TechByter Worldwide for 2011
More recent programs are at the top and older programs are further down. That is to say that we use an inverse chronological ordering. Click the program date to visit the summary for that program. The audio for each program will be near the bottom of the page.
25 Dec 2011 (Holiday greetings and one important story)
Personal Computing Pioneer Jacob Goldman Has Died: Although this was supposed to be an off week for TechByter Worldwide, I must make note of the death of the man who was responsible for establishing and guiding the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center. Jacob Goldman was 90. (More is on the website.)
Happy Winter Solstice 2011: See the image: Earth as it appears from the International Space Station. Wishing you a scientific, logical, peaceful, and honorable 2012.
18 Dec 2011 (This year's final program)
Carrier IQ: Hero, Villain, or Just in the Wrong Place? Owners of Android smart phones were astonished to learn that an application they knew nothing about is running on their phones. This application by Carrier IQ is hidden from users of the phones. It collects and sends lots of information to the phone's service provider (Sprint, T-Mobile, AT&T, and others) without ever letting the user of the phone know. So Carrier IQ is clearly a villain, right? Well, it's not that simple.
Just In Time for the Christmas Spending Orgy: Apple's new store at New York City's Grand Central Terminal is open. There was already a store on Fifth Avenue at 59th Street and another on the Upper West Side but now commuters can easily stop at the Apple store with the classiest chandeliers. It's times like these that I wish I was in NYC but we'll have to make do with some borrowed images. This almost makes me wish I was an Apple fan-boy.
No Whine Before Its Time: Some people like to whine but I'm not particularly interested in listening to them. Some say that Microsoft Word is badly designed. The same is true for Powerpoint and Photoshop and InDesign and .... Well, the list goes on and on and on. You have a choice: Whine or solve the problem.
In an Election, This Would be a Landslide: SodaHead, the self-described "web’s largest opinion-based community", says most respondents to one of its surveys says the National Transportation Safety Board had the right answer when it recommended banning cell phone use by drivers. I see 2 problems: The survey is flawed and legislating intelligence is impossible.
Short Circuits: XXX is Here: After more than 10 years, the XXX top-level domain (TLD) is available. Advocates of XXX say it will be easier for parents and employers to block the entire TLD. Those who are opposed say that creating the TLD legitimizes pornography.
Amazon Continues its Kindle Fire Sale: Maybe that should be the Kindle Fire fire sale. After all, Amazon is selling the things for less than it costs to make them. And they're doing so at the rate of about 1 million per week. The number was large enough that Amazon has broken its own rules about never revealing sales figures.
Help! I Need the Blues Brothers! In 1965 the Beatles made a movie called HELP. In 1980 John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd made a movie called Blues Brothers. I'm not sure that there's any relationship between the two movies but hang in there for a bit and I'll see what I can do. It might be easier to create a technology angle, so I'll try that first: Both were available from Netflix.
Habitat for Humanity: I attended a Habitat for Humanity dedication the morning of December 10th and took a camera along. There's no technology angle to this story except that the house was built to be both green and economical.
HDR: Easier Than You Think: HDR is the abbreviation for "high dynamic range" and, although the technology is less than a decade old, it has achieved the status of being magic that is only within the realm of master photographers. Well, not exactly. Adobe Photoshop has offered HDR merge options for several versions and usable HDR merge options since about CS4. But if you really want to explore the advantages of HDR you're going to need a Photoshop plug-in such as Nik's HDR Efex Pro.
Windows 8's Surprising Hardware Requirements: What's it going to take to run Windows 8? Some people were surprised when they found that Windows 7 ran better than Vista on the same hardware. That's one of the things that caused people like me to refer to Windows 7 as "Vista done right" and from the looks of things now, Windows 8 will be even more efficient. (Certain conditions and warnings apply.)
Wiring Jeff Bezos: The December issue of Wired contains a report on the state of Amazon.com and an interview with CEO Jeff Bezos, who Wired refers to as the guy who "owns the Web in more ways than you think." The Wired article is well worth the few minutes it will take you to read it and some of what you find will probably surprise you.
Short Circuits: Speaking of Tablets ... and I was just speaking of tablets—Amazon's Fire and the Apple Ipad. And of course there are all those Android devices on the market. But next year there will be a new player: Microsoft with Windows 8 is aiming directly at the tablet market.
A Smattering of New Crooked Ploys: The Better Business Bureau says one of my customers complained. I've been invited to a conference, all travel expenses paid. Amazon is sending me a medical device I didn't order. And a bank official writing in Comic Sans wants to share $19,305,050.12 with me. (OK, that last one isn't a new ploy.) What they all have in common, of course, is that they're phony.
Time for Batteries, Which Are Never Included: Many of the toys and electronic devices that are sold this time of year feature text on the box (in 3-point type) that says Batteries Not Included. So then you see an offer for a huge number of "heavy duty" batteries at an incredibly low price. Do you buy? If you know anything about batteries, you probably don't.
Video for Everyone: You may give or receive a camera that records video during the upcoming holiday season. In addition to video cameras, many digital cameras, even the SLRs, include the ability to record video. What comes out of that camera may bore your friends or amuse them. It's up to you. Raw video, the stuff that comes out of the camera, is usually boring even if you're an Academy Award Winning director. Editing is everything and you have lots of choices: Adobe Premiere ($800), Adobe Premiere Elements ($125), and Magix Movie Edit Pro ($70 to $130) are some of the choices. This week we'll look at Magix Movie Edit Pro.
FTC: Facebook is Unfair & Deceptive: Facebook has accepted accusations by the Federal Trade Commission and will now respect the privacy wishes of its users. In addition to that, Facebook has agreed to allow the FTC to conduct regular privacy audits for the next 20 years.
Short Circuits: Why Isn't Everything This Easy? I use a reading lamp on a shelf above the bed. It's probably about 50 years old and the push-button switch in the base finally wore out. On = 3 pushes. Off = 1 push. So I decided to replace it. The exercise was so easy that it was remarkable. It reminded me of those days when appliances (even toasters) were more economical to repair than to replace.
220.127.116.11: TechByter Worldwide now has its own IP address, 18.104.22.168. If you have a website and it's not being served from a computer you control physically, it probably has a shared IP address. Most hosting services have one IP address for all of their clients or all clients that share a particular server. Normally this is OK but there are reasons to consider having your own address.
Google Maps Comes In From the Cold: Google, how do I get from the kitchen to my bedroom? Things haven't gone that far but Google Maps has started offering layouts of airports and malls. Originally Google offered just maps, then directions on how to get from A to B. Next came views at street level and agreements with many transit systems to provide times and routes for using mass transit. Now this.
(Slightly) New Look for 2012: The redesigned 2012 TechByter Worldwide will appear on 1 January 2012. Usually there are no programs the weeks of Christmas and New Year but this year it's a bit different. I'll still be off Christmas week but back in the saddle on New Year's Day. This year's biggest changes are in the background as HTML5 powers the pages. This is a preview to the preview.
27 Nov 2011 - No program this week. Happy Thanksgiving!
Get Ready for Your New Camera Now: Digital cameras have changed the way we think about taking pictures. It used to be that every click of the shutter represented a fixed cost: 50 cents or 75 cents or 1 dollar, depending on the film and lab you used. The more pictures you took, the higher the cost. Today you may replace your camera more frequently but because there's no per-click cost, each picture actually costs less as you take more pictures. Taking more pictures makes you a better photographer, so we're developing a nation of better photographers. There are other ways to become more adept and a series on Lynda.com is one of them.
It Seems Like Yesterday ... that I was writing about the 20th anniversary of the IBM PC and that it was only a few years before that when I bought my first IBM-compatible PC (from Zenith). In fact, it has been 30 years since the IBM PC hit the market and changed everything. People who are today in their 30s have never known a time without a computer in the house. My two daughters are in this category even though my younger daughter isn't yet 30. I was an early adopter of PC technology. The changes brought by the PC are extraordinary.
Short Circuits: Changes Coming for G-Mail: Google says 2012 will bring changes to the way G-Mail works and that Google+ will be more important not just for individuals but also for businesses. That's the word from the annual Google Atmosphere conference. More than 300 chief information officers from companies that use various Google products at their companies attended the conference.
Disk Prices to Stay Put: Seagate: If you're used to disk prices dropping every few days, watch out. You may have to wait a while for the next drop. Quite a while. Maybe until 2013. That's the word from Seagate, the second largest disk manufacturer in the world.
T-Mobile Opts for Google Music Vapor Ware: Cell phone provider T-Mobile is the first carrier to adopt Google Music. Others are expected to join later. T-Mobile offered the first Android phone so the companies have a history of partnership. But when will the service begin?
AIM Gets a Facelift: Does anyone still use AOL's instant-messaging software? Lots of people use AIM but everyone I know uses somebody else's software to communicate with and through AIM -- Trillian and Pidgin are probably the top choices but many others exist. This makes a difference to AOL because if you're not using AOL's IM client, AOL can't serve you advertisements.
Finding Your Computer If It's Been Stolen: At the risk of jinxing myself, I have never had a computer stolen even though I have left computers in hotel rooms in locations such as New York City, San Diego, Chicago, San Jose, Orlando, Atlanta, and Dallas. Generally I'm fairly careful about where and how I leave computers but my luck so far has been just that: Luck. Computers are attractive targets and they're easy to steal but you can protect yourself.
Protecting Your Connection: (No, not THAT kind of "connection"!) The RSA SecurID system is what's called a two-factor authentication system. If you work for some government agencies or for companies that handle sensitive data, you may already know what a two-factor authentication system is because you might be using one. If not, you might wonder how it works and why it could be important.
Windows 8: Still in Pre Beta: Microsoft's upcoming hybrid operating system (the one that spans devices from phones to servers) still hasn't reached beta status but lots of people, including me, are trying to read into what is essentially alpha software what the final product will look like. This isn't entirely an exercise in futility and Microsoft is certainly paying attention to what is said in various forums by people who have downloaded and are using the operating system now.
Short Circuits: Adobe's Interesting Week: Interesting weeks are not always good weeks and so it was with Adobe this week. The company announced plans to lay off hundreds of employees and also said that it will stop developing Flash for mobile devices. That will have significant repercussions for non-mobile devices, too.
Senate Goes for Net Neutrality: I was beginning to think that Net Neutrality might be a lost cause and maybe it is but for now it lives. President Obama will not be forced to veto a resolution that would have prohibited the FCC from implementing Net Neutrality rules because the Senate voted down that resolution this week.
I Want to Drink Your Blood. Er, Share Your Screen: Do you ever wish that you could show someone what's on your computer screen or reach out and take control of someone else's computer? You send someone instructions about how to do something—instructions that (to you) are crystal clear—but the person you're trying to help doesn't read what you wrote, assumes that you meant something other than what you wrote, or simply can't figure out that "any key" means any key, not a key labeled "Any". It would be faster if you could just sit in front of the other person's computer and do what needs to be done. You can, and without leaving your home!
Sorting Out Solutions for Music on Your PC: I've never really been a fan of Itunes. (Oh, have I mentioned that previously?) The problem was that you didn't have a lot of choices if you had Apple-format (AAC) music and an Ipod. Past tense. I looked at several applications that promised to be able to manage my Itunes music and found one that actually does. I can tell you the story in just 3 words but you can bet that I'll use more.
