which became Up and Running Promotions, my first company. After a failed heavy metal concert (Metal Mania), we all went our separate ways and the company became Up and Running Computers in 1993.There were many parties, lunches and just late nights talking. There were wild ideas and sound ones too. Many came to pass, many did not.He was my teacher, mentor, business partner, inspiration, and above all he was my friend.S passed away 26-Sep-2010 at the Whittle Ward after a battle he could not win. He was only 68.Missed but not forgotten.
Forgive me for spreading doom and gloom, but the problem of computer security is just getting worse.Driven by organised crime and fuelled by the vast dollars to be had (stolen) for very little outlay, there is serious money involved.To date, Australia has been spared some of the pain by being a very small target. The Americans are frankly easier pickings. But that doesn’t mean we don’t get hit. We do, just less often.It isn’t just me saying this either, Detective Inspector Bruce van der Graaf from the Computer Crime Investigation Unit said never click on links in email and to avoid Microsoft Windows.Then there’s all the “faulty by design” inherent in our computers; See the article. And yes, that is a pile of dog poo albeit a fake one.
I've blogged about several diets it seems; Microsoft Diet, Atkins Diet... But a media diet is something else.It seems I am in a constant state of stimulation, and I'm not talking about THAT kind of stimulation. With newspapers, TV, news on the Internet, blogs, RSS feeds, podcasts and the likes, I am bombarded with information all day long. And that's before I get to work! At work, there are constant interruptions, email (fracking heck I HATE email!), jobs, and the constant pull of fifty million things to do and no time to do them. It seems I get pulled off one thing before I can finish it and onto another. Nothing ever gets done properly.I call this The Whirlpool. It had to have a name and that was the best I could come up with.Sometimes I think I am winning the battle, The Whirlpool is in retreat and life isn't so hectic. But lately it has staged a come back. It is certainly in a winning position now.So how to battle? Well start with limiting the stimulation. Cut out news, stop reading RSS, stop Facebook, Twitter, Google Reader and triage the email into "absolutely important, I have to respond to this" and "delete" (everything else).When Merlin Mann's book comes out, I will be on the waiting list. Certainly "Inbox Zero" is where I need to be. But for the rest of the barrage, I think a little self-discipline will be enough. I gave up newspapers over a decade ago. Just stopped buying them. Well, I do buy the Sunday Tasmanian just for the TV guide. But lately I have caught myself reading the rest of it. It seemed a shame to burn it unread. But, heck, I need the fire starter. The wood fired pizza oven needs paper. That's what that publication is for. The TV guide comes out, and the rest goes in the "burning box".Then there's TV news and so called current affairs. Just plain say NO! These programs are the pits. They are full of sound-bite journalism and sensationalism for the sake of ratings. Between Today Tonight, A Current Affair and whatever the other one is, they are worse than John Laws! Absolutely designed to get my blood pressure up. But they are also incredibly addictive. Watch just one second and you want to keep watching. They must be avoided completely. I feel like an alcoholic holding a bottle of gin. Resist, resist.Now to my blog habit. I'm not sure I can do this. I am pretty choosy about what I read. I like Victor, Rita, Steven and the rest of the Hobart foodie circle. I like Andy, I like Leo and I love Macworld and Mac Rumours. Can I kick this habit? I have to.That leaves me with podcasts. I have been very ruthless lately. Try new ones, they get one episode to hook me, then I hit "unsubscribe" and "delete" and they are wiped. I fell like a wave of "get this crap off my computer" madness comes over me, but they go.I hang on to my comfort food. The Chillcast, I just can't give this one up. I rationalise that Anji is good for my soul. All that laid back music helps me drift off. It can't be bad, can it?So my media diet begins.Next to my work environment. I'm going to change offices. The concept of being in the open-plan section overlooking all my team is a good one, but it just plain doesn't work. Firstly I have no privacy. Secondly my staff feel free to interrupt me every 45 seconds. It just doesn't work. So under guise of "I have to shut the door for security and privacy reasons" I'm going to shut the bloody door. Let's see how that goes.I just downloaded an e-book called "Zen Habits - Handbook for Life" which is all about simplifying your workspace and stripping down the clutter. Seems like its worth a try. But, oh bugger, I just took on another new "media", did I just break my diet?
There are some customers who deserve a punch in the mouth, or at least the audience’s line from “Am I ever going to see your face again?”.There are some people who should have their licence to shop taken away from them.Let me give you some theoretical examples;The “customer” that couldn’t afford to get his laptop fixed. He brought it in. The price is on wall, it gets explained to him, quoted to him and he signed to say he understood. The bloody laptop is worth $1500, you telling me he can’t find a hundred bucks??? So he gets time to pay, lots of time. Then he pisses off to Queensland (strangely that would have cost more for the flippin’ air fare!) So he gets phone calls, letters and a dozen chances to make a arrangement, any arrangement, but he doesn’t. So he gets a final notice, long after the 3 months we promised (in writing) that we would keep trying. And when all else fails, we reluctantly sell his laptop to raise the money he owes. A year later he wants to know where his laptop is. Did he get the letters? Yes he did. Does he remember speaking to us on the phone? Yes he does. Does he remember the bit about “final notice - we will have to sell your laptop to recover the cost” yes he does. Which bit of “we sold it” does he now not understand?The “customer” that asks for a quote to fix his laptop. He pays the quote fee, we quote. Strangely enough, our quote matches the one he got elsewhere because they came to the same diagnosis we did. But that’s not good enough. He wants it “diagnosed”. Hang on, that is what we did. Hence the quote, we’ve tested, diagnosed and we now know what is wrong and have provided a plan and quote to fix it. But sorry, that is not good enough. (repeat the above paragraph 8 times, going round and round in circles...) So he’s claiming we breached our contract and wants to go to court. Frankly, I’ll welcome an adult taking a look at this case.The turkey that dropped his laptop. That’s not why he’s a turkey, we’ve all dropped a laptop, that’s an accident, they happen. Its how you move forward that defines if you are turkey or a reasonable human being. So, he brings it in under warranty. Obviously he had forgotten to mention to the manufacturer’s call centre the bit about dropping it. So we do what we can, we order parts and we don’t mention the dropping bit either. But when you order a screen, keyboard, top case, bottom case, DVD, mainboard, hard drive and just about an entire laptop, there are going to be questions. So when asked by the manufacturer “Has the laptop been dropped or otherwise damaged?” I quietly say “maybe”. And his warranty is cancelled by THE MANUFACTURER, not me. But of course who does he want to punch? That would be me. He’s a turkey.Are we allowed to punch them in the face or tell them “no way, get F’d, F’off”? No, we are not. That would be bad customer service. We grin and bear it. We try like heck to focus on the 99% who are decent human beings. We’re in the service business after all.So the next time you have an issue with the service anyone provides, may I suggest you remember they are human beings too? Quiet, polite, honest and above all respectful will get you places, shouting, abuse and insults will not.Do we screw up? Yes we do. That would be the human part. Do we have good intentions and will we sort it out given a reasonable chance? Of course.Phil, Matt and Tobias will probably kill me for using the photo of the 3 wise monkeys; hear no evil, see no evil and speak no evil. But hey, they posed, they should’a figured it’d end up on the Internet somehow.
The iPhone 4 only just hit Australia but the controversy arrived early. Antenna-gate or whatever you want to call it.It is impossible for me to comment on this without being an Apple fan-boy so here is my two cents worth.The iPhone 4 has a new design, the antenna is on the outside. (it’s the little dark line on the lower left corner) If you touch the antenna, the reception is affected. This happens on all phones to some extent.Apple handled the issue badly. First denying it, then re-calibrating the “bars” of signal displayed and finally giving away free cases so you don’t touch the antenna.Is it a real problem? The Next G network is better than anything the yanks have. (And that coming from a self-confessed Telstra hater). Reports so far indicate there is no issue in Australia. ( http://bit.ly/aILdHh) The one hard fact we have is the return rate (people asking for a refund) and that is lower. So customers are actually MORE satisfied with this phone than the previous models.I just wish the pundits would shut up. I note Microsoft’s phone (the Kin) was cancelled after only 6 weeks on the market. I don’t hear the pundits talking about that.If you want a real reporter’s take on all this, read here. Andy Ihnatko sums up the arguments very well.
