Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Conserve Your Clicks

View summaries of web pages by hovering over links! No need to click, no need to be switched to a new page! It really works! OK, enough of the histrionics. Back to low-key and smug. iReader works as advertised. Install it as a Firefox extension (there's also an IE version) and when you hover over a link, a small speech-balloon icon appears. When you move your pointer over the balloon (which is very unobtrusive), a brief summary of the information the link leads to will be shown. This looks like it will be a very convenient little tool, letting you know whether or not you want to expend the energy to actually click on the link. You need to conserve your energy, don't you? Moving to a whole new web page can really take it out of a person. Visit the iReader site here. I like the extension. You will too. (How's that for smug?)

Offset This!


The latest liberal insane inanity...carbon offsets. This brilliant idea provides hypocrites like Algore and Ahhhnold an adroit means of escaping the all-too-obvious double standard they afford themselves when it comes to global climate warming change. It seems to me that we can do offsets for many other unpleasant by-products of humanity. Here are some of my ideas:




Jackass Offsets - Pay someone to say something sensible for every jackass comment you make.

Flatulence Offsets - A spritz of cologne or perfume for every time you stink up your environment.

Booger Offsets - Whenever you pick your nose, something nasty is shoved back up there.

Celebrity-Meltdown Offsets - Spears can act as much the ignorant slut as she finds comforting; someone will do something compellingly sane to make up for it.

Perhaps you can come up with one or two. Give it a try. It's fun!

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Find the Meaning, My Friend

See an unfamiliar word in a web page? Want to know what it means? Don't want to go to another web site to find out? Use Firefox? Tired of these questions? Alright, this is another excellent and productivity enhancing Firefox extension from me to you: Dictionary Tooltip. Install the extension and all you have to do when you run across a word that you don't understand is double-click on it and move your pointer over the icon that appears. The definition will pop-up, and you will be that much the wiser. Or you can select the word, right-click on it and click "View Definition" on the context menu. Couldn't be simpler. Find it here!

Pull Down Some Lightning

WordPerfect Lightning, that is. Just announced today, Corel is offering a free download of this beta. According to Corel, WordPerfect Lightning "is free software that makes it easier than ever to capture, use, and reuse ideas, information and images. It helps you perform your most common tasks simpler and faster!" You can "Gather Ideas; View Documents; Organize Your Thoughts; and Share With Others." I've installed it myself and it looks to be a very handy application. Check it out here.

Monday, February 26, 2007

For Love of Lovely Words

FOR love of lovely words, and for the sake
Of those, my kinsmen and my countrymen,
Who early and late in the windy ocean toiled
To plant a star for seamen, where was then
The surfy haunt of seals and cormorants;
I, on the lintel of this cot, inscribe
The name of a strong tower.

Robert Louis Stevenson

Now that I've gotten all flowery, let me pass on a couple of great ways to find the right words. You don't have to be a writer to need help finding the best words; in so many contexts the right tools can make a significant difference in how effectively you communicate.

First, a little program that you can download and install free of charge called WordWeb.
"WordWeb is a free cut-down version of the WordWeb Pro software. It includes a comprehensive English thesaurus and dictionary, and can be used to look up words from within most programs. Features of the free version include: Definitions and synonyms; Proper nouns; Related words; Pronunciations; 150,000 root words; 120,000 synonym sets; Look up words in almost any program."
Then there's a new web-based dictionary/thesaurus that's ad-free and clean-cut called Word Source.

Taken together, you'll never be at a loss for words again.

When Automation Drives You Insane

I love it when things can be put on automatic. Automatic pool cleaner. Yippee! Automatic coffee maker. Yowza! Automatic transmission. Bam! Automatic phone system. Crap! Getting stuck in phone system hell is hell. All I want is a person to talk to. The computer cannot understand that I need to pour out my heart to a customer service rep. (The one time you can always get a person is when you are calling about buying something. They'll answer you lickety-split then!) No matter what number I press, I keep getting more options I don't need or want. What can I do?