KeePass2 Secures Passwords Locally: I've mentioned previously that I like LastPass, an online service that stores your encrypted passwords on an Internet-based server (which is to say "in the cloud") so that you can access them from any computer that has an Internet connection. Some network administrators (and some users) are reluctant to store passwords on what is essentially a public server, even when they are encrypted and protected by a strong password. But then what? How many passwords do you have to remember and how often to they change? You can manage passwords and retain your sanity; I'll explain how.
Short Circuits: G-mail Gets a New Look: "You will automatically get upgraded to the new look soon," Google mail told me on Thursday and then offered me the option to take the new look now instead of waiting until later. (Yes, "get" should have been "be" but let's ignore the grammatical imperfections for now.) What's all this about a new look?
G-mail for Ios: Oops! Google released a G-mail app this week but 2 hours later it disappeared. Users were, not to put too fine a point on it, upset. The G-mail app, which "works" with the Iphone, Ipad, and Ipod touch was supposed to be fast and efficient. Google said it would take full advantage of the touchscreen and notification capabilities of the device it was running on. Not quite.
Internet Explorer Improves but Loses Market Share: These are fighting words to die-hard fans of Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox: There's not much difference these days between Chrome, Firefox, and Internet Explorer. That said, IE continues to lose market share to Chrome and Firefox. Opera continues to wait for the fat lady to sing.
Radio Ruminations: In 1968 I was working in Fort Wayne as the assistant news director. The station issued me a recorder that I could carry in one hand. Until then, recording on location required a recorder that plugged in to an outlet and used 5" reels of tape. This reocorder was less than 5" wide, about 9" long, and less than 2" deep. It weighed a couple of pounds and ran for an hour or so on the batteries. Today's gear for radio reporters is nothing less than pheomenal. The recorder is actually included inside the microphone. Is there a market for radio news?
Adobe Photoshop Elements Is No Longer Elementary: My Dear Watson, Adobe's Photoshop Elements is what you need for your photos. At least, I think it is. I'm actually a bit confused because Adobe Photoshop is the application that's designed for professionals to use for pixel editing and Adobe Lightroom is both a great workflow organizer for professionals and a complete photo management solution for amateurs. But then again the low-cost Photoshop Elements makes everything easy and actually includes features that aren't in Photoshop. Oh, Watson, perhaps this isn't so elementary.
Another Look at E-books: Most e-book readers (even the Kindle) now allow users to read library books but there are significant differences between readers. I recently encountered a well written, concise but complete review of the current options and asked the author for permission to make it a part of TechByter Worldwide. The author is Richard Adin of Freelance Editorial Services and An American Editor blog. If you're thinking of buying an e-book reader, his comments will be useful.
Short Circuits: Planning a Trip to New York City? If you're an Apple fan, you'll want to be sure that you make time for the new Apple store that will soon be opening in Grand Central Terminal. Apple already has a showcase store on Fifth Avenue at 59th Street. That store is all below ground with a large glass cube above ground.
A Weak Third Quarter for Amazon: Earlier this year Amazon said that its 3rd quarter results would be weak and it was right. Operating income was down by more than 70% from last year. Wall Street punished the firm by pushing down its stock valuation by something like $16 billion.
Another Guy Named Sue: A Kansas man has filed suit against Facebook asking for an injunction to stop the company from collecting information from users when they are not logged in to the service. The suit also wants the company to disclose what information it has already collected. Oh ... and $100 per day per person for violations, punitive damages, court costs, and attorney fees. The man filing the suit is John Graham, lawyer from Leawood, Kansas.
TechByter E-mail Changes: Last week's TBWW e-mail came from Mail Chimp. That was unplanned but I had been evaluating the Mail Chimp service since September. This week's update also comes from Mail Chimp, but that's an intentional change. If you need to communicate regularly with customers, prospects, or subscribers, you might want to consider Mail Chimp.
Danger! Don't Click that Link! When I deconstruct spam links on TechByter Worldwide they're usually just standard phishing spams or links to "Canadian" "pharmacies" that want to sell me "generic Viagra" but this week I encountered an unusual link—one that's truly dangerous—and I'd like to show you how it works.
ZOC It To Me! "You should take a look at ZOC," a friend said. "It emulates just about every terminal you've ever heard of and it works on both my Windows and Mac machines." So I looked and I found that ZOC is a telnet/SSH/SSH2 client and terminal emulator that has tabbed sessions, configurable scrollback, scripting, and more. A lot more. I can see why anyone who needs access to a Unix shell account or just about any other type of system would like it.
Short Circuits: Indiana School District Replaces Books with Computers: Students in Munster, Indiana, will be seeing fewer books as the result of a change that puts computers in the hands (and book bags) of students starting in 5th grade. The change isn't being welcomed by everyone but it is the future.
Thai Trouble Damages Disk Market: In an increasingly connected world, a big flood in Thailand can create problems for computer manufacturers in the United States. About one third of the disk drives used in personal computers are manufactured in Thailand.
Yahoo Continues to Fade: These days it's a positive note for Yahoo when the company can report quarterly profits that aren't as bad as they were expected to be. The company seemed to be excited about the "not quite as bad as expected" news just as passengers on the Titanic were, no doubt, delighted to have a surplus of ice for their drinks.
Protecting Files with TrueCrypt: Occasionally I recommend TrueCrypt, an open-source file and disk encryption application. The trouble with TrueCrypt, though, is that it comes with detailed instructions. And I do mean detailed. Fortunately, there's a Beginner's Tutorial but even that can be a bit daunting. So I set out to create my own instructions that cover just the essential steps. If you're a professional spy or a terroist, you won't find anything useful here.
More Options (and More Reasons) for Backup: The cost of online backup services and large-capacity USB drives have changed the backup landscape considerably in the past year. In this week's program I'll expand (or maybe expound) a bit on a previous report about how I back up my primary computer. Some or all of the techniques may be applicable for your computer.
Windows 8 Should Be Free? For more than a decade, Apple's operating system upgrades have been positioned as step upgrades (10.0, 10.1, 10.2, and so on) and they've carried low price tags—some free and some costing just $40 or so. By contrast, Windows upgrades typically cost $100 or more. In reality, the prices are about the same because Apple releases updates much more frequently but Apple's upgrades are perceived as being less expensive. Now some commentators are calling for Microsoft to make the forthcoming Windows 8 free.
Short Circuits: How to Keep a Kindle Library Book for a Few Extra Days: When the book you check out of the library is due, you have a couple of choices: Renew the book (if it's not on somebody's wait list) or just keep it an extra day or two and pay a small fine when you return it. With a Kindle library loan, you don't have a choice. When you're time is up, the book is removed from your Kindle. Or is it?
The Joke's on Qwikster, or Is It? A couple of weeks ago, Netflix announced that it planned to retain the Netflix name for streaming video and use Qwikster for DVD fulfilment. The howls of derision were immediate and intense. So intense that Netflix has decided to just be Netflix for streaming and DVD. Just like always. Except for that 30% (or greater) price increase that preceded the announcement of the new name. Were Netflix users set up?
Fraudsters Now Create Legitimacy Through Websites: Weekend morning are times for tinkering and on the first of October I found a good candidate for tinkering in my e-mail in box. It was a message from "Barr. Mohn Ghazali Bin Mohd.(Esq)" (The punctuation and spacing are his.) Except for one thing it was a typical, unremarkable "I want to share $9.7 million with you" message. The differentiating factor wasn't the address the message came from (I'm sure that most "barristers" in Malaysia use MSN accounts). It wasn't the salutation ("Hello Dear"). It wasn't the Random capitalization or the poor use of English. It was the presence of a website address.
Farewell to Steve Jobs: Not all news is surprising and certainly this isn't. Steve Jobs died Wednesday at the age of 56. Apple's website said the company "has lost a visionary and creative genius." In the early 1990s, many technology reporters (including me) felt that Apple was destined for the dust bin. Apple had been so badly mismanaged that it had just 5% of the computer market. Then Jobs returned to Apple and everything changed.
Lightroom 3.5 Upgrade Kicks Pixels: When Adobe released Lightroom 3, it was a revolutionary improvement for an application that is equally useful to both amateurs and professionals. For professionals, it's a great workflow organizer. For amateurs, it may be all you need. Now the 3.5 upgrade adds support for more cameras and adds lens profiles.
Why Do Computer Manufacturers Do This? Big manufacturers (HP, Toshiba, Lenovo, Dell, Sony, and such) usually ship computers that contain a lot of "crapware" (applications the buyer doesn't want or need). Even worse, the computers usually come with a "recovery partition" on the hard drive instead of a CD or DVD that the buyer could use to create a clean installation of the operating system. To say that I deplore this practice would be an understatement.
Short Circuits: Amazon Monetizes Library Loans: Last week I mentioned that I had downloaded a library book from Digital Downloads, a project that includes more than a dozen libraries in central Ohio and elsewhere in the state. This week I understood how Amazon plans to monetize that capability.
Will HP Continue to Sell Personal Computers? New Hewlett-Packard CEO Meg Whitman says she'll decide what to do with HP's personal computer division by the end of the month. The former Ebay CEO and former candidate for governor became head of HP when the former CEO, Léo Apotheker, was fired. The company's stock has been in free-fall and one might presume that Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard are spinning at about 78RPM in their graves.
Now We Have 3D Electronic Picture Frames: You've probably seen electronic picture frames on a co-worker's desk. Maybe you have one on your desk. Some say that these electronic frames are wasteful and compare them to bottled water, which is inarguably (except possibly in the Pepsi and CocaCola boardrooms) wasteful. Well, I don't think so. I don't have figures to back this up but I know that I can place an electronic frame on my desk and view hundreds of images using a device that consumes electricity. But I suspect that printing hundreds of images would have a more substantial environmental impact.
Taming the Thumb Drive: Thumb drives are indispensable because you can load gigabytes of data to them and transfer files from the office to home. Thumb drives are dangerous because you can load gigabytes of data to them and transfer files from the office to home (but they might be lost or stolen). Thumb drives are also common vectors for viruses and malware so it's important to protect yourself, protect your company, protect your home computer, and protect your thumb drive. I have some ideas that will help.
Fire One! Amazon is about to release the Kindle Fire, which promises to provide competition for Apple's Ipad. You can buy one now but you won't receive it until mid November. The $200 price tag (Amazon-speak "$199") is more that previous Kindles but this one offers color, movies, apps, games, and music in addition to reading. It's not as big as an Ipad but at 1/4th the price (or less) it's a compelling package.
Short Circuits: Fixing Firefox: I make no secret of the fact that Firefox is my favorite browser, in part because of the wide variety of plug-ins that are available. But I also make no secret of the fact that Firefox has horrendous memory leak problems and has since the beginning. But memory leaks don't explain why, sometimes, when I follow a link the page just freezes. I can close the tab, open a new tab, go to the same URL, and not encounter a problem. But this is unacceptable. After looking around for solutions, I found some settings that might help.
The Value of Instant Messaging: Some people think instant messaging is silly so let me tell you why I like it. At the office, we sometimes send IMs to people sitting on the other side of a cubicle wall. Why? We have our reasons. If you’re one of those people who thinks IM is silly, maybe now’s the time to take another look.
Amazon Finally Makes Library Books Available: Amazon has finally addressed my primary complaint about the Kindle. As a book seller, Amazon isn't particularly interested in providing library books but now, at last, they've relented and Kindle owners can download library books when libraries provide that capability. Fortunately 14 library systems (most nearby but a few in more distant areas of the state) have a cooperative plan that allows this.