Life on a farm involves death. Things die. That’s a fact of life.The realty is that some of those things are our pets and we love them.Today I buried Snowy, beloved white chook, excellent layer and just all round nice chicken.
Google is in trouble for capturing “private data” with its StreetView cameras. But this time the data is not photos of people in compromising poses, its wifi packets.Google stands accused of capturing people’s passwords, banking data, email and other truly personal stuff.As the Google cars speed along photographing the streets, they sniff for wifi access points, a bit like kids “war driving”. The wifi data is analysed and the header reveals the name of the access point and its unique serial number (MAC address). Google married this with GPS data from the car and produced a database that is used for non-GPS devices to do location based things. So your laptop can use Google maps and know roughly where it is because it can triangulate wifi base stations.Other companies do this. It is not new, its useful.The header information (of the wifi packets) is not encrypted. It is broadcast so your laptop knows which wifi it can connect to.But Google also stored the “payload” or data part of the packet. The software they used just did that. They didn’t write it, they downloaded it from the Internet and used it, it was open source and meant for people to use freely like that.Google didn’t use the data. There is no evidence they even looked at it. For 60% of wifi that data was encrypted and useless anyway. But for 40%, it was “open” or not encrypted. So Google could have read it. Anyone could have read it, all they needed to do was turn on their laptop and there it was.These base stations were (and are) broadcasting data for anyone to see.And for this Google is being crucified.Any IT aware person would agree, I believe, that Google did not set out to harm anyone, did not harm anyone and has at all times acted responsibly. But the debate isn’t being run by reasonable people, its being run by lawyers and opportunists out to get rich by suing one of the biggest companies in the world.They forgot Google’s company mission statement “Don’t be evil.”Here’s one reporting of the story.And more comment here.Photo by this kind person. (Copyright © 2004-2010. Published under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 (Canada) license)
It seems there are always new and exciting ways people can annoy the heck out of you using email. The capacity for human stupidity is boundless.In my previous articles, I have shown some of the “rules” around email. In my REIT talk, I go in depth into human communication and demonstrate exactly how limited email is as a form of communication.But email is (as Merlin Mann points out) often a metaphor for other things going on in your life. If he ever finishes his book (“Inbox Zero”), I’m sure it will be a best seller. The world, especially the business world, is crying out for someone to show us the light, the way it should work.During the meanwhilst, it is left to lesser mortals such as myself to offer up small tips and tricks, while we await the great answer.Lifehacker is one of those sites. “X many ways to do Y” where X is a prime number. A little formulaic but effective none the less.Here is the article.Here’s another.
I’m possibly hyper-sensitive to bad customer service.I went to Dymocks in CentrePoint today to buy Amber McArthur’s new book - Power Friending. I browsed for a while but couldn’t see it so I decided to ask.Both the staff were busy with a woman who wanted to find the sushi place. Hardly Dymocks business and why the frack did it take two of them to tell her? But I waited patiently.Finally my turn and the bitch served another customer who had obviously come to the counter after me. FAIL.Maybe its my Scorpio, maybe I’m just crazy, but I can’t let this go. Hence the blog post.I try to provide good service in our business. Sometimes we fail, I confess. But I’m aware of it and I try to keep the staff on track. I really do. I wouldn’t put up with this crap, I really wouldn’t.Stay away from Dymocks - they suck.
The guide books will tell you the facts, Vanuatu is a group of 83 islands, it's about 4 hours flight from Sydney to Port Vila, the capital. The locals speak English, French and Bislama (Pidgin) and the currency is about 85 Vatu to the Aussie dollar. I'm told it's very like Fiji, but I've never been to Fiji.For a family friendly holiday, it's perfect. The resort we stayed at was recommended to us and we would certainly recommend it to you - Le Lagon.Le Lagon has great facilities - pools, bars, restaurants, buffet breakfast and dinner, water sports (kayaks, canoes, sailboards, catamaran, scuba and snorkels), a gym, golf, bikes and lots more. But most importantly it has a Kid's Club. And a darn good one. The local people love kids. There are kid's activities for young ones (2-5) and older ones. They'll take them swimming, walking, tours, shopping, feed them etc. If you want a day off from the kids, the only guilt will be in your head, they'll have a ball. Baby sitters are embarrassingly cheap if you want a night out.It is very easy to get around. Taxis are fairly priced but variable ($10-$20 per trip, no meter, just what the driver thinks), hire cars are pointless but Public Transport is ridiculously cheap and works just like taxis. You hail one, tell them where you want to go and they take you there for about $2 in our money. Tours and excursions are all reasonably priced.There is no tipping or bargaining which works well for Aussies who aren't used to those practices anyway. Some shops will give you 100:1 on the dollar but their prices were higher. Its just best to get local currency and work with that. There are ANZ and Westpac ATMs all over, plus branches and money changers, it really isn't a problem although the resort charges 3% on credit cards.To say the natives are friendly is an understatement. Everyone waves, cars toot and people say Hello. As most speak at least 3 languages, communication is easy. A lot of the shops are owned by Chinese immigrants, there's a huge Aussie presence, French, English, Kiwis. I didn't meet any Indians.Food is variable. Don't go expecting gourmet experiences. We didn't find many. The local beef is excellent, the seafood good and you'll find French, Chinese and lots of other cuisine to try. There is Kava everywhere. We tried it, tastes like mud, makes your lips numb and that was all. Not sure if that was a joke on the white man or just an acquired taste. The local beer is excellent however.My highlight was the volcano. This is on another island and the tour including air fare etc was about $500 per person, but the experience was brilliant. Light plane to Tanna (1.5 hours), bloody rugged, rough and bumpy 4WD to the volcano (3.5 hours) and a walk around the rim. A very full on day trip, if you can afford the overnight stop you get to see the volcano at night which is better they tell me, although that track scared the crap out of me in broad daylight, I'm not sure I would be up to it at night. I sat in the vehicle with 3 others, 4 people had to ride in the tray, I'm not sure how they did it. The driver was amazing.There are allegedly no sharks, no poisonous snakes or other nasties. No stingers in the water. We put Connor in a swim vest as he is not quite a swimmer yet. He played in the pools, invented a game he calls "Buzz Lightyear" which involves yelling "To infinity and beyond" and leaping into the pool. Regrettably it caught on like wildfire amongst the kids. If you want to go sans children, there are resorts that don't take kids for a more adult vacation.Vanuatu is a great place for Aussies to holiday. Very safe, easy and offers touristy things at the resorts or get amongst the locals and learn heaps. Their off season is our Winter and the temperatures are hot, the water good and the resorts lightly booked - how perfect is that?Highly Recommended.
