Category Archives: Technology

iChat with Google Talk

After beating my head against a wall for the better part of an hour (I’m on vacation, I had the time to kill), I was completely unable to get iChat to connect to GTalk via the Jabber configuration that used to work prior to my Snow Leoapard install.

After searching around (on Google’s site), I resorted to trolling the Google Talk support forums and stumbled on the solution; you have to use a Captcha unlock to allow the signin to work. Why, I have no idea, but thank you to the person who posted this link on the Google forums.

If you are trying to sign into iChat and constantly get the “Login information is incorrect” message, go here: https://www.google.com/accounts/UnlockCaptcha. I have no idea why you have to do this or what else becomes unlocked through this, but it allowed me to finally log in with iChat 5 on Snow Leopard.

New laptop (part 2)

After a couple of weeks with a new Dell Studio XPS 13, it was obvious that it was not the laptop for me. Don’t get me wrong, it was a fine machine, but with Vista 64-bit and my complete inability to succesfully “upgrade” it to Vista Ultimate 32-bit (yes, I tried to wipe and re-install).

So, with little hope but a “worth a shot” attitude, back to Best Buy I went. After a quick chat with the most helpful people at the Lohr Road (thanks Stefani and Ken!), I swapped the Dell for a MacBook (last of last year’s models); never had to pull out a card.

So far, I’m still getting used to the MacBook. The keyboard layout is just different enough that I keep hitting the Caps Lock key instead of “a”, and I do miss the backlit keyboard, but so far so good.

I’ve never actually owned a Mac before, so this is going to be an interesting trip.

A Few of My Favorite (Free) Things

Inspired by a conversation at work today about free (as in beer) software, here’s a quick list of some of my favorite apps. I use Windows, so many of these will be Windows-only.

FileZilla; open-source, easy to use, FTP client; even runs off a USB drive

TwhirlAdobe AIR-based Twitter client. Supports multiple accounts, skins, multiple link-shortening services, etc.

KeePass – Password safe. Folder, search, password generation (with random inputs). Open-source, speedy, runs on USB drives.

Notepad++ – Enhanced text editor with support for syntax coloring for dozens of languages and plug-ins. Fast cross-file searching make this a must-have for troubleshooting via log file.

CDBurnerXP – Free CD/DVD burning software. Doesn’t automate, but is incredibly lightweight when compared to the bloatware that Roxio has become.

VirtualBox – Open-source virtualization software. Easy-to-use, let’s me safely build sandbox environments to trash.

Handbrake – DVD to MPEG-4 converter, which now accepts file (such as AVI) as inputs. Perfect for encoding video for my iPod/phone.

Synctoy – Synchronization tool from Microsoft. Echos, copies, moves, and synchronizes folders or entire drives. I use it for easily backing up my music collection to an external hard drive.

7-Zip – free WinZip replacement.

CutePDF – Free PDF creation. Adds itself as a printer on your system.

Evernote – Cloud-based note taking; works especially well with a smart phone.

VLC – Plays pretty much any video format you throw at it.

Now, if I could find a free replacement for Dreamweaver, I’d be all set.

A Workplace for the Electric Future

This week is the North American Auto Show, the annual circle jerk of the automotive superpowers, as they demonstrate the latest and greatest in Detroit. Despite it precarious status as the center of the automotive world, Detroit still holds sway over the direction of the industry and, if this year is any indication, the future is electric. From the Chevy Volt, to the Cadillac Converj, to the new Prius, to an unknown Daimler electric, full-electric cars are destined to hit the market very soon.

At almost half the total operating cost of a standard vehicle (at 12,000 miles per year), these are financially attractive vehicles. But, what would it mean to actually power one? In today’s world, filling up is a task done once, maybe twice, a week for the average commuter.

But, with electric, you have to top off daily, if not more than that. The expected range for a Volt upon release is somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 miles per charge. If I live 25+ miles from work, I have a dilemma; round trip exceeds my round-trip range. Let’s do a mental experiment…

Fast forward 5 years. It’s now 2014. 25% of the vehicles on the road are full-electric (yes, it’s optimistic. Deal). In 2006, there were 250,851,833 registered vehicles (wikipedia). Assuming a zero growth rate, that means that 62,712,958 cars will be full-on electric in 2014 (it’s an experiment). Ignoring distribution, socio-economic factors, et al, this means that each state has to deal with 1,254,259 vehicles likely purchased for daily commuting. (Ok, not Arkansas, but you get the idea.) In reality, vehicles would be concentrated around metropolitan areas, large employers, and ideological centers (Berkeley and Ann Arbor).

Which leads to my question. Assume that I, the conscientious consumer and commuter, purchases one of these Messianic vehicles to drive to and from my job 25+ miles away.

How do I charge it while I’m at work?

As a potential driver/charger/employee, I propose the following:

  1. Let me pay. Wire up spots, chip my badge and let me scan-in every day. I park at the first available spot, scan my badge at the terminal for my parking spot, and you bill me via payroll for the energy I consume.
  2. You pay. Wire the lot, let me park wherever I can and plug in. Since it costs less than $1 to charge the car for a 40 mile trip, you eat the sub-$30 per month cost to get me to work, making up the difference in “parking fees”.
  3. We share. You up the parking fee to cover the under $360/year/vehicle cost to charge my car. Since only 25% of driver need the power, you can balance the cost against the drivers who don’t suck down the electric, normalizing the costs.