Sync or Sink: There's more to backup than just backup. How many files are on your computer that, if they suddenly disappeared, you would be at least mildly distressed? Financial records. Photographs. Letters you've written. E-mail files. Music. Videos. You could get some of the files back but most of them, if lost, are simply lost. Gone. Unrecoverable. For that reason I use external backup drives that I store at the office and Carbonite (whose servers are hundreds of miles away). That eliminates most of the potential disasters but what if the computer stops working and I need my files right now? This is not a hypothetical situation. It has happened to me.
Frightening. Exciting. This Is Publishing's Future. Although I'm not optimistic about the future of terrestrial radio or commercial television, I can see a bright future for publishing but that future won't involve a lot of paper, printing presses, and the delivery of physical publications. This change is happening before our eyes and Adobe continues to be one of the key players.
Improvements at Lynda.com: I've been watching James Williamson's HTML 5 First Look program at Lynda.com and one of the things I noticed is that the presentation methods have improved again. As Web capabilities improve, Lynda.com continues to make use of new capabilities.
Windows 8 Additions and Corrections: Last week's report included some errors based on misunderstandings. You won't see weekly Windows 8 reports between now and launch time but I will occasionally let you know how things are going as development continues and I felt that I owed you a few amplifications, modifications, and corrections this week. The next scheduled Windows 8 preview update will be on the 13 November program.
Short Circuits: Dear Customer, We Made a Mistake—Netflix: "I messed up," the e-mail from Netflix CEO Reed Hastings begins. "I owe you an explanation." So Netflix sees the error of a 30% price increase and will roll it back, I thought. Not exactly. And the blowback from angry customers is intense.
Windows 8 Arrives at TechByter Worldwide: If these words don't frighten you, then this article is one you'll want to read: "The Windows Developer Preview is a pre-beta version of Windows 8 for developers. These downloads include prerelease software that may change without notice. The software is provided as is, and you bear the risk of using it. It may not be stable, operate correctly or work the way the final version of the software will. It should not be used in a production environment. The features and functionality in the prerelease software may not appear in the final version. Some product features and functionality may require advanced or additional hardware, or installation of other software." Two days after the pre-beta was released, I installed it. Challenges are ahead, but also some intersting opportunities and promises.
Two Monitors are Better than One: If you've never used a system with two monitors, there's some chance that you consider people who use two monitors to be a bit daft. I thought that at one time but then I got a second monitor at the office. At home, I decided that I could make do with one monitor if it was large enough. Bad choice. I now have a more-or-less matched set and a much better work environment.
Short Circuits: Mozilla, When Will you Fix the Memory Leak? Firefox has always had a problem with memory usage and despite the fact that Mozilla has promised version after version to fix the memory leak, version after version the memory leak continues.
How to Lose Customers and Devalue Your Stock: Netflix, which has been a high flyer for several years, has stumbled badly. Apparently the company thought that a 30% rate increase wouldn't affect customer loyalty. Have these guys looked at the economy lately? For me, the 30% increase meant that I dropped streaming and I'd already reduced the number of concurrent DVDs from 3 to 2.
Through the Windows 8, Darkly: Windows 8 is coming and the changes are going to be enormous. The user interface gets a complete makeover and there's a good chance that a lot of people will dislike it without even giving in a chance. Microsoft software engineer and blogger Steven Sinofsky (who also happens to head the project) has written about something that seems trivial—basic file management (copy, move, rename, and delete). Fundamental, yes. But not really trivial. When you're using a computer, you'll almost always be working with files. Improvements at this level affect every application on the computer.
Carousel—Adobe Brings Back the Name: Once upon a time, Kodak make a slide projector called a Carousel. It was invented by Louis Misuraca, who came to the United States from Italy when he was a child. For inventing the carousel, Misuraca earned no royalties. Kodak paid him a one-time fee and it's said that he used the money to take his family on a trip to Italy. Carousel projectors use a circular tray that held 80 or 140 35mm slides. Kodak discontinued projectors in 2004 but now Adobe has resurrected the name for a new online service.
Questions and Answers: E-mail: A discussion of e-mail turned to spam and rejected messages. They are closely related subjects. The discussion covered several useful topics and I asked the participants for their permission to use their words. One participant, who I will call Donna (because that's her name), said, "Even with our own domains, aren't we still somewhat at the mercy of the hosts?" Great question!
Short Circuits: Farewell to Michael Hart: Some people make a difference and Michael Hart is likely to be remembered as someone who did make a difference. During the Viet Nam War, he served in Korea. The 64-year-old resident of Urbana, Illinois, and native of Tacoma, Washington, invented the electronic book. In 1971.
Yahoo Shoots Itself in the Foot. Again. Here's a classy way for the chairman of the board to fire the CEO: Do it by phone. I suppose he could have just sent an e-mail, an IM, or done it in 140 characters on Twitter. Sixty-two-year-old Carol Bartz, the former CEO of AutoDesk (the CAD company) had more than a year on her contract with Yahoo.
Desktop Drives: 4TB Now Available: Two days after I ordered a 3TB Seagate GoFlex disk drive for backing up files from home ($135) Seagate has announced the availability of 4TB drives ($250 MSRP). Given the price difference ($115 for that 4th terabyte) I would still have selected the 3TB drive but this is just another example of how quickly storage is expanding and becoming less expensive.
September 11, 2001: Because TechByter Worldwide is a program about technology, any commentary on the terrorist attacks of ten years ago seems out of place. But not to acknowledge those events seems equally out of place. So what I have to offer on the subject is merely my own personal commentary.
From Vinyl to Digital the Easy Way: Looking at a stack of old vinyl albums several years ago, I decided to start converting them to digital media so I bought a Numark turntable. It wasn't outrageously expensive, but it wasn't cheap, either. It would be enough, with a quality cartridge and stylus, to convert my albums. I managed to convert maybe half a dozen albums and they were all disappointing.
Storing Files Here and Accessing Them There: Tom Shrilla (W8QJF) of Westerville, who's been listening since TechByter Worldwide was Technology Corner on WTVN Radio, clued me in to Pogoplug. "You can back up and retrieve your files from anywhere," Tom said. "What they don't tout is that you can locate the Pogoplug anywhere there's a broadband connection; I'm going to set mine up at a relative's house, 60 miles away. This will provide free real-time, off-site backups and storage for me and my college-bound daughter."
Short Circuits: Turning Your Back on Social Networks: If you ignore social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and MySpace, for example) you can no longer claim that you are part of the (silent) majority. According to the Pew Research Center half of all adults in the United States say that they use social networking.
Google: You Owe Me $500 Billion! According to AfterDawn, a David Stebbins of Harrison, Arkansas, claims that Google owes him $500 billion because it failed to cancel his YouTube account. Stebbins previously claimed that WalMart owned him $600 billion because the company responded to an e-mail he sent them.
Do Windows 7 Disks Become Fragmented? A listener in Australia asked about disk fragmentation and the need for a disk defragmenter for Windows 7 machines. Some people say that there's no longer a need to run a disk defragmenter and others say that Windows 7 disks become fragmented the same way they did under earlier versions of Windows. As it turns out, both of those points of view are correct.
Steve Jobs Resigns: It's not news that Steve Jobs has not been well for several years. This week, on Wednesday, he resigned. "I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come." Regardless of what anyone thinks about Jobs, there is no question that he has been a visionary in the computer industry.
Facebook Adjusts Its Privacy Settings. Again. It's been a few months since Facebook has made any massive changes but now they're doing it again. Possibly the thought is that if they change the privacy settings enough times they'll eventually get it right. Or maybe the goal is to keep changing things until the users are so hopelessly confused that they stop worrying about privacy. And maybe they're just a tiny bit worried themselves about Google+.
Kindle? Netbook? Nook? Ipad? A question from a listener in California wonders which device is right: My stepdaughter had a Kindle when we went to an old hotel on the Florida coast last year and she was able to do Internet and downloads from our room, while we had to take our laptops to the lobby to do anything. And the long battery life got my attention. I have a netbook; it doesn't have 3G but the readers don't have keyboards. Now there's 4G—which means what? Do readers have print options? Or are all the features I want building up to an iPad or something more expensive? What do you own?
Short Circuits: Xara Turns 30 and You Get the Presents: Xara is an admirable and scrappy company that makes some astonishingly great software. The company is now 30 years old and to mark that event the company is offering some gifts to those who purchase its products.
Google: Caught Red Handed: Finally! Google will pay $500 million to the federal government in what it a tacit admission that it knowingly accepted illegal ads for fraudulent "Canadian" pharmacies that were often located in China or Eastern Europe. Well, it's about time!
Motorola Mobility Moves to Google: If you own any stock in Motorola Mobility, the mobile phone component that Motorola spun off as a separate company not too long ago, you should be smiling this week. Overnight the value of your stock increased by 60 percent. Not a bad return for a company that didn't seem to be particularly healthy. What happened? Google happened.
How Much Camera Do You Need? I'm always a bit amused when somebody asks "What kind of camera do you use?" That question usually follows a comment about an image that I'm particularly happy about. In most cases, the correct answer is "It doesn't matter." If you're wondering why, stick with me for a moment.
Another Badly Chosen Microsoft Default: Microsoft has a nasty habit of creating useful features that only a few people will want and then making these features the default. A co-worker came to me with a question about Excel this week. He had filled in several cells with numbers and then colored the cells yellow. He found that when he entered additional numbers in the same column that they were also highlighted yellow. And no, this is not a case of Conditional Formatting. No rules are defined by default.
Short Circuits: A Laptop Computer for $33.33? Do you think that you can buy a laptop computer for $33.33? Apparently somebody has convinced Google that it's OK to run an ad making this claim. This is the offer I've been seeing recently when I view Google mail. Do you really think I can buy a working laptop computer for $33.33?
The Future Web at TechByter Worldwide. Maybe. If you pay any attention to the language that runs the Web (HTML) you may know that a lot of people, including me, thought that the future would be XHTML. The goal was to make HTML more like XML and to make it more compliant with standards than is HTML. A badly written XHTML file would simply not be rendered by a browser. That decision had the potential to break millions of pages.
Oh ... By the Way ... Firefox 7 (beta) was released late this week. Apparently this means that the current stable release version of Firefox is version 6. Wow. The rate of change continues to exceed the rate of progress.
Sometimes the Command Line is Faster: Not long ago I had a 4GB file that contained about 8 million lines and 1.6 million of those lines were of interest to me. Fortunately the file was on a Linux system so a quick grep command ("grep ^VI filename > out.txt") gave me what I needed. The grep command looked for any line that began with "VI" and copied that line to a file named "out.txt" and I instantly reduced a 4GB file to an 100MB file with 1.6 million lines. But what if I had to do this on a Windows machine? Easy! In fact, several possible solutions exist.
A Remote Access Tool By Any Other Name ... We seem to be surprised, and possibly even enraged, when we learn that other nations are carrying out espionage. It's as if we reason that espionage is OK if we do it but not OK if somebody else does it. That's not to say that the "Shady RAT" exposed recently by McAfee Software doesn't concern me. It does. What it doesn't do is surprise me or enrage me.
Short Circuits: Pay-Per-View Porn Sales Drop: Is the US becoming more puritanical? Are we afraid big brother is watching? The Wall Street Journal reports that DirecTV subscribers are buying a lot less pornography these days. The same is true for Time Warner's porn channels. Despite what we might say, think, or like to believe, pornography has been, was, is, and probably always will be big business. So what's up with the drop?
The Puzzling Case of the Transparent PDFs: If you're one of those people who live on the edge and have the latest beta version of Firefox 6, you may have found that PDF documents are unreadable because they're transparent. I suspect that part of the problem is the transparency function of Windows Vista and Windows 7 but most of the problem comes from an unexpeted source.