I said I would follow up with an article on the “how” of podcasting, here are a few pointers to get you started.The first step is to start listening to lots of podcasts. Take in a wide range and hear what other people are doing. You will soon develop a taste for what you do want to do and what you don't want to do. I would suggest sampling something from the TWIT network and something from the Lifestyle podnetwork. Then I'd suggest a dash of Quick and Dirty Tips, some Chillcast and round it out with Manager Tools. Although none of these may be about the topic that grabs your passion, they represent a wide spectrum of good quality podcasts. You'll certainly hear what can be done.Next you need to plan. Know your audience, your message and exactly what you want to say and do. Will you be a one person talk show? That is probably the hardest style. Two or more people make things easier and the conversations seems to flow more easily. Will you be recording live in a studio of some sort or over the phone? Skype is a fantastic tool for multi-person podcasts where you are all in your own homes. Skype provides the teleconference style call, generally free no matter where you are. So if your co-hosts are in other countries or just in another town, Skype makes it easy.I know I'm an Apple fan-boy but honestly the Mac is an incredible platform for podcasting. If you were going to do a podcast for your business or your hobby and you have a Windows PC, you should seriously consider buying a Mac to do the podcast. You'll get nearly everything you need (other than the mic) built in. And the software is very easy to use.Yes, you can (and people do) record podcasts on Windows. There is software and it does work. But the more I hear Windows users discussing podcasting, the happier I am that I have a Mac.Then you need some gear. Your choices will be driven to some extent by your planning decisions. Spend most of your money on the microphone and interface (sound box, mixer) and you are on the right track. A Shure PG48 and a Micport Pro will set you up for a really professional sound or there are hundreds of other options depending on your budget. I use a Plantronics headset which is fine.At this point I suggest you check out The Podcasters Emporium which is an excellent podcast designed to tell you all about this stuff.The process (work flow) goes something like this;1. Plan episode2. Book guests, hosts etc3. Test gear before hand4. Record show5. Edit show, trimming, mixing and adding music etc6. Save show with appropriate MP3 tags7. Test listen8. Publish to web site9. Make RSS feed10. Publish to iTunes and other podcast directories11. Monitor feedback from audience12. Do it all over again, its fun!Now this may seem like a lot of work and it is. My Mac does steps 3-10 all in one program and takes all the technical tinkering out of my way. I plug in my headset, hit record and away I go. When I want to publish, I hit “publish” and that’s all. I don't need to know about RSS and the likes, Garage Band does it all for me.Hopefully I haven't put you off. It really is a lot easier to do than describe. Go have a try.
There was a bit of a stink recently over bloggers reviewing restaurants. Rita published some negative feedback from one of her readers about a particular establishment. And next it was all chefs vs bloggers and one stupid prat photographed brandishing a knife as if he was going to take to anyone who dared nay say his eatery. Storm in a teacup maybe but it brings up the subject of bloggers rights.What freedoms do we really have? Can you blog about a bad night out? Can you get sued because of it?I once had a fancy to start a web site called telstrasucks.com and my solicitor had kittens. 6 little fluffy ones. Needles to say I piked out on the web site. But it hasn't stopped me blogging about bad telcos or bad technology. I do feel qualified to do that. With 25+ years in the IT industry and many exams under my belt and not being in the sales game, I think I can spot a bad computer or a low value broadband plan. But what right do I have?Many years ago in public radio I recall being taught (by a free lawyer) that the only defence for libel was truth AND public benefit. You had to prove both. Now I'm not a lawyer and I have no idea how true or not that advice is. Perhaps one of our qualified lawyer readers could write something on the subject?update (28/3/2010): Read this article on the subject.
uprun42: I just got the Mac Heist bundle. 7 Top apps worth $260+ for only $19.95 and got 3 great bonus apps free! http://bit.ly/heist-it
This is a relatively new product from Microsoft. By all accounts, it’s a very capable anti-virus and it is certainly less of a drain on your computer than the over bloated Internet Security offerings from people like Norton or Trend. And it will save you around sixty bucks a year because you can stop paying for anti-virus.You do need to have a genuine copy of Windows. MSE will not install until you have passed “Windows Genuine Advantage”. Since all (windows based) computers should have shipped with a licence for Windows, usually a sticker on the case, you should not be afraid of this.Prior to installing, remove any other anti-virus software you have. Uninstall Norton, Trend, AVG or whatever else you have. Reboot and you’re ready to go.Installation is easy. Just go to the Microsoft web site (see below) and click “Download Now”. Oh, use Internet Explorer for the download. It only takes a few minutes. I found it very easy. Make sure you only get MSE by visiting the Microsoft web site, there are fakes out there, usually in the email or pop-ups on other web sites.In practical use I found MSE worked as well as anything I’ve used before. I didn’t seem to slow the computer down noticeably. I even use it on my netbook which has a tiny processor and I didn’t notice any slow down at all. In fact if you have Norton and you remove it and switch to MSE, not only will you save money, you’ll probably notice your computer speeds UP.I know I’ve been hard on free anti-virus in the past. With good reason - they were crap. I still see people with AVG and their machines are infected and they have that incredulous look on their face “but I have AVG, how can I be infected?”. Microsoft has a good reason to make a good anti-virus - Windows keeps getting infected. People are moving away from Windows because they are sick of it. So if Microsoft can fix the problem, maybe they can stem the tide. I think they are doing a very good job.On the slightly down side, it isn’t centrally managed so if you have a network of a dozen or so computers, there is no way to download the updates once and share them around. There is no central reporting so your IT people can’t see which machines are getting attacked. I’m not sure it will work in a corporate setting, you might be stuck with Kaspersky or Trend.Given that the threat has shifted away from old fashioned viruses to newer web based exploits, MSE will protect you as well as anything. It seems to find malware, spyware and quite a few of the other bad things. It isn’t perfect (nothing is) but I’m giving it the thumbs up.Click here to get it FREE (this link takes you to the Microsoft web site)
One great thing about so called "new media" ( "new media" means Internet and "old media" means newspaper, magazines, TV and radio) is that everyone can have a voice if they want. You don't have to be a billionaire and buy a printing press or a TV station. Comments on web sites have replaced letters to the editor. For the next step you can have a blog and if you want to be on TV or radio then there is podcasting.But how do we go about podcasting and why would we? This article deals with the "why" and the "what". The next one will be the "how".If you have something interesting to say, chances are you can attract an audience. There are so many good new media content creators out there but there is always room for more. The Internet is a great leveller, if you do it properly you can be just as big as Rupert Murdoch. In fact since many old media companies are making such a hash of new media (Rupert Murdoch thinks people will pay to read the newspaper online!) that means the opportunities are bigger for the newcomers.Content is king. You need good content. I once asked new media zealot Amber MacArthur what I should do to make my blog more popular and she said simply "Start posting heaps of good content". Build good content and the audience will come.There's a saying that you should throw out your first 10 episodes. They reckon you don't "find your voice" until you've done a few. Certainly my first 10 episodes are more about "I need to get something out, what do I have?" than any real direction. You need consistency with podcasting. Your audience want to know what they will get. You can't just mix up a bunch of interesting stuff and bung it out. Stay on topic. Merlin Mann and John Gruber said it best - topic times passion equals success.Quality is important. The better the audio and video quality, the better your audience will appreciate you.Finding your voice is very important. If you can focus on something very specialised and be an expert on it, you will have a better chance than if you generalise. Know who your audience is. Picture your ideal listener and always aim the podcast at them. This will help you stay on track. It isn't good to produce material aimed at varying levels of expertise. You need to keep your aim in the same direction at all times.So if you are passionate about something, dedicated and want to share your ideas with the world, give podcasting a go.
I was listening to FLOSS Weekly (#95 13/11/09) and the discussion turned to how do geeks inform the wider community about computer related topics. These guys were very concerned about our rights online and some of the absolutely appalling laws proposed for many countries including the Internet filter for Australia.But the problem becomes that when geeks start to explain these issues (to a non-geek audience) we get passionate and are perceived as tin-foil hats screaming about black helicopters and our message is lost. This is what I call "Geek Passion".It seems that in allowing our passion to show, we risk degrading our message significantly. The art therefore is in simplifying the message (for a non-technical audience) and delivering it in a way that is taken seriously.
uprun42: I think I'll buy RipIT, it just succeeded on 2 DVDs MTR passed on.
uprun42: Stuck in comms room watching computer upgrade. Welcome to my life.