I've found that pressing zero works some of the time, taking me right to a human being. But it is not always effective. I've got a tip for you that will make a gargantuan difference in the balance of power between you and whichever phone system enemy you happen to be doing battle with. This tip will shift a huge pile of the power to you! Here it is...gethuman 500 database! This web site has compiled a list of 500 big companies and the secret ways to dial your way to a real live person (at least we think it's a person...if not, it doesn't matter because you can't tell the difference). Check it out here!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Deep Storm Will Blow Your Mind!

If you're a regular reader here (and if you're not, you should be!) you know that I sometimes post a review of an especially good book I've read. And I like only the best, so you can be sure that if I tell you it's good, it's damn good. OK, I'm glad we got that out of the way. The book is Deep Storm by Lincoln Child. He's really come up with a scenario I've never seen anywhere else before, and it's certainly never occurred to me. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that the amazing revelations continued to slap me in the face until the very last paragraph. An amazingly suspenseful and smart read, the characters are believable and the science is too. Check it out at Amazon by clicking the graphic. You will not be disappointed.


Give Me the Code! Give Me the CODE!!

Last night I watched Die Hard. I'm talking about the original, not one of the sequels, which were nowhere near as good as the first. I even caught a humorous bit that I don't remember ever noticing before. When the SWAT team is ordered into the Nakatomi building, as they're running towards it, one of the combat-hardened (supposedly) and black-clad SWAT guys brushes by a rose bush and gets pricked, at which point he flinches and says "Ow!" That was very funny.

Anyway, you'll remember Hans threatening Mr. Takagi with death, demanding, "Give me the code!" That got me thinking about computer passwords. I can't tell you how many times I've run into situations when friends lose important passwords. They can multiply out of control for anyone active on the Internet, so what's a person to do? Do you use the same password for all of them? Do you use something easy to remember, like your birthday? Bad, bad, bad ideas. There's a better way. It's called RoboForm.

RoboForm is a computer program that will store and plug your passwords into the appropriate web forms, and the only password you need to remember is the one for RoboForm itself. All your passwords are encrypted, so you don't need to worry about someone gaining access to them. RoboForm works with all major browsers. It really is a great program, and it comes in a free version. I highly recommend it. You can get it here.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

This Guy Just Lost His Most Precious...Files!

Are you a backup procrastinator? Don't deny it! You've probably never backed up a single byte in your whole miserable life! You know what I mean. You have important files on your computer, and you create new ones and update old ones every day. You know you need to have backups in case somehow you lose those vital documents, but dang it, you just never get around to it. You know who you are. When the time comes when your computer betrays you, and it will, I promise you, you will bawl like an eviscerated swine, because you didn't do the right thing.

But backing up is a pain in the a$$. I understand. Except it doesn't have to be. Let me tell you what I do. I've got a free account with an outfit called Mozy. The exist somewhere on the Internet. I don't know where they are and I don't care. The point is, they do a weekly backup of my important data (I could set it up to do backups more or less often), and it's all stored on their servers, available for me to restore at any time. You can store up to 2 GB with them for zero dollars. Every Sunday night my data gets backed up, and I don't have to lift a finger, or anything else. (I also copy an image of my hard drive to an external unit every week, in case my drive goes kablooey; for that I use Acronis True Image.)

I highly recommend Mozy, and I'm not the only one who does. Check out their web site to find out more.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Chimps Catching Up to Humans - Scientists Fear the Worst

Have you heard about this yet? Researchers have made a startling discovery in southeastern Senegal. To their amazement, several individuals of the species pan troglodytes verus, or savanna-dwelling chimpanzees for those of you who don't speak Latin, had been making spears to kill bushbabies (galago senegalensis) for food. Now, admittedly the chimps weren't chasing the bushbabies and chucking the spears at them. They were simply jamming the spears (or pointy sticks, depending on the spin you want to put on the story) into the holes the bushbabies sleep in. However, the chimps did test their spears to determine if they had struck gold (or blood) by sniffing and licking the tips of their spears.

"I was flabbergasted," said one of the researchers who discovered this very disturbing behavior. That's scientist-speak for "What the hell? These chimps are hunting with spears for Christ's sake! We're all going to be killed! Eeeeahhhhhh!" Shades of Planet of the Apes.

So they are now making weapons and using them to kill. Can WMD be far behind?

The Moon is Heating Up!