The Absurdity of 99.9% Uptime: A message from Microsoft promotes the new online Office 365 service and, at the bottom boasts of 99.9% uptime. Sounds impressive, doesn't it? But if your telephone service provider offered 99.9% uptime, you would be on the phone day and night with the public utilities commission.
Spotify Comes to US: If you're under 40, you probably know what Spotify is. You may be waiting for an invitation for the free version of the music streaming service or you may have decided to pay for a subscription to obtain immediate access. If you're an old guy like me, you might not know what a Spotify is unless, like me, you pay attention to music. In that case, you probably want to know more, too. Cutting to the chase, Spotify is a European music service that was started in 2008 in Sweden. Now Spotify has come to the United States.
Are Internet Explorer Users Stupid? Another tech writer (hats off to Kim Komando) quoted a report by "a company" (conveniently not identified) that "took a look at intelligence tests grouped by browser preference. It found that Internet Explorer 6 users have an average IQ score of 80." The conclusion seemed more than a little suspect so I tracked down the source. (There's an unsurprising surprise ending to this story.)
Here's a New Way to Steal Your Identity: The e-mail said that a Hotel incorrectly charged my credit card $1423. (Geeze, that's too close to 1234 isn't it?) Because the hotel is no longer accredited by the company, I need to contact my bank to get my $1423 back. How? Easy: Just fill out the attached form. The form is a Zip file. Chances are pretty good that just opening the file would infect your computer -- or try.
Short Circuits: Audio Update: Last week I described the new microphone that's in use for the TechByter podcast. The Cascade Fat Head ribbon microphone arrived in mid week and was immediately put into service. After listening to last week's program I came to the unsurprising conclusion that a few adjustments were needed. Maybe you noticed a low-frequency rumble. It should be gone or at least significantly attenuated this week.
Coins of the Realm: I've been tossing coins into a beer glass for the past couple of years. It's been overflowing for several months so this week I gathered up the coins and took them to the nearby Kroger store where I dumped them into a CoinStar machine. These machines have been around for years but it's the first time I've used one. Maybe you've never used one either.
There's Danger in that Free Wi-Fi Hotspot: As handy as free Wi-Fi hotspots are, they're dangerous unless you're prepared. Being prepared means encrypting the connection and that's not something that most free systems (or even some paid systems) will do. The fix is relatively easy and the cost is low. I'll describe the problem and suggest some solutions.
Itunes, Begone! CopyTrans, Welcome! After a year of trying to deal with Apple's severely defective and deficient Itunes application, I have finally rid myself of it and once again I can update the music on my Ipod Touch and Ipod Nano. The Nano goes to the gym with me. The Touch travels in my briefcase and is always available at the office. Neither has worked properly for the past year because of Itunes.
Flying High: The Bat out of Moldova: For more years than I'd like to claim, I've been using The Bat as my primary e-mail program. It's true that I have to use Microsoft Outlook at the office and in an office environment Outlook's calendaring capabilities are a plus; but in any setting other than the office, The Bat wins—wings down. Version 5.0 is even better.
Short Circuits: Linux 3—Big Deal or Not? Sometimes it's hard to tell what's going on in the Linux world. The Linux kernel is advancing from version 2 to version 3. Some people say it's a big deal. Mister Linux (Linus Torvalds) says it's not.
Different Sound This Week? You may notice a somewhat different sound this week on the podcast. It's the result of a new microphone, a ribbon microphone. The microphone I've used since the beginning is an AKG C1000S, which is a great location microphone. It's rugged. It cancels noise in rooms where a lot of people are talking. In other words, it's great for on-scene reporting. Studio work calls for something with a bit better sound and this week I used a new Cascade Fat Head ribbon mic.
How to Improve Search Engines with Plug-Ins: Firefox (and to a lesser extent Chrome and a much lesser extent Internet Explorer) offer plug-ins that extend browser functionality. Some of the plug-ins are designed to make searching faster or more complete. I use 2 that I find particularly useful.
Can You Hear Me Now? Adobe Audition Sings! Adobe's Creative Suite 3 included Audition, a high-end audio-editing application. Audition was missing in CS4 and CS5 but has made a triumphant return in CS5.5. Not only is it back but now it's an application that works on the Mac. Anybody who works with Audio files should be thanking Saint Foley.
Scammers Get Lucky But They're Still Idiots: I'm used to receiving scam messages from people who claim to be PayPal. Until recently these messages were sent to addresses that I don't use for PayPal transactions but now one of the scammers has guessed my PayPal address. I'm surprised that this hasn't happened previously because my PayPal address is extremely easy to guess. But even though they got the right address, it took less than 3 seconds for me to identify the message as a fraud.
Short Circuits: Something Old Returns as New to TechByter Worldwide: When Google Voice first became available, I added a widget to this site so that readers and listeners could call. Later, something went wrong with the widget and I never replaced it. Now it's back. You can call with a question or comment.
WANTED! Rustock Botnet Organizers. $250,000 reward. Microsoft filed a civil suit in mid March against the operators of the Rustock botnet. The trouble with that is that currently nobody knows who was behind it so the defendant is "John Doe". Chances are fairly good that "John Doe" will not step forward to identify himself so now Microsoft is trying something else, a quarter-million-dollar reward.
Photoshop Elements 9 from the Mac Apps Store: Adobe started selling the Photoshop Elements Editor via the Mac Apps Store this week but if you're thinking of buying that version, I have a better idea. There's no question that the editor is a very cool application. It's aimed at the non-professional community and gives users access to powerful features that are easy to use. It's just that there's a better way.
Is there an Image Doctor in the House? Alien Skin's Image Doctor 2 is designed to fix problems with images. In general, the plug-in for Photoshop and other applications that use the Photoshop standard accomplishes everything it claims to but advances made by Adobe in the built-in Photoshop features may contraindicate your employment of this doctor.
Easy Website Mistakes to Avoid: I recently wrote an article called “How to Keep Website Visitors from Returning. Ever.” Although TechByter Worldwide isn't a website/podcast for website designers, it does reach a lot of people who create websites in the SOHO (small office/home office) market segment. So I thought that article might be of interest. No single “right way” exists to design a website because every website is different and every website is designed to serve a different audience. But many ways exist to design a website badly. Consider these as ways to annoy visitors and ensure that they’ll never come back.
A Book, Everywhere: When I bought a Kindle from Amazon, I expected to use it for technical documentation but found that I was reading far more fiction and non-technical non-fiction on the device and that I used it only occasionally for technical documentation. Then I found that I needed a copy of Microsoft's Manual of Style for technical writers. My choices were to pay more than $100 for a copy of the out-of-print book or about $20 for a Kindle version. Easy decision. I can read the book on my Kindle, on my office computer, on the netbook I keep at the office, on my home desktop computer, or on a notebook computer. I can see now that my initial thought of using the Kindle for technical documentation was a good one but that it was only part of the equation.
Short Circuits: Netflix Pushes Video Streaming: Netflix announced this week that prices are going up and that they're going down. Those of us who subscribe to the 2-DVD plan can have 2 physical DVDs at any time and unlimited streaming. It's probably no surprise that physical DVDs are a lot more expensive than streaming: The discs must be warehoused, picked, packed, shipped, received, unpacked, and returned to stock. Then the process repeats. Streaming eliminates discs, warehouses, and the people required to pick, pack, ship, and receive so you can guess what the company's long-term plans are.
Google+ Wants to be the New Facebook: Google+ (pronounced "Google Plus") is Google's version of Facebook. So far it doesn't amount to much and it will be interesting to see what users do with it. I became a member this week and already my younger daughter and a few acquaintances are there. MySpace was supplanted by Facebook. Will Facebook be supplanted by Google+?
"Xara" Is the New Way to Spell "Easy": Some people (and I include myself as a former member of the group) think that Xara software is fast but hard to use. The interface is seen as confusing but that's because long-time software users try to find difficult ways to do something when Xara's designers have worked very hard to make a tool that "just works". Once you get over the "hard to use" error (this takes about 90 seconds), you'll start looking for the easy way to do something and you'll almost always discover that the easy way is the right way.
Is Google Poised to Take Over Your Desktop? Would you want a computer with no hard drive and applications "in the cloud"? What if it ran for 8 hours on the battery? What if it connected via Wi-Fi or 3G cellular (3G is optional)? Google is betting you'll want one. So am I, for that matter. But is this a wise choice?
Questions and Answers: TechByter Worldwide has always welcomed questions. Questions are even more welcome on those rare occasions when I am actually able to answer them. And it's a particularly auspicious moment when I have an answer that actually has some basis in fact. I have some of those this week.
(Installing Firefox Add-ons) A week ago on TechByter:TODAY, I wrote about Firefox add-ons that, a year previously, I had said that I use. I wondered how many I still use. As it turns out, most are still in use. The article prompted a question from Chad in Georgia: I am using Firefox (I think it may be version 3; I should move up to 4 or maybe even 5). How do I add on an add-on, LastPass for example?
(32 and 64 or just 64?) "When I'm 64" was a song by the Beatles but that had nothing to do with John's question who wonders about using 3 disk drives to hold 4 operating systems: 32- and 64-bit Windows along with 32- and 64-bit Ubuntu Linux.
Short Circuits: Larger and Smaller: A few years ago, all of my digital photography memory cards were 256MB because that was the most cost-efficient size to buy. Larger cards carried significantly higher per-MB costs. More recently, 2GB cards were the most reasonable choice and I bought some for the Nikon DSLR. When I bought a point-and-shoot Canon, the only reasonable choice was 8GB cards, two of which (with the highest speed rating) cost considerably less than 1 2GB card from a few years ago. It's hard to keep all this straight.
Google: Still Not Evil After All These Years? On TV cop shows, the suspect who "lawyers up" when the cops start investigating a crime is always guilty. The Federal Trade Commission has begun an investigation of Google and Google has hired a dozen lobbying firms. Not just one, two, or three. But a dozen! Wow.
Exposure 3 and Blow Up 2 from Alien Skin: Every photograph that comes out of your digital camera can be improved. That may not be Alien Skin's premise for Exposure 3, but it would be a good one. Back when photographers had darkrooms, they stocked a variety of films, chemicals, and papers because each had certain strengths and all had specific weaknesses. Today you can't pick a film (at least if you have a digital camera) and chemicals are no longer used (at least not in the darkroom). But Alien Skin's Exposure 3 makes it possible to achieve a variety of "looks". And a related product called BlowUp 2 can quite literally save the day if all you have is a tiny image that needs to be turned into a large image.
Manual Labor: Trying to avoid sounding like curmudgeonly old Andy Rooney, I have to ask why nobody makes printed manuals any more. But then I have to admit that the question would be a rhetorical question because I already know why nobody makes printed manuals any more. Two reasons, actually: They cost a lot of money to produce and few people use them. But we need them!
Plain Text Can Be Your Friend: When I upgraded from Ultra Edit to Ultra Edit Studio so that I could use some of the features that are missing from the basic Ultra Edit program, I thought about reasons that I use a text editor. In many cases, it's because I'm working on program code in PHP or tweaking HTML or CSS files. But other times I use a text editor so that I don't get sidetracked by spell-checking and formatting.
Short Circuits: California Cannot "Protect" Minors from Violent Games: The Supreme Court this week invalidated a California law that regulates the sale or rental of violent video games to children. The ruling was 7-2. Justices Clarence Thomas and Stephen Breyer were the dissenters, arguing that the majority’s interpretation of the First Amendment was too broad.