It’s probably time I critiqued this class of device. I’ve been avoiding them but finally succumbed and bought one so I can now speak from personal experience.The term “net book” refers to this new, small laptop. Usually about 9 or 10 inch screen and the whole thing is so tiny. Mine fits in my shoulder bag. They are also priced well under the thousand dollar mark so they have become very popular.Model choices in this category are the Asus eePC, Dell Mini 9, HP 1100 and the Acer One. They run in at $400-$800. Often bundled with 3G Internet access further reducing the price if you lock in for 2 years with a mobile data contract. In other words they will “give you” the computer if you agree to $60 per month for 2 years ($1440.00). If you do this, watch out which carrier you get as Vodafone and Optus don’t have the same coverage in Tassie as Tel$tra.For once I went totally against my own advice (and better judgment) and bought an Acer. Yep, the dreaded Acer. My buying decision was driven totally on price - $380 from Coles, yes that’s right, I bought the computer at a supermarket. I hear you can get similar deals on Catch of The Day. I hate Acer, I think their stuff is crap but at that price with 1 year warranty I figure I can’t go far wrong.As you might know, I work on Dell, HP (and just about every other brand you can name) at work. I’ve reloaded Windows on so many Dell and HP netbooks that I have lost count. And let me say netbooks are ok but horribly slow. This is what you need to understand about the netbook class of computer, they are build using a chip called “Atom” which is bloody slow. They have just a tad more power than a typical mobile phone.So we need to have a little think about what we want to do with this tiny, slow computer. If you are thinking you can replace your laptop (or desktop) forget it. Netbooks don’t have enough grunt to do everything. Even Excel will severely tax one. Word might be ok if you type slowly and don’t include graphs, pictures or anything else fancy.Netbooks are designed for mobility. So they are great for email and a bit of basic web surfing. Don’t expect to play DVD movies as they don’t have a DVD drive. You might just get a ripped (copied to hard drive) movie to play but I suspect the experience won’t be fun.So what the Photon am I doing with one? Well I need to connect to Cisco routers to program them. And a netbook makes a fine terminal. Being small and giving a couple of hours running on battery they are perfect for confined spaces in data centres and racks where I have to go.One of my team uses his netbook for testing and servicing large format printers. The netbook is a perfect fit and balances nicely on top of the printer while he does the tedious alignment process.Back in the non-IT world you might want one for typing or email, web surfing or other really basic writing tasks.Some netbooks come with a solid state disk (SSD) rather than traditional spinning hard drive. The theory is that SSD is faster so it can help make up for the slow netbook, it can’t from what I have seen. Also the SSD is so much more expensive so you will get less storage space. For example 16Gb or 64Gb SSD are common and cost more than 160Gb hard drive. Yes the battery life is better with SSD, but not much.So, opinion? Maybe. Mine is fine for what I do with it. And I suppose that’s the point. If really small and portable is what you need then netbooks are the go. But if you need any actual computing done, they are going to fall short.Factor in buying an external USB DVD drive ($120). Like I said the netbook has no DVD/CD drive. If you have to reload Windows or you want to install Office or anything else that comes on a CD, you will need one. There are some things you just can’t get as a download or on a USB thumb drive, you’re going to need a DVD drive one day.Talking of software, please, please, please don’t put a full anti-virus on a netbook. Load Norton or Trend or AVG or any of those and you will see your new toy stop dead. They just don’t have the grunt to do anti-virus and anything else. I opted for the free Microsoft Security Essentials and that works. If you have to load Office, consider just installing Word and maybe Outlook. Excel, Access and Powerpoint are going to be disappointing. Pack light. Less is more with a netbook.Speaking of software, I suggest Windows XP Home for a netbook rather than the heavier (and less loved) Vista. I haven’t tried Windows 7 on one but I suspect the Basic version might be ok if you really have to.Connectivity wise, netbooks typically support ethernet, wireless (WiFi), 3G (Next G), Bluetooth, USB and many have web cams and card readers so you can save your camera photos onto them. You can network these suckers to just about anything.Am I happy with mine? Yes. Does the job and I expect no more.
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There are plenty of Internet backup solutions; Carbonite, Jungle Disk and lots of local ISP's offering backup to the Internet for a low fee. On the face of it they are a good alternative, they get your data off site, encrypted and safe. But they suck.The problem with Australian Internet is that we pay for download. If you are with Telstra, you pay for upload too. So backing up to the Internet costs download allowance that we just don't have. One backup session could use up your whole monthly allowance.Some of the local offerings have "peering relationships" with your local ISP. So you MAY be able to get free traffic between you and your backup. Or you may not. You need to check. For example the BigPond "online storage" plans are in the free zone so no usage charges apply, but the cost of the storage is outrageous! It starts at $2.50 per month for 100Mb. You can't buy a USB stick that small anymore, that is a tiny amount of data.Then you need to look at what amount of data needs to get backed up and figure out how long that will take to transfer. If you have a large database or other business data, it might take too long to upload. If your backup would take 16 hours to transfer, you won't get that to happen between 6pm and 8am the next morning.Then there's the problem of entrusting your data to "the cloud". You need to make sure it is encrypted before it leaves your computer and that the backup provider can't get into your data. And that data is likely to be in another country and that may be an issue too.Look, I think the whole idea is basically a good one. I just don't think it's ready for general use yet. Maybe once the NBN is up and running. There are too many problems/questions. It might work well for home users, but for business, basically - avoid.
With the Tasmanian penalty for driving while using a mobile phone now $300 and 3 demerit points, now is the time to overcome your fear of looking like a complete tosser and get some sort of hands free option.Yes, a flashing blue light in your ear makes you look like a dork. But a $500 car kit just doesn’t work for me. Especially in a company car if the company is not paying for it.There are visor mounted bluetooth kits but they don’t work for me either. Enter the earpiece.I’ve tried many over the years with limited success. The old Nokia one I had 10 years ago was ok but the battery lasted only long enough to make 3 or 4 calls and it was pretty big with a long microphone stalk. Way too dorky.I got a BlueAnt Z9 last year but I was very disappointed with it. It takes a long time to turn on and you can’t power it on if the phone is ringing or you are already on a call. So if it wasn’t powered on before the call, it is useless. And it cost $99.Yesterday on a whim, I looked in Harvey Norman and saw the Jabra for $30. A bargain. So I bought one and it works perfectly. Bargain.