Which ever method you choose, there are a few things you need to consider now.

  1. How will you measure the cost of charging electric vehicles for your employees (they’ll need it)?
  2. What is the value of your employees driving electric vehicles? Can you market or enhance your brand by demonstrating your commitment to non-fossil-fuel-based vehicles? Might that not be worth something?
  3. What are the tax implications for “fueling” your employees?
  4. If you compensate employees for business use of personal vehicles, what are the tax/legal implications of electrics?
  5. Do you have the systems or technology in place to accommodate the next generation of drivers? (I’m guessing no.) How fast can you accommodate them?

The heavily-electric world is being sold to your employees today. It will be your problem tomorrow. Are you ready?

iPhone!

Yes, I’m years behind the curve, but I finally got an iPhone. I am, of course, completely geeking out, transferring apps and music like mad. Surprisingly, we bought our new phones at Best Buy and had an excellent experience. The sales person there (sorry man, forgot your name) was great: friendly, tolerated a lot of stupid questions and us churning through all of our options on Verizon before deciding to go with AT&T.

J– got a new Blackberry Pearl (in red) and is grooving on that, too. Note to Verizon: we had no issues with your service, no issues with billing. Your customer service, however, from the beginning of our experience (since resolved) left a bad taste in our mouth. So much so that you lost two customers today who went from basic voice services to (at least one) voice + data plan. And you Blackberry policy is stupid. J– wasn’t sure she wanted a data plan, but we couldn’t buy or upgrade to a Blackberry without one. But AT&T was happy to let us purchase one with only a texting plan.

But, enough of that. I actually went in intially to get a Blackberry Storm. I’m a sucker for the full touch screens, what can I say? But, when I got to use an activated phone, I just couldn’t get over the screen moving as I typed. Bias in the open, I had a huge start on using an iPhone’s keyboard from having had an iPod Touch already. But the odd feel and sluggish accelerometer drifted me back to an Pearl. When we found we couldn’t get a Pearl without data for one of us, the deal was sealed and to AT&T we went a’porting.

So, I’m in geek nirvana for a while, until the first bill arrives anyway (*shakes fist at activation fees*). Fingers crossed on the service.

Obama's Technology Policy

This policy is so full on win, it warms my little electronic heart another 20 C. A partial bullet-point list; click through to see the whole thing with more statements.

  • Protect the Openness of the Internet (Net Neutrality!)
  • Safeguard our Right to Privacy
  • Open Up Government to its Citizens
  • Invest in the Sciences
  • Invest in University-Based Research
  • Make the R&D Tax Credit Permanent
  • Reform the Patent System
  • Make Math and Science Education a National Priority

Is there a bold-bold option on this keyboard?

Technology | Change.gov

A Few Steps Closer to Blu-Ray and Netflix

We have yet to make the leap to Blu-Ray. Frankly, I haven’t seen the point yet. Yes, I’d love to see what the quality would be on our TV, but I’m not willing to shell out $300+ for a new player and then $30-60 for movies that I likely already have. We did buy an up-convert DVD player when we got the TV and, so far, movies have looked pretty damned good.

But, today was yet another step closer to our purchase of a Blu-Ray player with the announcement of Samsung adding Netflix streaming capability to a new model of their Blu-Ray players. We’ve been using the Blockbuster service for a while now. It started at Blockbuster because we could exchange mailed movies at the store for in-store movies, and we got a coupon every month for a free game rental. It was a sweet deal until Blockbuster jacked up the price. We downgraded, still getting movies via mail, but no in-store exhange and no monthly game rental.

To be honest, the only reason we didn’t switch was a) the price at Netflix at the time was the same and b) we had hundreds of movies queued up and were too lazy to re-do all that work on Netflix. (Hint to Netflix: find a way to import my Blockbuster queue and you might have a deal.)

Of course, in the long run, this announcement may not push us over the purchasing edge at all; the Xbox announcement in July hasn’t because of the Xbox Gold requirement (seriously? I have to pay to watch content I already paid for once? Lame.) But, if I own the player and there’s no fee to watch the movies I’ve already paid Netflix to see, that’s a pretty tempting deal.

Wonder if these will be out by the time tax season rolls around…

Blu-ray players hooking up with Netflix

Remember Cuil? Yeah, no else does either

According to the latest figures for the end of August the Cuil market share has dropped to, well, just about nothing at all. Net Applications has the market share being a very meagre 0.01 percent. At least it is a very steady 0.01 percent though.

The article points out the obvious problem: their search results suck. Aside from a disasterous rollout in July, the technology was hyped so high didn’t even come close to delivering on it’s promise.

And in the “huh” factor, reading this article made me say to myself, “Oh yeah, they did spring up not that long ago, didn’t they. Oh well.” And off I went to Google.

Cuil frozen out: market share drops to next to nothing.