Floating Business Docs in the Cloud: The cloud is the future and (as the old joke goes) it always will be. Although some companies are moving away from desktop-based applications to Internet-based services, this is not something I would be comfortable suggesting to a client. Not yet, anyway. Maybe never.
Autofocus is Just So Last Century: By the end of this year, a startup company called Lytro expects to begin shipping cameras that do more than just focus for you. You'll get to choose the focus later. Autofocus is a nearly universal feature today but sometimes the autofocus, even with the camera operator's assistance, selects the wrong point of focus: Instead of focusing on the person in the foreground, the camera selects trees in the background; instead of focusing on the lion behind the fence, the camera focuses on the fence.
Lulz Sec Suspect May Not Be Laughing Now: British police have charged a 19-year-old suspect in connection with the Lulz Security cyber attacks. Lulz is the group that attacked websites belonging to Sony, the CIA, the US Senate, NPR, the British equivalent of the US FBI, and many others.
I Do Not (Heart) Itunes: Itunes is a fine application if you own a Mac. If you own a Linux computer, Itunes is not available and we should collectively thank Apple for not pursuing the Linux market. Unfortunately, though, Apple has decided to make Itunes available for Windows machines. That doesn't mean that you must use it, though.
Short Circuits: Recommended Websites: Occasionally I mention websites that I've found and think you might enjoy. It's been a while since I last did that. So here goes and among them I proclaim "Я не русский шпион!"
Netherlands Leads the Way to Net Neutrality: This week Netherlands became the first European country to legislate network neutrality by forbidding mobile telephone companies from blocking, delaying, or charging customers extra for using Internet-based communications applications.
Google! Clean Up Your Act!: I have written before about Google's decision to value profitability over honesty and on Thursday of this week I encountered another clear indication of this. On a G-mail page, I spotted an ad: "Overstock iPads: $30.93. Today Only: Online auction site to give away 1,000 iPads for $30.93! www.BidRack.com/DailyDeals." Anybody who thinks Ipads are in an overstock condition isn't paying attention and anybody who thinks one can be had for $30.93 isn't too bright. Clearly there must be a catch.
Try Dual Monitors and You'll Never Go Back: No matter how large your computer's monitor is, if it's a single monitor it's still just a single monitor. Adding a second monitor is no longer expensive or difficult, either. So what are you waiting for? This week I'll show you why a monitor number 2 is so helpful.
Forget About Plain English! How About Plain Math? If you're looking for a digital camera, you probably pay a lot of attention to megapixels and that's exactly what the manufacturers would like you to do. One key factor is sensor size yet if you try to check that you'll find that they have measurements like 1/3.6", 1/3.2", 1/3", 1/2.7", 1/2", 1/1.8", 2/3", 1", and 4/3". No wonder we watch the megapixel parade and ignore the sensor behind the curtain.
Short Circuits: How to Make a Small Fortune on Wall Street: Start with a large fortune. Internet radio station Pandora's initial public offering was a big hit and intense demand drove up the price for Pandora's stock. But on the second day of trading, the shares lost and lost big.
We Can Haz CIA? Lulz Security (aka "Lulz Sec"), a loose knit group of hackers who have been in the news a lot recently, are back in the news with claims that they broke in to the Central Intelligence Agency's website.
Thousands of Credit Card Records Stolen (Partially): Citi-oops for Citigroup: Late this week, Citigroup confirmed that cyber-thieves have gained access to the data from about 210,000 of its bank card customers. Citi has 21 million North American bank card customers, so that's around 1 percent. The bank says it is contacting customers whose information "was impacted".
The Future of Print: Cloudy but Bright: This would be an exciting time to be involved in print media. Between the sheer terror of wondering whether you'll have a job tomorrow and the excitement of dealing with enticing new technologies means that no day will ever be dull. Adobe InDesign has center stage on both sides. It's an application that allows publishers to maintain the status quo with fewer people, but it also makes possible an explosion of options that add value to publications.
Social Media: Killer App and Business Killer: Missing in action: Common sense. If seen, please call 555-1212. The National Labor Relations Board says that an Arizona newspaper was justified in firing a reporter who sent the following message on Twitter: "Aug. 30: What?!?!? No overnight homicide? WTF? You’re slacking Tucson." Satire? Yes. Irony? Maybe. Appropriate for a reporter? No! On the other hand, the NLRB is supporting the rights of employees at Hispanics United of Buffalo who were fired after posting uncomplimentary statements about their employer. I may be alone here, but it seems to me that the NLRB was right in both cases.
Changing the Way We Buy Things: I will readily admit that I dislike shopping. Driving from store to store wastes time, money, and fuel so I became an online buyer long before most other people. In the early days, you had to know exactly what you were looking for. With luck, you might find a site with pictures. All that has changed in such fundamental ways that online shopping is not only easier and faster than in-store shopping; it's also better.
Trusting Microsoft to Keep the Bad Guys at Bay: Would you trust Microsoft Security Essentials (MSE) to protect your computer? I decided to give it a try on the netbook I use at the office. The office desktop is protected by an enterprise version of the McAfee antivirus applications and all of my home computers have Norton Internet Security 2011. MSE is a bit light on advanced features, as you might expect with a product that contains the word "essentials" in its name, but the basic protection seems to be acceptable.
Works of the Old Masters from Your Photographs: The last time I talked about Alien Skin's Snap Art 2 (2009) I said that it would have blown my socks off (if I had been wearing any at the time). Having heard a discussion of the amount of force required to blow one's socks off and the pain such operation might inflict, I've decided that I need better terminology. How about: If you'd like to create an old-master "painterly" works of art, but you don't have the skills or the time needed to work in paint on canvas, Snap Art 2 is for you.
Still More Spam From Sears: You might think that a large company such as Sears would abide by anti-spam legislation, but that's apparently not the case and the violations have been going on for so long that it would seem that the law simply isn't being enforced or that Sears has found a loophole through which they can direct their spew.
Short Circuits: Google Hacked. Again. When I started receiving e-mail messages from people I don't know and finding that these messages contained only a link, I knew something was up. But what? Google has admitted that "hundreds of accounts" has been compromised and the company blames Chinese hackers operating in the province of Jinan. This just happens to be where the People's Liberation Army runs an intelligence operation.
Another Break-In at Sony: Sony is reported to be thinking about buying NetFlix or some other company but it looks as if Sony and its customers would all be better off if the company invested some of that cash in security. That's because there's been another break-in and the crackers who did it are gloating.
If You're Considering a New Operating System ... You're not alone. People become frustrated with their computer and conclude that they would be better off with a different operating system. Windows users move to Macs or Linux machines. Linux users may choose a different distribution. Mac users seem to generally stay put. If you're thinking about Linux, I offer some things you may want to consider.
Fitting the Computer to the Task: You've decided that you need a new computer. Will it be a tablet or a netbook? A thin, lightweight notebook or a thick, heavy notebook crammed with lots of hardware? A basic desktop with a small monitor or a powerhouse desktop with a monitor the size of Rhode Island? Making the right choice isn't difficult if you think about what you want to do.
What's Up with CD101? A Columbus radio station (CD101) has a modest following in Columbus but a much larger following on the Internet. WWCD even has an entry in Wikipedia. What's interesting about the station is that WOSU took over its frequency several months ago and WWCD moved to 102.5 on the FM dial but still calls itself "CD101". Why?
Short Circuits: IDM: A Company that Continues to Do the Right Thing: I've used IDM's UltraEdit since shortly after the last Ice Age–in part because of the company's extraordinarily well designed text editor and in part because of the company's enlightened approach to licensing. Essentially, IDM said that I could install UltraEdit on any number of computers that I use as long as only one instance was active at any given time. Typically that meant a desktop system at home, a desktop system at the office, and a notebook computer. You can imagine how surprised I was when version 17 arrived and, after installing on the home desktop and notebook, my attempt at the office was met with a message that told me no more activations were available. How did this play out?
Fraud? You Decide. ImgBurn is one of the most useful open-source disc burning applications available. This week I discovered that an update existed, so I decided to download it. The download page was so confusing (at least at 6am) that I downloaded an application I didn't want. Once more Google is behind the problem.
It's the End of the Line! (Literally): Help me understand this: Operating systems need to mark the end of a line, a symbol that's added when you press Enter. Apple, Linux, and DOS/Windows all use different characters. Why?
The Approaching Pacific Century: If any question remains in your mind about the resurgence of China as a world power, consider the fact that Intel has just reassigned an executive vice president to Beijing. Sean Maloney will oversee Intel's operations and 5000 employees in China.
The End of Apple's "Invulnerability": Apple fanboys (yes, that's a somewhat derisive term) like to say that Apple products cannot have viruses or other malware inflicted on them. Apple has encouraged that point of view. It never made any sense because all computers are vulnerable to certain kinds of attacks. This time Apple will find it hard to deny the problem because the bad guys used social engineering to run their scam.
PR Agency Admits Dirty Tricks for Facebook: Instead of talking about how good it is, Facebook hired a big PR agency to plant negative stories about Google. The story is being reported by the San Jose Mercury News. The agency in question is a big one: Burson-Marsteller. And the company is now very embarrassed. (Too bad. So sad.)
Oh, Look! I Won Another £1,000,000! I must have been in a surly mood when the message arrived. Coca-Cola UK was going to give me one million pounds, the message said. The first (and most obvious) question is why a company in the UK would give its top prize to someone in the US. But let's see what other obvious idiocies the fraudsters thought I wouldn't notice.
And Then There Were Five: In the late 1990s, you had a choice of browsers. Netscape was the leader but Microsoft released the first Internet Explorer in 1995. Over the years, browsers such as Cello, IBM's Web Explorer, Konqueror, Sea Monkey, Opera, and others arrived. Some stayed. Most departed. Netscape and IE were left. Then came Firefox. Netscape died. Google released Chrome. Apple reworked Konqueror as Safari. And today, instead of 2 browsers, there are 5 contenders.
Short Circuits: We Don't Need No Steenkin' Gatekeepers! In the old days, media "gatekeepers" controlled the flow of news and this was a bad, evil thing. Or was it? Back then there was an effort to provide a fair and balanced view of things, not just to call your coverage "fair and balanced". If you were a bleeding-heart liberal, you couldn't entirely avoid the conservative viewpoint. If you were a conservative, you would find the views of liberals in the presentation.
The Sony PlayStation Network is Back (More or Less): Sony has partially restored the PlayStation Network and Qriocity. The systems were shut down a month ago following a security breach. Online games are back. So is the music service and the chat service. All other services remain unavailable and all services remain off-line for Asia.
Porn Stars Sometimes Write Books: A news release that I received this week promoted a book by Oriana Small, who is also known as Ashley Blue. Small/Blue is described as "a writer and visual artist from Southern California. As Ashley Blue, she appeared in over 300 adult films, directed 17 adult film features, co-hosted Playboy TV's Night Calls Hotline, and has won numerous adult film industry awards, including AVN's Female Performer of the Year in 2004 and Best Supporting Actress in 2005. She lives and works with her husband, photographer Dave Naz, and her cat and dog in the Hollywood Hills." OK. She's a cat person so I have to follow this lead.
"Generous" Caps May Not Be So Generous: Comcast and AT&T don't like competition so they've started placing what they term "generous" bandwidth caps around 200GB per month on subscribers. That's 6GB per day, so it seems like enough, doesn't it? If you stream video using your Internet connection, it might not be so generous.