Not literally, unless you count what the Sun does to it every day. No, I'm speaking not of Fahrenheit heat, but of Dollar heat. And Euros, and Yen. You may not have noticed these developments, since other stories, like Iraq and Anna Nicole, have been, as they say, using up all the media oxygen. But it seems that we are on the verge, the very brink, of the commercialization and colonization of the Moon. If you live another 13 years or so, it will happen in your lifetime.

First, NASA plans to spend $100 billion to begin human settlement of the Moon by 2020. That means a continual human presence there, not just a Hi and Bye. Been there, done that. No, this time it'll be different because we'll be there for good. At least that's our intent. Our alien overlords may intervene, but it's more likely that they'll stay on the sidelines for awhile yet.

Second, NASA is "making room for the private sector to get in on the ground floor." Alan Boyle, Science Editor for MSNBC, quotes Pete Worden, director of NASA's Ames Research Center, "I'm quite optimistic that privately funded science missions are going to be a wave of the future."

If we can get past the thicket of clich├ęs in NASA official-speak, the news is actually quite exhilarating. What might be in the offing, vis-a-vis Moon-side profit centers? NASA officials envision nothing very exciting (telescopes, interactive TV virtual reality tours for 5th-grade science classes), but that's not their milieu, is it? We can think of more fun things, like casinos and DisneyMoon, or CSI Moon and Moon Idol.

In the mean time, if you're looking for an exciting job, check the help wanted listings for home builders...homes on the Moon.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Edwards Bombshell! Israel Poses Greatest Threat to Peace!

Has John Edwards just committed hari-kari? Again? First, he hires 2 foul-mouthed anti-Christian bloggers to shill for him. Then, when that blows up in his face, he refuses to get rid of them. And now, his third strike: In Hollywood, Edwards reportedly spoke this gem in a question and answer session. From Peter Bart's column in Variety:
The aggressively photogenic John Edwards was cruising along, detailing his litany of liberal causes last week until, during question time, he invoked the "I" word -- Israel. Perhaps the greatest short-term threat to world peace, Edwards remarked, was the possibility that Israel would bomb Iran's nuclear facilities. As a chill descended on the gathering, the Edwards event was brought to a polite close.

Alrightly then. So how much longer do you give him? My guess, he'll keep plodding along like the living dead. All the way to the end.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Admit it! You're an E-ddict!

That's short for "email addict." Did I really have to spell that out for you?

Apparently there are a lot of you out there who are so hard up for connection that you can't seem to get your mind away from the thought that there might be an email sitting in your inbox that you haven't read yet. The possibility is intolerable! Such a state of affairs cannot be allowed to exist. The email must be read at once!

Don't despair, my e-ddicted friends. There is a 12-step program designed with you in mind. Some woman named Marsha Egan has figured out that you'll pay her money to help you kick the habit. Isn't that good news?

Now, I'm not trying to poke fun at this very serious problem. We'll probably find out that it has its own genetic marker. Were your parents e-ddicts? Your grandparents? You know it can skip a generation. Wait a minute, did they have email? Doesn't matter, this is a real disease. (I hope they like the name I invented for it!)

Egan says she won't have real live meetings, but instead plans a monthly teleconference for the e-ddicts. I guess they can't do an online chat, that would be too much like email. They might become addicted to that. I hope she doesn't tell them about IM. That would be like telling a cocaine addict about crack. Not a good idea.

Well, good luck to all you e-ddicts. Drop me a line (use comments...stay away from the other thing) to let me know how the program is going.

Who Needs MySpace When There's Campusbug?

MySpace is so 2006, right? 2007 is all about Campusbug! I just joined up! Even though I'm an old guy, I am in an MBA program, so I am a stoodent, right? Are you annoyed yet? Sorry. Here's what they say about themselves:
Campusbug combines social networking, online education, and e-commerce into a simple and easy-to-use online experience.

They've got:
  • An interactive question answering service
  • Free online practice tests
  • A bibliography generator
  • Writing help
  • The first online marketplace to share class notes and articles

It seems quite fun so far. Especially the part about e-commerce. I think I'm supposed to be able to sell stuff, or promote my blogs, or something. As long as I can make some loot, right? Sorry!

Click below to find out more!


Join Campusbug Now!