In the quest for broadband I discovered Dodo wireless broadband for sale from Dick Smith Electronics. Neither Dodo nor DSE deserve my business but here’s my review.This is a product you really have to work very hard to actually buy. We all know my opinion of Telstra and Dodo makes Telstra look good! I had to visit 3 DSE stores and just about beg to buy one despite it being advertised in their catalogue inserted in the local paper. I was told they don’t work here, we don’t sell them and sent from one store to the next with the promise that the other store really did have them in stock, which they didn’t.I called Dodo and the first guy said yes no problem and offered to post one to me if Harvey Norman didn’t have them (which they didn’t). The next guy said no and the web site said it wasn’t available in Tasmania despite their map showing it was. I got a screaming Indian woman who didn’t speak a lot of English and the whole experience was really bad.A lesser man would have given up.That said, the ad looks inviting. $129 for the USB wireless stick and their pre-paid recharges last up to one year. In contrast, the Telstra so called pre-paid lasts one month so Telstra’s is really just a pre-paid monthly contract at twice the price.You can buy this product on a monthly plan. Do not do this. The plans are half the price of Telstra but I would not recommend committing to Dodo for anything. 24 months? No way. Pre-paid is safer.Dodo asked for my mobile number (during the online registration process) so they can SMS me about the recharge level. I foolishly agreed. Now I get SMS spam. I strongly suspect they sold my number to some marketeers. Of course I have no proof but I never got SMS spam before.Dodo offers recharges from $10 and up to 15Gb of download for $139, bloody good value in wireless. It comes with a choice of 250Mb per month free bonus, 5Gb in the first month free bonus or 100 free hours. Buying Internet by the hour sucks, never do this. The “5Gb in the first month” lets you test it out without buying a recharge first. Pick that option.The device runs on the Optus 3G network. So you’re going to get patchy coverage compared to Telstra. The Optus maps show all of Hobart and surrounds as “covered”. I expect (but have no proof) that this device does not work north of Brighton. Next Launceston trip, I’ll test it out.I am not impressed with the fine print on the map that says it may contain “planned coverage”. This means that if they think they might one day cover an area, they mark it as “covered” now. So the map is not very accurate.The device is a USB stick that works with Windows and Mac. Out of the box it did NOT work with 3 different Macs. Given the immediate crash, I suspect it does NOT work on Snow Leopard. See article to follow on how to entice it to work with a Mac, even under Snow Leopard. It is possible, just very, very messy. So the big question...Does it work? Well sort of. I got 4 out of 5 bars reception in my office in the centre of Hobart. Despite my home being on the map, no signal at all. I actually bought this one for my Mum and it didn’t work on her kitchen table but did work in the craft room where her laptop is located. (She’s in Taroona)Speeds - not brilliant by any stretch of the imagination. I got about 400k in the office and 500k at Mum’s. Nowhere near the 1200-1500k I get from my Telstra stick which works just about everywhere.So the Dodo stick gets a very cautious maybe. Make sure you buy it locally and get the promise of a full refund if it doesn’t work for you, which IS a possibility. Understand that you will get next to zero customer service from Dodo and the trade off is that it is cheap. If you need assistance at all, go elsewhere. If you know what you are doing, give it a go.Summary - pay $129 to DSE and take the device home. Plug it in to a Windows computer and follow instructions to register it and install the software. Select the “5Gb in the first month free” option as your bonus. Test it thoroughly for a month. If it doesn’t work for you - take it back to Dick Smith for a refund within 7 days of purchase. If it does work, when your first month is up, pay Dodo $139 (over the phone using credit card, automated system) for 15Gb recharge that expires in 365 days if you don’t chew through it first.Benefits? It’s portable. It may work in places you cant get ADSL. Cheaper than ADSL if you use very limited Internet. For example, my Mum is on the cheapest ADSL plan with Netspace at $30 per month = $360 per year. Dodo stick $129 + $139 = $268 in the first year (and $139 in subsequent years) if she stays under 15Gb, which she probably will. And it’s around 500k whereas the cheapest ADSL is only 256k.
This is flamin’ awesome. Do you ever get distracted by all the extra crap on a web site? Ads, pop-ups, sidebars, etc etc? I notice junk more on pages like newspaper sites and blogs I want to actually read.Readability to the rescue. Free. Works with multiple browsers, Windows or Mac. Just visit their web site, select the style you want to read in and drag the Readability icon to your browser’s bookmark bar.Then when a page is “too busy” or full of crap, just hit the Readability icon and Bingo! See the before and after shots above.Thanks to Don McAllister from Screen Casts Online for that tip. Check out his excellent series of Mac tutorials.And for bonus points you Mac users can add “Click to Flash” which is a free plug-in for Safari that removes Flash content from web sites. Also allows easy YouTube video downloads. But that’s another story.
I think it’s time I confess that I am some what of an Apple fan-boy. A recent convert maybe but fan-boy none the less. That said, Apple does NOT have the best reputation in the mouse stakes. So the new “Magic Mouse” was greeted with scepticism and doubt. Many other fan-boys just ignored this new offering completely. It’s my turn to review it.Firstly, if you have a Windows PC or you mostly run Windows on your Mac, forget this mouse. The Windows support is basic to say the least. For Mac, you will need the latest updates. Yes, for once you actually have to install software to make this mouse work. Shock horror!What’s magic about it? Well it supports multi-touch on the mouse. You stroke it to scroll, you swipe two fingers across it to flick. Most of the gestures from the new track pads translate to this new mouse. There are no buttons as such, although you still click, right-click and double click the same, the whole top of the mouse clicks.It’s small. I used to use a Microsoft Laser Bluetooth mouse. And the Magic Mouse is less than half the size. That took me a week to get used to.It’s Bluetooth wireless. This is good as you don’t waste a USB port with a wireless dongle and there’s no trailing USB cable.Battery life seems very good to me. I’ve read posts online about poor battery life, but I am yet to wear out the original batteries that came with it. They are showing 63% remaining. After 4 weeks, that puts it way in front of the old Microsoft one that barely lasted 3 weeks, even on expensive alkaline batteries. I think the fact that the Magic Mouse can put itself to sleep and also be turned off (power switch on the bottom of the mouse) makes a difference. The only way to power down the Microsoft one was to pull the batteries out and I just gave up on that and left it on all the time.Tracking is ok in my opinion. Again some bloggers have whinged about this, it isn’t a problem I’ve seen. Same with drop-outs. Mine doesn’t drop out.The gestures are cool. You get so used to them you just forget until you use another mouse and wonder why it doesn’t work right.Price is not so bad. $99. Cheaper than the Microsoft one that cost me $149, although I’m sure you can get another Bluetooth mouse for the same or less.Compared to the older Mighty Mouse (now called the Apple Mouse because of a copyright problem on the old name) this is streets ahead. The Mighty Mouse was pathetic when you come to think of it. I bought one for my brother and we tossed it in favour of a $9 Dell USB mouse!!!I do confess my prime motivation for buying the Magic Mouse was to eliminate another piece of Microsoft from my Mac. I’m doing everything I can to stick to my Microsoft diet.Is the Magic Mouse perfect? No. Maybe it’s me adjusting, maybe it’s the mouse not quite ready for prime time. Am I sorry I bought it - no. Would I buy it again - yes. Do I think there’s a better mouse out there - yes I do.Conclusion - ok, good to use, but not highly recommended.
I know you shouldn't get too attached to pet chickens but Chocolate was a darn fine bird. A large Rode Island Red with bright eyes and shiny feathers.Her time came yesterday, natural causes I think, she was under the trees behind the wood shed.
Taking in so many podcasts, blogs and other sorts of new media that I do, I confess I come across a lot of weird and wonderful gadgets. Most are pointless and fade quickly. Woopra is worth checking out if you have a web site.Basically its like Google Analytics on steroids. Not only do you get web statistics about how many people visit your site, you get it in real time. Yep, there’s a program you download onto your PC that shows you as it happens, blow by blow. Watch people come and go on your web site.But that’s not all. You get a map of the world and points pop up showing where all the visitors are from.I know it sounds a bit Big Brother and all, but get over that. Every web site keeps statistics about visitors. If they didn’t the web sites would never improve and no one would know what people like and what they don’t like. It’s only when you store personal information (and use it for marketing) that it becomes evil in my mind. Woopra is not about that.
Super cool. If you have a web site, give it a try. The free version does heaps and gives a very good idea what you can do with it. For full on commercial use, there a paid version at low cost.www.woopra.comEasy to use and install.
uprun42: Has anyone actually got iTunes Home Sharing to work?
When I’m speaking at the REIT I am often asked how safe Internet banking really is.Here’s the short answer - not very safe at all. And now for the long answer. A number of serious articles published in the past few weeks about security online. Here are the summaries;Respected Windows security expert Brian Krebs writing for the Washington Post says you should not use Windows for your Internet banking.Steve Gibson points out several attacks that can compromise your security, even if you use SSL (secure web traffic).Proof of concept demonstrating how “man in the middle” attacks can be used to intercept web traffic.Black Hat conference hears from hacker explaining how SSL certificates can be faked and how your web browser won’t know the fake from the real thing!Numerous vulnerabilities in Microsoft Internet Explorer allow hackers to install trojans to monitor your Internet surfing, including online banking.Ok, so all of that adds up to - Internet banking is not safe. If you are using a Windows computer and especially if you are using Microsoft Internet Explorer - you are at grave risk. If someone wants your banking account, they CAN get it.What do you do about it? Try these suggestions.This isn’t something every kid can do, but it is easy enough for organised crime. And they are the ones to be scared of. They make a very nice living out of theft. Yes, they do exist, yes this is happening.This is very real.