Ubuntu's Natty Narwhal Goes Mainstream: Natty Narwhal (also known as Ubuntu Linux 11.04) arrived the same day I bought a netbook computer so I've experienced a new installation and an update and from my perspective there is no longer any reason to qualify support for this operating system. It's capable, feature rich, and well behaved. Those who depend on Microsoft and Adobe applications will still need Windows (or WINE) for those. But for everything else, there's Linux.
Trying to Keep Up with Adobe: "Keep up" might be a bit optimistic. I'm just trying to avoid being left too far behind as Adobe races toward the future of computing. The unusual mid-cycle release on May 3 established a new normal. CS5.5 isn't a free upgrade as most mid-cycle releases are. And the release offers a host of new features, which mid-cycle releases usually don't. It's also the beginning to a new release strategy for Adobe in that the company is setting up a 2-year cycle with mid-cycle releases designed to address changing technologies.
Short Circuits: Facebooking the News: The Pew Research Center, using data from the Nielsen Company (the people who have done media ratings for decades) say that Facebook has joined Google as a major driver in boosting traffic at the nation's top 5 news sites. As for Twitter, not so much.
Skype Goes to Microsoft: Microsoft has announced plans to pay $8.5 billion for Skype and that is the most expensive acquisition in Microsoft's history. Microsoft has expanded into the smart phone market and probably sees the acquisition as furthering those goals. Microsoft plans to include Skype's capabilities in the Xbox, Outlook, and Windows smart phones and to continue supporting operating systems other than Windows.
YouTube Increases Video Rental Options by Three Thousand: This event is probably causing a bit of heartburn at Netflix: Google's YouTube has just added 3000 movies from Hollywood studios to its rentable lineup of offerings. YouTube already has the lead in Internet-connected televisions and portable devices. For the past several years, Netflix has been expanding and improving its streaming service so a battle is brewing.
Xara: Fast, Easy Web Design Is Now Faster & Easier: Developing a website? You could use Microsoft Expression Studio: $150 to $600, depending on features. Adobe Dreamweaver: $400 to $1800, depending on which features you need. Xara Web Designer 7: $50 to $100. The question you're asking is whether an application with such a modest price tag can deliver. Let's find out.
Bokeh the Easy Way: "Bokeh", as I've mentioned before is the name of a photographic effect that allows everything in front of or behind the main subject to be out of focus. Too much depth of field can cause an image to appear flat and possibly even be confusing because the viewer won't be able to tell what's important. One way to obtain Bokeh is by using an expensive lens that has an extraordinarily wide aperture. Another way is by means of a new and improved version of Bokeh from Alien Skin.
Speaking of Adobe ... Creative Suite 5.5 Master Collection flew over my transom last week and landed with enough force that I seemed to levitate for several moments. I had expected to have at least 8 to 12 months to recover from CS5 and prepare for CS6. It's still too early for a complete review of any component, but CS5.5 has been on my computer long enough for me to say: WOW!
Ipad or Netbook? It Depends. One of my co-workers has an Ipad and it's clearly a very cool product. The company I work for doesn't allow the use of the common e-mail ports (25 and 110) from company-owned gear and also blocks all instant-message services. I could forward all messages to G-mail and use the Web interface (blecch!) but there's still no solution for IM. The company does provide a Wi-Fi option for employee-owned gear. So should I pick a netbook or the Ipad?
Short Circuits: Do You Need a $100 HDMI Cable? You're setting up a new digital video entertainment center and you want only the best. When it comes to cables, you figure that you got a great deal by purchasing a 6-foot Monster HDMI cable (list $130) from Amazon.com at $59. Did you? In a word, no. Amazon also has 6-foot HDMI cables for less than $3 (made in China) and you can easily find HDMI cables for less than $10. So why pay $60 or $100?
Social Media's Bad Rap as a Time Waster: "The ROI of social media is that your business will still exist in 5 years." That's Erik Qualman's position in his book, Socialnomics. I encountered the ideas in a YouTube video and they resonated because they were in line with a message that the late marketing guru Ray Jutkins was delivering twenty years ago, although not about social media.
We Will Miss You, Karen Kenworthy: Karen Kenworthy wasn't a professional big-name programmer but she wrote a column for Windows Magazine during the 1990s and had a knack for explaining complicated subjects in a way that anyone could understand. This week we note her untimely death.
Short Circuits: Is a Narwhal in Your Future? Ubuntu 11.04 has been released as the successor to version 10.10. Ubuntu's numbering uses the year (11) and the month (04) and this tends to inflate the version numbering. And every time I look at a new version of Ubuntu I wonder why more people aren't using it.
Loving Google Calendar Sync When It's 64: I had complained, rather loudly, that Google's calendar sync application didn't work with the 64-bit version of Microsoft Office and Google's PR folks tried to spin the lack of support by saying that it worked on 64-bit systems if you were using a 32-bit version of Outlook. I have good news!
Big Doings at Adobe: For the first time I'm aware of, Adobe is releasing a .5 mid-cycle release that contains a lot of new features. The Adobe Creative Suite CS5.5 became available this week so it'll be a while until I'm able to download, install, digest, and review what's new. There is a charge for upgrading from CS5 to CS5.5 and I'll let you know if I think the upgrade is worth the fee.
Sony Playstation Users Could Lose More than a Game: This week Sony announced that a cracker may have accessed the account records of about 77 million customers. About half of the victims are US residents. The break-in occurred between April 17 and 19, and the crook could have users' names, addresses, phone numbers, birth dates, passwords, logon IDs, and maybe even their credit card numbers, expiration dates, billing addresses, and transaction records. Oops!
Alien Skin. Eye Candy 6. Fun. I could probably stop with the title. If you're already familiar with Alien Skin, you know about Eye Candy. You may know that a new version has been in the works for a while. You know just how seriously this company takes amusement. But bear with me for a moment and let's look at the latest from this North Carolina company.
Killing Spam by Allowing Spam: Some Internet service providers and many site hosting services, such as Bluehost, give you the option of running Google's Postini antispam service. It may be free or it may cost a few dollars per year per account. Either way, it's not a good value. If you have a high-speed connection, it makes sense to download all messages and cull the spam on your computer. That is the exact opposite of the process I've used for many years.
Short Circuits: Kindle. Libraries. File under: It's About Time! One of my primary complaints about the Kindle, although I like the device itself, has been Amazon's wrong-headed approach to library books: Unless you were willing to break the digital rights management (DRM) on library books, loading them on your Kindle wasn't possible. Amazon finally has seen the light.
And Then There Were Three: Last month Western Digital announced plans to purchase Hitachi's hard disk unit and now Seagate is planning to acquire Samsung's hard disk manufacturing business. The disk business isn't as profitable as it once was and manufacturers are consolidating even as the demand for standard hard drives continues to increase. Eventually it will decline.
Online Poker: Don't Bet On It Says the DOJ: Online gambling is illegal and now the US Department of Justice has started going after some of the operators. Last week they filed money laundering charges against 3 big operators and shut down their domains by seizing the domain names.
ACTing Up With a Mobile Device: Take a high school junior who's preparing for the ACT and add a portable device such as an Ipod, Ipad, or Iphone. The result is a new way to prepare for the test.
Creating Secure Passwords and Keeping Them Secure: A few weeks ago, when I described my week without Windows, one of the first challenges I faced was the inability to move passwords from my Windows password manager (KeePass 2) to Linux. The solution involved creating an encrypted directory and storing a spreadsheet file there. It worked but it wasn't very elegant. The other problem I had with KeePass was that it didn't work on Apple's OS X. I needed to synchronize the password file manually on two computers at home and one at the office. Might there be a better way?
The Long Journey for Thumbs Plus: One of my favorite image organizers, Thumbs Plus, is about to release service pack 1 for version 8 of the application. Version 8 was introduced in 2010 but I've not yet reviewed it because the initial release of version 8 was badly flawed. Several months (and 4 betas) later, SP1 for Thumbs Plus 8 makes the application one that I can recommend as enthusiastically as I recommended earlier versions.
A Koobface by Any Other Name .... The Koobface worm should probably be called Koobecaf. After all, "koob" is an anagram for "book" so "ecaf" would be the corresponding anagram for "face". Koobface, which began its nefarious life on Facebook, has finally moved on, though. Koobface infected a lot of computers last year but it hasn't been seen on Facebook since mid February.
Short Circuits: Cisco Flips Off: Could this be characterized as a Flip Flop? Flip, the digital video camera originally made by Pure Digital but scooped up a couple of years ago by Cisco Systems, is still one of the most popular video recorders on the market. Cisco is killing it anyway. Since buying the company in 2009 for just under $600 million, Cisco has done nothing to improve the Flip, which is now being eclipsed by smart phones. So RIP, Flip.
US: Not Exactly a High-Tech Leader: Most US citizens probably think the US is a high-tech leader. Not exactly. That would be Sweden. We're not number two either. That would be Singapore. Third and fourth place are occupied by Finland and Switzerland. Then comes the US in fifth place. Way to go! (But we beat France!)
An Ipad for Every Five-Year-Old! Next fall's incoming class of kindergarten students in Auburn, Maine, will all be given Ipads. At a time when school systems are generally having to make do with less, a reasonable question would seem to be whether this is genius or folly. Another reasonable question might be how many of the devices will still be functional at the end of the school year.
I Never Thought I'd Like a Wingnut: Alien Skin Software has ministers of propaganda. Seriously. Or maybe not so seriously and that's seriously one of the reasons that I like the company. Now they have a Wingnut Division. Or maybe it's a studio. And Wingnut has a product called Lo-Fi. At a time when every other application is trying to help improve your digital photographs, Lo-Fi wants to make them worse. But by making them worse, it improves them. Rather like destroying something to save it.
Broadcast: Fearing the Hulu Hoop: The networks are about to stage an end-run around local broadcasters. Since the beginning of commercial television, the networks have had to convince local stations to give their programs "clearance". Most of the time, they did. But not always. And broadcast television has been a real-time operation until recently when digital video recorders made time-shifting easy. Now there's Hulu.
Making a War Driver or Piggybacker Nervous: "War drivers" log and collect information about the wireless access points (WAPs) they find while driving. These could include wireless access points provided by municipalities, those provided by restaurants and coffee shops, or even unintentionally free WAPs provided by home users who don't bother to protect their systems. War drivers aren't a problem but piggybackers might be. These are folks who would prefer to use your Wi-Fi than to pay for their own.
Short Circuits: Hide Passwords in Plain Sight: Long, secure passwords can be hard to remember. Once you've logged on to a system, it's easy to use an application such as KeePass or (as I'll explain next week) a service such as LastPass. But what about the logon ID? Writing the password on a paper that's stuck to the monitor is a bad idea. And cleverly hiding it on a stick note that's stuck to the bottom of the keyboard doesn't work very well, either. There's a way around this problem.
Granny the Hacker: This is the kind of story that no editor would allow a mystery writer to include in a novel: An old woman in Georgia (the former Soviet republic, not Jimmy Carter's home state), scavenging for copper to sell as scrap, stuck her spade into the ground and cut a fiber optic cable. That immediately cut off most of Armenia and portions of Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan from the Internet.
Has Your Address Been Compromised? Here we go again. Another big attack and a bunch of e-mail addresses at risk. Maybe. I've received several messages this week saying that my address my be in the hands of bad guys. So what? My addresses receive hundreds of spams per day. If some bozo sends a few more, will I even notice.
No Windows 8? Next stop for Microsoft is Windows Y? An update: If you read last week's article but didn't follow the link, you might not have noticed that April Fools Day is an anagram for Larsyip Öoldaf.
A Week Without Windows: Although Linux offers most of what I need (you, too!) it's not possible for me to give up Windows and that will hold true for the foreseeable future because I use Microsoft and Adobe applications (both at the office and at home) that require Windows. But could I survive for a week without Microsoft products at home? Let's see.
Bits and Pieces: The first segment is so long that for variety's sake the rest of today's program will be short items that struck my interest this week. My interest is actually black and blue from having been struck so much but it will heal.
Internet Explorer 9: XP Users Need Not Apply: If you're running Windows 7 or Vista, you may already have Internet Explorer 9, which is available in 32-bit and 64-bit versions but only for Vista or 7. The download was pushed out by Microsoft this week.
Avatar: Yes, There Will Be a Sequel: Director James Cameron says a sequel will be even better because the frame rate will be higher. The film frame rate used to be 24 frames per second. Television runs at 30 (rounded) frames per second. Cameron is talking about doubling that!
Spam Drops, But It Will Be Back: Microsoft haters aren't going to like this, but Microsoft led the effort to kill the Rustock botnet and doing so significantly reduced spam. At least for now.
Windows 8? Windows Ate What? No, this isn't an April Fool's Joke. Windows 8 is coming and there are reports that some of the larger OEMs (read that: HP and Dell) have seen the code.
Dropping the One-Too-Many App: All right, that's not actually the app's name, but Google and Apple have been asked to ban apps that identify the locations of drunk-driving checkpoints.
Microsoft Sues Google: Microsoft says Google is cheating when it comes to search. Google has more than 90% of the search market in Europe. So that leaves (hmm, quick math here) less than 10% of the market for Microsoft Bing.
Adobe Premiere Pro: Lots More than Elements: Last December I shared with you my experience with Adobe's Premiere Elements, which is both an amazingly able application considering its price and an application that's surprisingly easy to use. The next step up the ladder is a huge step on a giant ladder: Adobe Premiere Pro brings broadcast-studio power to your desktop. The price is professional. The system requirements are professional. And the results, if you know what you're doing, will be professional.
No Windows 8. Next stop for Microsoft is Windows Y: The game of one-upping the competition takes a major leap this coming week. Microsoft has announced that it will release an unexpected new version of its Windows operating system on Friday. Possibly taking a swipe at Apple, Microsoft says the new version will be called Windows Y, deftly sidestepping Windows 8, Windows 9, and Windows X.
TechByter Website Moves: The TechByter Worldwide website was unavailable for a few hours during the evening between March 14th and March 15th. Now, although you probably won't notice much of a difference, the site's server is located in a new building. The hosting service I've used for many years is Bluehost in Utah and this move explains why I highly recommend Bluehost to anyone who asks about hosting services.
Short Circuits: Firefox 4 Might Already Be on Your Computer: Firefox can update itself automatically, so my Windows systems already have the newly released version 4. The Linux machine also has version 4, but the process was slightly more involved and I'll describe it next week. HTML5 sites are beginning to show up and Firefox 4 handles them with aplomb.
Manhattan Judge Books Google: Although admitting that Google's plan to digitize out-of-print books could be useful to society, US Circuit Court Judge Denny Chin this week ruled against the proposed settlement of a class-action lawsuit by publishers. The suit, filed in 2005, seeks to prohibit Google from making out-of-print books available.
Migrating to Google Docs or Zoho Docs: Thinking about an online office suite such as Google or Zoho? Google's minimalist interface is refreshingly annoying, or possibly annoyingly refreshing. Refreshing because the menus are short and simple, rather like in a fast-food restaurant with limited selections. Annoying for exactly the same reason. It's easy to bump into a limitation that means you can't do what you want to do. Google Docs does things the average office suite can't do easily, though, and the day will come when applications such as these become mainstream.
Five More Free Apps You Should Have: It's important to use the very best applications even if you must occasionally pay less for them than you might expect. Some might even be free. These are some of the free applications that I insist on having. I'll provide a quick overview of each along with a link to the download location.
Adobe and the Iphone: Let's See What Develops: I still remember waiting for pictures. I'd come back from an event or a vacation with lots of rolls of film. The choices were to take those rolls of film to the darkroom, develop them, and make prints (many, many hours of smelly work); to send them to a professional lab (about a week to see the images); or take them to a local processor (anywhere between 1 hour and 3 days). Then digital cameras let me plug the camera into the computer as soon as I got home and start processing pictures. Now you don't even have to go home first.
Short Circuits: NY Times Ducks Behind a Pay Wall: The same week that a study showed more people get their news from the Internet than from newspapers, the New York Times announced a limited pay wall that goes into effect on March 28. Those who subscribe to the paper version will receive the online version at no additional cost. Everyone else can read up to 20 articles per month for free. After that, it's $15 every 4 weeks.
Google Patches a Chrome-Plated Bug: A zero-day exploit revealed in Google's Chrome Web browser got quick attention and a new version (10.0.648.134) for users on Windows, Mac, and Linux systems. The problem actually lies in the Adobe Flash Player and Adobe warned about the problem on March 14. Google updated the browser a day later. The update isn't automatic, though. As of the 17th, I still had 10.0.648.133 so I downloaded the update and by then the version was 10.0.648.151.
Oh, Look! I Mixed a Book! Electronic scrapbooking certainly isn't new but in the early days it wasn't easy. Using programs such as Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro, scrapbookers manually composited each page and then submitted the pages to a service that made the book. Now you can find online services that store your photos; provide ready-made templates in various sizes; allow you to position, size, and rotate photographs; provide graphics that can be added to the layouts you create from scratch or to templates; give you the ability to add, change, or move pages; let you share the books online; and (of course) print them.
Fun in the Third Dimension: If you've ever tried to create 3D effects, you probably think it's difficult to do unless you've seen Xara 3D Maker version 6. Now, though, Xara has released version 7 and, although it continues to be easy to use, it offers several new features that you might expect from an application that costs several times what Xara 3D Maker does.
Windows 7 Service Pack 1 Arrives: If you're one of those people who waits for Microsoft to ship the first service pack before upgrading to a new operating system, you just lost your reason for procrastination. SP1 was released this week and if you're a Windows 7 user, you should plan on installing the update. By default, it is not currently installed by the Windows update process.
Short Circuits: Would You Trust an Ugly Website? I was referred to a blog post this week that discussed a study that, according to the blogger, offered proof that 70 percent of people don't trust badly designed websites. As much as I favor good design, I had to question the study reported in the blog post. I followed the link back to the study and found that it was reported on a PR service and that it was conducted on behalf of a company that sells website design tools.
Another Disk Manufacturer Is About to Vanish: Hitachi purchased IBM's disk drive manufacturing facility in 2003 and now that business unit is about to be acquired by Western Digital. Specifically, Western Digital is purchasing Hitachi Global Storage Technologies, the US branch of a Japanese company, for $4.3 billion in cash and stock.
Video for Internet Explorer 9 (64-bit): Question: Will IE 9's media player be able to run videos, or will I have to regress to a 32 bit version to do so? Answer: For those who use Internet Explorer 8 on a 64-bit operating system and are distressed by the inability to play videos, I have good news.
More Tricks from Adobe Acrobat: The long-anticipated next version of Adobe Acrobat has been shipping for a while and whether you need the full version of Acrobat or not, you should download and install the new version of the free Adobe Reader. This is Acrobat X (X is pronounced "ten" instead of "ecks".) Version X of Acrobat is the only application that didn't ship with the original CS5 version of the other Creative Suite applications, so the upgrade comes at no cost to CS5 users.
Microsoft Challenges the Status Quo with IE 9: Conventional "wisdom" suggests that Microsoft needs 3 tries to get something more or less right. Internet Explorer was a disaster. Internet Explorer 2 was marginally acceptable. Internet Explorer 3 brought Microsoft even with Netscape. Netscape no longer has a browser but Firefox carries on the tradition. Opera and Google Chrome compete in an increasingly crowded market place. Nine is 3 squared so, if the magic number 3 is important to Microsoft, this should be it.
Short Circuits: The Fury of G-mail Users: There's no easier way to make people furious, it seems, than to offer a free service that isn't 100 percent reliable. This week tens of thousands of G-mail users lost access to their mailboxes temporarily. One might have been forgiven for thinking that not having access to an e-mail account for a couple of hours constituted a disaster. And some media outlets howled that e-mail had been "lost". Not exactly.
Apple Ipad 2: Yes, there is one. Steve Jobs came back from medical leave to introduce it.
The Nation of Facebook: If Facebook was a country, it would be the third largest country on the planet. Ahead of the United States and behind only China and India. Now Facebook has acquired Beluga, a start-up that provides "group messaging" for mobile phones. In some previous cases, Facebook has acquired companies as part of a talent hunt, kept the talent, and killed the companies. But it appears that Facebook sees value in the service Beluga provides.
OnOne's Gigantic Photoshop Add-On (Part 2): I'll continue this week with a look at OnOne's Perfect Photo Suite, an "add-on" for Photoshop. Some add-on! It adds framing effects (PhotoFrame), a huge array of photographic effects (PhotoTools), a powerful resizing feature (Perfect Resize), a background remover (Mask Pro), Color Correction (PhotoTune), and even the ability to add bokeh (FocalPoint).
Checking What Starts When Your Computer Starts: When Windows starts, the operating system examines several entries and starts applications depending on what it finds there. Many applications create these "autorun" entries without your permission and your computer would be faster if you eliminated the ones that you don't use or need. The problem is finding out what starts when Windows starts and then deciding whether you need it.
Short Circuits: Oops! Now What? I heard from listener Kevin Contos this week about an "interesting" problem (any problem is "interesting" if it didn't happen to your computer). There's a new baby in the family and he had received some pictures. Wanting to view them, he right-clicked an image and told it to open with Photo Viewer. No problem, except that he hadn't clicked a photo. He had clicked a link to a photo.
Google Announces an Algorithm Change: And it's about time. Content farms will be put out to pasture and you'll be able to eliminate sites you don't like. First on my list is the site that almost always comes up when I toss Google a technical question. It's a paid site and I found, when I subscribed for a year, that the information is generally worse than what I can find on my own. So that site will be high on my list to block.
Do We Really Not Care About the Truth? I received a forwarded message this week. It was a forward and the sender said that he didn't really know whether it was true or not and he didn't care. "Monday on Fox news they learned that the staffers of Congress family members are exempt from having to pay back student loans. This will get national attention if other news networks will broadcast it. When you add this to the below, just where will all of it stop?" The story is, of course, false and it didn't originate at Fox News. But what really concerns me is the statement that the sender didn't know whether it was true or not and didn't care.
OnOne's Gigantic Photoshop Add-On: Somehow it just doesn't seem right to refer to OnOne's Perfect Photo Suite as an "add-on". After all, it's a $500 package (currently on sale for $400) that adds framing effects (PhotoFrame), a huge array of photographic effects (PhotoTools), a powerful resizing feature (Perfect Resize), a background remover (Mask Pro), Color Correction (PhotoTune), and even the ability to add bokeh (FocalPoint).
Is Firefox 4 Beta 11 for You? You're supposed to hold the answer to the question until the final sentence of the last paragraph, but I'll answer it right here: Probably not. There's nothing wrong with Firefox 4, but using beta software carries some baggage that you might not want to store.