Another from the series “Updated Windows Security”. If you haven’t read that first article, start by clicking here.This article got a bit wordy so you can skip down to the blue bit if you just want the answers.As I have said many times, you absolutely must have anti-virus for Windows. It is essential.There are around a hundred thousand different viruses out there and more very day. The bad guys are actively working to make new ones and infect computers. It is a really big business.Do not think that just buying some anti-virus software (AV) is the be-all and end-all solution to this problem. It is not. AV is one part of the equation, not the entire solution.Ask 6 IT guys what is the best AV and you will get 12 different answers. And it is a moving target. What was good last year is crap this year.AV is embarrassingly simple. Given a few hours programming experience just about anyone could write a good program. Fundamentally, all they do is check every file on your computer against a list of known viruses. If it’s on the list, it’s bad.The strength of good AV is in the list it is using. The better the list, the better the program. Now for all the geeks who didn’t read my disclaimer, yes I know there is more to it than that, but we’re trying to boil it down for our non-technical friends here. If you want more meat, go read Wikipedia or Security Now.Because AV is so simple, all the companies selling it are out to do better than their competitors by adding heaps of extra features. The result is that most commercial products are so bloated with garbage that your computer will slow to a crawl as soon as you install one of these AV systems. Avoid so called Internet Security bundles and get basic anti-virus.Very recently Microsoft threw their hat in the ring and released Microsoft Security Essentials, a free product that protects and cleans viruses. Many IT geeks are excited about this and it looks like Microsoft might have a winner here.A lot of people object to paying good money to protect their computers. It does seem like some sort of racket, a con, a money spinner at our expense. Typically the paid for commercial AV was always better then the free give aways. I know a lot of people like AVG anti-virus for example. My feeling is they like it because it is free. I’ve always found it ineffective. At least Microsoft has a good incentive to make a free and effective AV system - someone has to fix this virus problem or all the customers will jump ship and get Macs!So current recommendations? Well Kaspersky seems ok, and the Microsoft one sounds good. I’ve gone off Trend and I still don’t like Norton. Despite Symantec claiming the new Norton doesn’t slow your computer down, I still find it to be crap. NOD32 gets good reviews but I haven’t had time to test it personally.Absolutely AVOID and run away screaming from any anti-virus product offered as a pop-up message. Say you are on the Internet and you get a message that your machine has been infected and just click here to fix it - free or whatever. NO FREAKING WAY, you are about to be infected with a phoney product. Anti-virus 2010, anti-virus XP, PC anti-spyware, anti-malware and hundreds of other “free” products are FAKES.Pull the plug on your modem and reboot the machine. Run a real AV scanner and see if it was too late. If you were using Internet Explorer when you got that pop-up, it’s probably game over for you I am sorry.And this is my final point about AV. It’s there to tell you that you ARE (or have been) infected. You can’t scan or check a file on your computer until it is on your computer. So it could be too late by then.Most modern viruses work by exploiting flaws in Windows to stick their virus onto your machine. The anti-virus doesn’t stop this, it just detects the virus once you try to open it. Again, that could be too late. Smart viruses work in stealth mode making them invisible to Windows. This can make them invisible to anti-virus programs too. They can’t scan what they can’t see.What you can expect from good AV is that you won’t get infected by something too embarrassing. You won’t die from Bubonic Plague, Tetanus, Typhoid or Small Pox. They’ll keep you safe from the preventable things. But they offer no real world protection from a slew of newer nastiness. They may possibly help you clean up after you get something.Like I said, AV is not the single answer. It is a vital part of the whole solution.
In a few days Windows 7 will be released and Microsoft will go into over-hype. Considering how awful and crap Vista was (and isn’t it good to say “Vista” in the past tense?) Windows 7 will be better. I suggest you wait. Microsoft doesn’t have a good record with new software releases. It takes them a while to get the bugs out.During the meanwhilst Apple quietly snuck out Snow Leopard (OS X 1.6). When I say “quietly” it wasn’t so quiet in the Mac community. But there was no massive public launch and Apple didn’t ask people to host parties in their homes to celebrate.Snow Leopard is a bit of a different cat. Rather than major changes, new features and lots of new everything, Apple has kept virtually all the changes “under the hood” as they like to say.Snow Leopard is getting us ready for 64 bit computing. It looks like its predecessor (OS X 10.5 Leopard) and you wont notice too many things at first glance.It does seem slightly faster, certainly uses less disk space and doesn’t seem to break anything too badly. In short it passes the Apple test for an “UPgrade” - it makes things better not worse.There are minor squabbles over whether this should be called a new version or just a service pack. Leo Laporte and David Pogue aren’t talking anymore. (It seems to me)This is one of those upgrades you will want because Apple told you so. You need to get up to date when you can as they will be leveraging this new version to do great stuff. Soon software developers will take advantage of the new architecture and we will see some incredible stuff I am sure.So when you get a moment, go do the upgrade. It’s cheap (and didn’t that hurt Microsoft, they charge more for Windows 7 and the prime reason to get that is to fix their mistakes in Vista!) and easy.The upgrade takes about an hour to install, you only need hang around for the first few minutes though. Then let it crank and come back later.It is worth doing your house cleaning first. Update all your applications to the latest versions and check the wiki for compatibility for anything you simply can’t live without, just in case there are known problems. But anything reasonably current should work fine.I did need to manually update the Sierra Watcher for my Telstra Next G data card. That was the only thing that had an issue for me. Microsoft Office, Perian, Flip4Mac, Mac The Ripper, Handbrake and Toast were all fine.Oh, and there’s only two versions - Snow Leopard and Snow Leopard Server (which is for X Serve - not for Macs), unlike Windows. Although you do get the option of buying a Family Pack if you have more than one Mac and want a discount on multiple copies.You must have an Intel Mac. It won’t run on Power PC Macs.In short - yes please but no immediate hurry.
Another in the series - Updated Windows SecurityFrom Service Pack 2 onwards, Windows XP has had a firewall. If you have an older copy of XP you really should have done the free upgrade to SP3. I don’t think an older Windows XP would last long on the Internet, it would get infected pretty quickly.But what is the firewall and how do you check it is on?If you do a right click on “My Network Places” and go to properties, you will see all the network connections on your machine. The wireless and wired “local area connections”. Each one should have the padlock icon indicating it is protected.To turn the firewall on, right click your connection, properties, advanced and there is the firewall settings button. Easy.What does it do? Well, it stops uninvited external connections. In other words, Network stuff can’t connect to you but you can still connect to it.Why? Well if you have the firewall off, any virus on any machine on the same network can infect you. So all the other computers on your work, home or wireless networks could be trying to infect you. This is bad. If you use public wireless (like at a conference, cafe etc) this is really bad.There is no need to buy any firewall products. It is built in to Windows. Yes it isn’t the greatest firewall ever but it works nicely for most people. The only time you might consider an upgrade is if you use services that need to publish to the Internet such as web servers, ftp servers, or maybe gaming or voice servers. If you need this type of thing, you probably are not reading my blog, you’re probably an IT expert. The rest of us don’t need more than Windows provides.