Short Circuits: Worth Watching: You've probably heard these numbers before: Radio needed 38 years to reach 50 million users. Television took 13 years to do that. The Internet hit 50 million users in 4 years. In 3 years, Apple sold 50 million Ipods. Facebook? They added 200 million users in less than 1 year. Radio was considered "a fad". Television was considered "a fad". The Internet was considered "a fad". So was the Ipod. You may have noticed a trend here. With that, I recommend a YouTube video and you can watch it without leaving the TechByter website.
The Greedy Apple Takes a Bite out of Journalism: Apple's Ipad, despite the goofy name, was supposed to be something that could be used to distribute work by journalists—newspapers, magazines, and the like. Then Apple announced the details. Apple will take a THIRTY PERCENT CUT of subscriptions. For what? This is insane! Five percent, fine. Ten percent, maybe a little pushy, but OK. Fifteen percent, ridiculous. And THIRTY percent? Obscene.
A 16GB Thumb: In the late 1990s, I encountered my first thumb drive at PC Expo in New York City. Offered by an Israeli company, the device allowed anyone to carry 16MB of data (more than a dozen floppy disks!) in a device no larger than a thumb. Cost: About $50. This week I bought a 16GB thumb drive for about $22 (including shipping). A day later, I saw an ad for a 32GB thumb drive for just $10 more. I keep thinking that if I wait long enough, people will pay me to take some of this stuff away.
Dots All There Is (A Late New Year's "Resolution"): Whoever decided to add "resolution" data to image files probably thought it was a good idea but the addition has done nothing more than create a great amount of confusion. Now I'm foolishly attempting to resolve the problem.
PODIOBOOKS.COM: Audio Books for Free: Amazon allows Kindle users to download free books, but so far I haven't found any good free books. I keep trying, though. If you're more interested in audio books, you might find that PODIOBooks.com ("Free serialized audio books, delivered on your schedule") has books you'll enjoy.
Are You Ready for IPv6? The world is running out of IP addresses. When the Internet was ARPANET, addresses consisting of 4 triads (xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx) seemed more than sufficient. That's 256x256x256x256 addresses. More than 4 billion (4,294,967,296) addresses seems like more than you'd ever need. But then ARPANET became the Internet. Everybody had access. Worldwide. And every phone, printer, and computer needed an address. Help!
Short Circuits: Would You Follow a Link to TechByter.nazi? If you do, you won't find this site and you'll have to wait until sometime in 2012 anyway if the nazi top-level-domain (TLD) is approved and if anybody registers "TechByter" there. This is all part of a plan by ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) to create a new series of top-level domains. After all .museum, .mobi, and .jobs have all proved to be so very popular! Of the last batch of new TLDs, only .biz has much of a following.
RIP: Ken Olsen: The engineer's engineer, Ken Olsen, is dead at 84. Olsen founded the Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC), which was once the world's second-largest computer company, second only to IBM. In 1957, Olsen used $70 thousand to create DEC and in the late 1980s DEC had sales of $14 billion. But he made one serious error.
Another Suite for Your Office: Microsoft may own the desktop, but its grip is weakening. Wordperfect office, relegated to distant second place as Windows machines replaced DOS machines, now seems at best to be an also-ran. That's sad for those of us who loved DOS version 5.1, but the world has moved on. OpenOffice has been in contention for several years, but has largely failed to catch on. Now there's LibreOffice. Maybe it will have a better chance.
Homeland Security Grabs Domain Names: You may have been under the impression that the Department of Homeland Security was mainly the "take your shoes off agency" (TSA) or one of the other agencies designated to protect the nation from terrorism or help with recovery following a natural disaster. But it seems that the Department of Homeland Security is seriously concerned about streaming video. Really. And this week the agency seized a bunch of domain names to keep them from illegally streaming the Fox network's Super Bowl.
A Better Idea for Homeland Security: Software security company PC Tools reminds us that big events such as the Super Bowl often attract online criminals. And online criminals attract PR folks from software security companies. Maybe instead of trying to stop a little online video filching, DHS could concentrate on the real criminals.
Short Circuits: Want a Verizon Iphone? You're Too Late. (This Week): If you want an Iphone, you have a choice now. AT&T finally has some competition. Verizon started selling pre-order phones this week and all available pre-sale models sold out within a day. According to Verizon, demand was greater than for any previous release, beating both the Motorola Droid and Droid X.
AOL Continues to Shrink: AOL's quarterly advertising income dropped by a quarter in the most recent quarter. Actually, 26%. Even so, AOL's CEO, Tim Armstrong, says he expects to see some growth this year in advertising.
Egyptian Government Sites Hit by Hackers: Trouble isn't just in the streets in Egypt. Those supporting anti-government protests shut down government websites this week. A worldwide anonymous group that goes by the name "Anonymous" shut down sites belonging to the Ministry of Information and President Hosni Mubarak's National Democratic Party.
Making the Most of Audio: Being an old broadcast journalism guy, I remember when recording interviews in the field required lugging a reel-to-reel recorder such as the Wollensak 1500 (about $300 in 1965 dollars), tapes, and microphones. In the late 1960s, cassette recorders came along, then digital recorders of various types. Today you can record high-quality on-scene audio using a recorder that costs only about $100 and might be smaller than the microphone you take along.
No Chickens, But Lots of Layers: If you've listened to me yammer about photo editing programs, you already know that my opinion of layer masks has changed. Years ago, I didn't get it but when I eventually realized that layer masks are the key to creating non-destructive edits that can be modified or removed at any time I joined the chorus that sings the praise of layers. But layers weren't available in Photoshop Elements ("Photoshop for the Rest of Us"). The latest version of Elements has layers!
Who Shares Your Server? If you have a website, it's probably on a server with dozens, hundreds, or thousands of other websites. Your domain and all the other domains (potentially thousands of them) share the same IP address. Nameserver routing tables direct all requests for any of these domains to the same location and then it's up to software at the server to sort out the various requests. Most of the time, this system works well. But not always.
Short Circuits: Cameras Without Viewfinders: Last week I mentioned a couple of point-and-shoot cameras but I didn't mention that they both lack an optical viewfinder. Very few low-end cameras have even the most basic optical viewfinder today and, because my habits are as firmly entrenched as anyone else's, I was distressed about that. I didn't mention it because I thought I might be the only person who missed viewfinders. As it turns out, I'm not the only one.
Who Should Be LinkedIn? Last week I sent invitations to all TechByter Worldwide subscribers to join me on LinkedIn and many people did. Some subscribers also asked questions that I felt were insightful and worth sharing. John Kennedy, for example: "I've had a couple of other people ask me to join them in LinkedIn. I would have no problem with an invite coming from you. But I wonder what advantages joining up would have for someone like me that's retired?" That's a great question and I think I have an answer.
The Digital Camera "WOW!" Factor: Dateline: New York City, 2001. At an InfoTrends breakfast briefing in New York City I was told that digital cameras would be available for about $100 within 10 years. It was Wednesday, June 27, 2001, in the grand ballroom of the Manhattan Center on 34th Street. I recall thinking that this might be possible if the manufacturers used low-end CMOS sensors and limited resolution to about 1 megapixel. I was half right.
An Entertaining, Educational Waste of Time: The Internet Archive does more than just archive the Internet. You'll find old versions of websites in the Internet Wayback Machine, movies, audio files, old radio programs and commercials, audio books and more. Everything on the site is either in the public domain or has otherwise been cleared for legal downloading. Let's take a look around and do some listening.
Spokeo: Too Much Information? Our lives are not private. A great deal of public information has always been available from various government offices. But until recently, if I wanted to find out the value of your home, your age, or just about anything but your phone number, I would need to visit a court house and request the information. Now it's as easy as using your computer. And sometimes the information is even right.
Short Circuits: Checking Out: I was standing in line at a grocery store the other day when I noticed a sign that said the store would stop accepting checks and traveler's checks on a date early in 2011. They'll take credit and debit cards and they'll still accept cash. But no checks. The check's slow descent into oblivion seems to be speeding up.
Shorter than Short Circuits: I ran across a few things this week that are worthy of mention, but aren't long enough even for Short Circuits. So I've included them as a little list of bullet-point items.
It's the Worst Virus Ever!!!! (from an e-mail warning): How often do you receive a message like this? "If you open a message with an attachment called 'foo.mp4', your hard drive will be erased and your computer will be vaporized!!! This has been confirmed by Microsoft and Snopes and MSNBC, so I know it's true!!! Please forward this message to everyone you know!!!" What do you do with a message like that? Whatever you do, please don't forward it.
Sharing Video is Easier than Ever: Next week I'll tell you about some reasonably priced digital cameras. These days a digital camera offers more than just the ability to take still images. Many cameras include a video function. If you use that function, you may want to share the resulting video. It's easy. (Warning: This story involves cats.)
Buggy Whips, Watch Springs, Slide Rules, and Film: Nothing lasts forever. Western Union's owners, for example, famously thought that the telephone was a passing fad. Eastman Kodak (the film company) recognized early on the threat that digital photography posed and attempted to reposition itself as the picture company. That's largely been unsuccessful because many people no longer make prints. Instead, we share photos online or by e-mail. Even the technology behind the big change is changing fast.
Short Circuits: At Last! Competition for AT&T! Since the Iphone's beginning it's been an AT&T device in the United States, but now (finally) it's possible (soon) to use the device on another network. Analysts suggest that the addition of Verizon could double Apple's market penetration with the Iphone. For corporate America, there's still a problem. The Iphone doesn't work well with Microsoft Exchange servers, although Apple has made some changes to make the systems more compatible.
Court: Twitter Ordered to Give User IDs to Investigators: The US Department of Justice wants information about Twitter posts made by rop_g, ioerror, birgittaj, Julian Assange, Bradley Manning, Rop Gonggrijp, and Birgitta Jonsdottir between November 1, 2009, and the present. These are people the DOJ believes may have been involved in the latest Wikileaks leak.
Don't Shortchange Adobe Camera Raw or Bridge: If you scored a new digital camera this year, maybe you're also working with the latest version of Photoshop or Photoshop Elements. Both of these applications come with Adobe Bridge, which you might be tempted to ignore. Don't! Bridge is your direct link to Adobe Camera Raw, which is a far more capable application than I'd realized. Because I've heard from so many readers and listeners than you want to hear more about digital photography, I'm planning to increase the number of articles on that topic this year and this is the first one.
Libraries on Technology's Front Lines: Thirty years ago, at the beginning of the digital revolution, few people would have considered libraries to be high-tech operations. Twenty years ago, card catalogs were beginning to be replaced by electronic catalogs and some libraries allowed patrons to dial in and check the catalog. Ten years ago, your library might have provided online book reservations and access to some databases. Today, library patrons at many systems can download music, audio books, and electronic books without even visiting the library. In other words, libraries are often on the cutting edge of new technology. Be sure to visit the website and listen to the interview.
Short Circuits: Your E-mail Account is Over Quota? An annoying fraud is back and, even though it's not being executed very well by the fraudsters, some people are undoubtedly falling for it and, in the process, making themselves vulnerable to identity theft.
No Longer Just a House of Mud: It seems that I write and talk a lot about Adobe. Maybe as much as or even more than Microsoft. In part this is because Adobe's products do cool things (improve photos, video, publications) while Microsoft's products mainly perform essential but less enticing functions. That's a major misrepresentation of both companies overall, but generally speaking it has some merit.
2 January 2011 (No podcast. Happy new year!)
Free For All: As we begin a new year, I thought I'd share some of the free software that I use regularly—not because it's cheap (well, free) but because it's good. This article won't review any of the applications, but I'll include a quick summary of what each of them does.