I’m going on a diet. A low-Microsoft diet.I know you all probably think I’ve gone bonkers years ago (you’d be right) went all all Mac this and Mac that but I still use a lot of Microsoft products.Here’s my diet. So far I’ve lost one Microsoft program.It all started when the Exchange Server at work decided to stop pushing mail to my iPhone. I wasted 3 days on this stupid problem and still never solved it. My phone works fine on other servers, just not ours. Maybe the new anti-virus broke it. Who would know.Now as you know I use a Mac. And I have Microsoft Office 2008, the professional version which supports Exchange. It works. Microsoft have obviously kept Entourage (the Outlook for Mac) really dumb. It is nowhere near as good as Outlook. The other programs (Word, Excel, PowerPoint) are all virtually the same but Entourage is crap.So I made the leap of faith (again) and decided to switch to Mail, iCal and Address Book instead of Entourage. Yep, the Mac has 3 programs where Outlook has it all in one. I’ve been resisting the switch for that reason. Also Mail looks a bit simplistic. I wasn’t keen.Well, one week on I can report it’s going along nicely. Exporting all my stuff from Entourage was so flaming easy it wasn’t funny. You just drag and drop the folders from Entourage to your desktop and then import them into Mail. I swear I can do it quicker than I can explain it.Of course the 3 programs all sync to the iPhone nicely. Push works and my mail, calendar and address book all stay in tune with my Mac over the air (without plugging the phone in) as you would expect.What I didn’t expect is “data detectors”. Cool feature where anything vaguely useful in an email can be turned into an appointment just by clicking it. So if someone sends me an email with “can we meet next Wednesday at 2pm?” I just click on the “2pm” bit and bingo, into the calendar on the right date ready to go. It’s as if they sent an Outlook invite but it picks it up from the text.Mail is a lot like iTunes as is just about every Mac application. Simple on the outside, powerful on the inside. I’m learning more every day. Smart folders, quick searches. So far I like it better than Entourage and I have to say it is faster by far than Outlook ever was.Keep you posted.
uprun42: At Pene's 40th. If the music is too loud does that mean I'm too old?
If you got through the previous article on SP3 - congratulations. It was quite geeky. Sorry.Windows Update is fine for one computer, but if you have more than that, you’ll be paying for each one to download all its updates, doubling up.There is a simple tool called offline-update that lets you download all the service packs, patches and updates. And not just for Windows, for Office and other Microsoft products. Then you can burn a CD or DVD of them and use that to update all your computers. One download, many computers fixed. Saves heaps of time and download allowance.Its here.Download this tool, install it and run it. It takes ages to download all the updates from Microsoft. That’s right, this tool just automates the download process from Microsoft. So all the updates are legit and direct from Microsoft. If you tick all the programs you have (eg Office 2003, Windows XP Pro, etc) it will grab the lot. You’ll probably need a DVD to fit it all on.Once offline-update has done its work, you will have an ISO file ready to burn with Nero. You can use IOS Burn if you don’t own Nero. The end product is a DVD you can pop into any Windows machine to update it without any need for Internet access or download. All the updates will be on the DVD.
Part two of “Updated Windows Security”Software needs updating. After lots of people start using it over a long period of time, they find problems that the authors missed. Things don’t work properly in some situations. Worst of all are the bugs the cause the program to “crash”. What do we actually mean by “crash”?When a program is running, sometimes things go wrong. For example, It asks you for your height and you answer 75 meters, that doesn’t make sense. Programs trap that sort of thing. These are expected problems. Its the unexpected problems that are dangerous. For example, the program asks your height and you answer “gibberish, rubbish garbage, crap crap crap, yada yada go to hard disk, erase files, garbage gibberish” or something like that. The programmer had no idea you would ever do this and made no provision for it. We knew what to do when you put in 75 meters, that was clearly too big. But pages and pages of text - well what the photon?There being no trap for this type of problem the program just goes on doing what it does. It takes this “height” figure you entered and tries to use it. Well imagine trying to divide that “height” by 2.54 to get inches. This just isn't going to work out is it? That is the sort of thing that causes a crash. The train is off the rails and ploughing across the paddock. What happens next is the program tries to come back on track and what it thinks is the next instruction turns out to be our “go to hard disk, erase files” bit we typed in. Bingo a hacker is in.Hacking is based around causing a program to crash by doing something unexpected and in crashing, cause the program to accept instructions we inserted into it. Right now every serious hacker should read my mission statement and realise I am trying to explain an incredibly complex process to non-technical people. Hopefully they have stopped screaming at me.So the point of all the rant above is to say programs will need patching. That a fact of life.Microsoft’s process for patching is two fold. First the really urgent stuff is pushed out as ‘Windows Updates”. This happens on the second Tuesday of every month. (“Patch Tuesday”) Unless there is something super urgent in which case they push it sooner. Secondly, when there are lots of patches they make a Service Pack containing all the patches in one bundle. So it goes patch, patch...patch, Service Pack 1, patch, patch..patch, Service Pack 2... etcMicrosoft waited a long time after Service Pack 2. There were over a hundred individual patches you needed AFTER you installed SP2. Then along came SP3. Its a monster upgrade. Really big. Regrettably it breaks a few things. If your computer has an AMD chip (instead of an Intel chip) there is a good chance (a real risk) that SP3 will break it such that it won’t boot. It’ll get stuck in a loop, rebooting, Blue Screen of Death, reboot...over and over. Luckily this is easy to fix.Another thing SP3 changes is the Terminal Server client. The new one won’t work with really old terminal servers. Again easy to fix.In short there are quite a few issues with SP3. But you really have to have it. If you don’t you could easily get hacked by something that has been know about for ages and fixed a long time ago.
This is the first in my series of articles “Updated Windows Security”.Why do I suggest using an older version of Windows? Wouldn't you want the latest, newest best version?In the security game, new is not good. Proven counts for more. Until a program has been out there and hammered on, no one knows how secure it really is. XP is now 7 years old. That’s a lot of hammering. And yes it is full of bugs and holes. But we know about those.I’ve mentioned before how crap I think Vista is. It was the last straw in my journey to the Mac. Even Microsoft has to admit that Vista is a flop. Don’t sweat it, Microsoft releases dud versions from time to time. Heck Windows ME was garbage and there was a period where any version 4 in Microsoft was just something to avoid. Word 4, DOS 4 etc etc.Vista is actually banned in Texas. Yep, really.Vista launched several class action law suits. Here, here and here.Ok, Ok, what about Windows 7? Hang on a tick, it isn’t out yet. Release date is October 22nd. Do I have to tell you about using brand new Microsoft products on day one? The old adage wait for Service Pack 1 still holds. Until its out and tested we don’t know squat. Yes by all accounts it is better than Vista. But I think we know even a dog turd is better than Vista so that’s not saying much.XP is still the most compatible version of Windows. It runs more software, more hardware and more places.The existing skills and knowledge out there in the real world is more geared around XP. By and large, business skipped Vista. Refused to use it because of all the problems.For at least the next six months, XP Pro is the version to use.
I’ve been promising to update this article for ages. Here it is.Click here.
The Internet is a lot like the old Wild West. There’s cowboys, con men, thieves, snake oil salesmen and not enough sheriffs to go around. There’s also a lot of honest hard working folk trying to make a living in a strange new land.
In case you’re under a rock, NBN is the National Broadband Network, Mr Rudd’s $43b attempt to fix the poor state of broadband in Australia by rolling out fibre optic cable to every house, or thereabouts. Politics aside, it will be good if they build it.The first sod was turned yesterday with the first cable going in at Cambridge, Tasmania. This follows on from lighting up of the Basslink fibre last week and the opening of Netspace’s data centre in West Hobart.Netspace has announced 10 exchanges will have their own Netspace DSLAM (ADSL 2 box) and the starting gun has well and truly fired on the broadband race.You can now buy a broadband solution (ADSL2) that has only minimal Telstra involvement (the actual copper wire) with everything else being owned by your ISP. In stark contrast, up until now, everything was rented from Telstra and that allowed them undue control over pricing, plans and just about everything else. That is why it cost more to get data from Hobart to Melbourne than it did to get it from Melbourne to California!With all the competition (in the broadband arena) now is a very poor time to sign long term contracts with Telstra. There ARE better deals out there and more entering the market every day.
I know there are a few bargains to be had on the Internet. With 300 BILLION pages, there'd wanna be some bargains out there. Regrettably there’s a lot of crap too.Let me tell you about a two scams I’ve seen.“refurbished” laptops.The theory goes that you are buying product that has been returned to the manufacturer and then repaired, tested and sold as “used” or “refurbished”, obviously at a discount.The reality is a lot of this stuff is crap. Doesn’t work and never will. What the seller won’t tell you is that the warranty may be VERY limited. I’ve seen plenty of HP refurbs and HP is happy to provide warranty - in the country of origin - China. Ship it back to China and HP will happily repair it for you. AVOID.“counterfeit” laptops.Of more concern, when is an HP laptop not an HP laptop? When its serial number doesn’t exist and HP have no record of ever having made it. Looks like an HP, smells like an HP, but HP never made it - you might have a counterfeit!Yes, I’ve seen plenty of these. huge AVOID.So buyer beware, getting a bargain might well end in tears.Considering the ever falling prices, I don’t see the need to fall victim to these scams. Just buy the real thing from a reputable dealer. If you finance it properly you can get Mr Rudd to pay for most of your new laptop anyway!
uprun42: Back safe.
If I hadn’t been given this piece of crap I would sue. The drivers for Windows are pure junk and the drivers for Mac don’t exist. Worthless piece of pure doggie doo. Oh, the print quality was poor too. Avoid.
Sometimes you should NOT use email to get files where they need to go. Some stuff is just too big to email. To use the snail mail analogy, you wouldn’t go to the lady at the local post office with a pallet load of bricks to post. Just the same, a 10Mb file is way too big for email. Most ISP’s will choke on it. It is unlikely to get through. What’s a poor boy to do?Enter drop IO. A free web site that lets you post files on the Internet for people to collect. No email required.Go to www.drop.io and set up a free account. Takes seconds. Then you can “drop” your files and your friends can pick them up. Big files moved easily.Use the right tool for the job. Email isn’t the right tool for large files. Enjoy.
uprun42: Star trek was very good.
Best selling author Cory Doctorow recently gave an insightful talk on DRM from the author/publisher’s perspective. His basic point is that if publishers behave like arse holes (like the music industry does) then your customers will have a moral case to rip you off. Behave like a bully and get treated like one.This supports my point of Dead Business Trading. No one gets rich by denying customers access to product.Cory shows how a simple search gave him access to books published only a week before. And how the BBC have this stupid iPlayer to stop you copying TV shows they give away for free!The Internet is unstoppable. You can not resist. Your choice is get on board or get left behind. This applies to all businesses not just publishing.
Sometimes you just find something that encapsulates your life. And no, I’m not saying my customers are dumb. But you can see from this clip why I don’t do phone support.
uprun42: I really hate the common cold.
Dead Business TradingI came up with that term to describe the way some companies do business. They are just dumb and look hell bent on going out of business as quickly as possible. It seems to me that there is a basic disconnect going on when a company seeks NOT to sell its product and NOT to give its customers what they want (and are prepared to pay for).My first candidate is local TV stations. I wonder if they have any concept of their audience at all. With all the ratings, market research and statistics they pay for I have to think they are being misled or just plain ripped off. They certainly have it wrong.As I see it, their mission is to attract an audience and sell advertising. The better the audience the more advertising the more money. I’m sure it’s a lot more complicated than that but the basic premise seems simple to me.The first thing to attracting an audience is to hold on to the ones you have and offer a good product. Although the audience is not directly paying (the TV station) it is still a selling process. Sell your content (TV shows) to the audience. Then sell the audience to the advertisers. I think they get both bits badly wrong.Coming up with good product doesn’t seem to be a problem for them. There are plenty of good shows popping up all the time. Lost, Grey’s Anatomy, Boston Legal, The Bill… I could go on forever. There isn’t a lot of what I would call bad TV out there. Sure lots of it doesn’t interest ME, but by and large there is plenty of good TV. Hate it or loath it even “Neighbours” or “The Bold and the whatever it is” still count as good. I’m never going to watch them, but some people will just as my favourites won’t appeal to everyone.The problem is in the delivery. To keep an audience you need to deliver. If my local Hudson’s Coffee couldn’t serve me 2 out of 5 days a week (“Sorry John, no coffee for you today!”), I would go elsewhere. They have a good product but I need them to keep dishing it up. Your local TV station doesn’t understand this simple process.TV stations don’t put the shows on regularly. One week your favourite show will be on at 7:30 on Sunday, the next week it might be at 10:30 on Wednesday. Trying to find it again is almost impossible. I shouldn’t have to study a TV guide with a microscope to find my show. It should find me. Strangely enough pay TV manages to get it right. They even have shifted and repeated options to make sure I get what I want.Now on the subject of TV guides –they need to be accurate. The number of times a local TV station varies from the published guide (end even from the electronic guide!) PER DAY cannot easily be counted. At the slightest hint of an audience following a show, they move it around like crazy. Not to mention cancelling it, stopping without notice and showing episodes out of order or not at all.And then there is the habit of bunging on episodes from the last season during the current season. One day you’re watching series three, then without warning the next week you’re back to series two. Huh?And while I’m laying in the boot, they show stuff here years after it was released elsewhere. A decade ago they could get away with that. Now thanks to the Internet, we know what is being shown around the world and we can download it and bypass the TV station all together. If they want me to watch, they better have the latest and greatest. I can easily get it, why can’t they?Then there are the ads. No one likes ads. Or do we? We download and watch crazy viral ads from YouTube. We’ve all seen the amazing stuff. Why not show things like that? But no, we get idiots shouting at the screen and “Go Harvey Go!” The quality and interest factor of ads is so close to zero.On the subject of ads, the TV stations still use the failing technique of the shot-gun. They blast away randomly hoping they just might hit a target if they are lucky. There is no targeting of ads to potential customers. We all get the Metamucil ads even though only some of us are constipated. Blast your message out there and repeat it often. Yukko.Why not find the people most in need/want of your product and target your ad to suit them? Put it in their favourite show and use their language or some other system to speak directly to them?Ads can be so bad. My examples are Brierley Hose and Handling and United Butchers. Two companies I would NEVER deal with because their ads are atrocious, insulting and beyond crap. I needed a hose for my fire pump. I went everywhere (else) and came up blank. I kept getting told to go to Brierley but I refused. Finally I went there and guess what? Fantastic place. They had the butterfly valve from Myth Busters chicken cannon. Aladdin’s cave. Loved the place. Staff knew what they were talking about, happy to help, fantastic experience. You would never know from the stupid jingle (which I know they paid a lot for), which kept me away. The butcher in Kingston doesn’t get my business because of the United Butchers ad. I did go in there once. I am missing out. His meat is good. But I wont go in his shop.In short, local TV stations make it very hard for their audience to get what they want. They treat us badly. Why would we buy their product?This is a classic example of a business trying to fight against the Internet. Matt Haughey said it recently in an article (http://a.wholelottanothing.org/2009/04/movies-music-newspapers-and-now-the-bike-business.html)“I read the open letter and see someone asking customers to join him in putting his head in the sand in the hopes that if we ignore it, the Internet will magically go away.”The Internet is not going away. It’s going faster and into more places. You can’t ignore it. You can’t fight it. It is The Borg. Resistance is futile.The only way forward is to embrace and use the Internet. Otherwise you are a dead business trading.