Monday, February 19, 2007

Listen to Murtha, Wear a Burka?

Damn, I don't know what to believe anymore! You've got just about everyone and their sister saying that pulling out of Iraq will bring on the Apocalypse. Now, Jack Murtha says that's not true. After the WMD debacle, and the failure of Bush's strategy to create a stable and safe Iraq (at least so far), I've lost some of my earlier confidence in the administration's prognosis. (I can hear George Costanza now...Prognosis, Negatiiiive!)

So now Jack is telling us that a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq wouldn't bring forth the cataclysmic disaster prophesied by the purveyors of conventional wisdom. According to Jack, if we get the hell out of there, Al Qaeda will pack up and go back to their caves, the insurgents will lay down their arms and Iran's mullocracy will go quiescent.

So who is right? If we listen to Murtha, will we be wearing burkas? Or will peace and tranquility and prosperity descend upon the land once again? What do you think?

Measure Your Thing with "Measure It"

Do you need to measure your thing? I'm talking about the thing on your screen, not...Never mind. You blog, you have a web site, so you need to measure things. Often when I want to add a widget to my sidebar, I need to decide how big it should be to fit properly within the confines of the space available. To do that, I need to know the dimensions of that space, usually in pixels. Should I use 180x240? Or 336x280? What about 250x250? It can be a quandary. What about when you need to crop a picture so that it blends well with its surroundings? Again, the need to measure things rears its head to stare you in the face and say, "Well?" Up till now, I was left to the embarrassing fallback of trial and error. No one should have to do that.

So now I give you the answer. It's called Measure It, and it's a FireFox (or Flock) extension. The ruler icon sits on your status bar. Simply click it, move your pointer to the top left corner of the object you need to measure, and drag it to the bottom left corner. A ruler appears, along with the numbers that represent the dimensions of the object. Problem solved. You're welcome.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Speed Up Windows XP: 2 Quick Tips

There are so many simple tweaks you can make to your XP installation that will optimize it for better performance that it really is a shame not to take advantage of them. Here I offer you two very easy changes you can do without being an expert.

1. Get Rid of Indexing Services. Windows comes with an application that constantly indexes all the files on your computer, ostensibly for speeding up your searches. In fact, this service is completely unnecessary and wastes a large chunk of your computer's memory. To disable it, do the following: Go to Start; Click Settings, Click Control Panel; Double-click Add/Remove Programs; Click Add/Remove Windows Components; Uncheck the Indexing Services box; Click 'Next'.

2. Speed Up Folder Browsing. Windows XP searches for network folders and printers every time you open Windows Explorer. To fix this and speed up your browsing, do the following: Open My Computer; Click on Tools menu; Click on Folder Options; Click on the View tab; Uncheck the Automatically search for network folders and printers check box; Click Apply; Click Ok; Reboot your computer.

Best of the Best Roundup

In case you missed these the first go round...
  • Dan Simmons' The Terror - "Dan Simmons is a truly amazing author. Stephen King is quoted on the back cover of Dan's latest, "I am in awe of Dan Simmons." So am I."
  • New Left-Leaning Mouse - "If you are a leftie, or know one, you can check out the Logitech MX610 Left-Hand Laser Cordless Mouse. "
  • Make Room for the PowerSquid - "The PowerSquid, which comes in a variety of colors, replaces the old powerstrip."
  • Understand the Middle East in One Awesome Read - "I finished Richard North Patterson's newest book, Exile, last night. What a fabulous read! I don't know why this is, but lately I've been reading novels that inform as well as entertain. And let me tell you, Exile entertains."
  • Home Routers at Risk - "...experts are now warning home router users to make sure they have changed the default password to your router's settings. "

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Planning a Revolution? Use Collectivex to Get it Done!

Planning your revolution just got a lot easier. No matter your outlook or how you want to change things, Collectivex can get you there. (I'm being facetious, folks, take note!) Seriously though, this social networking tool should be used to further the aims of whatever kind of group you need to put together, be it family, friends, a non-profit, or a business. I just formed my own group, which I hope to use to help all its participants achieve their individual aims. It's often true that we can be much more successful in achieving our goals when we have the right people to help us. It's called synergy, and even though the term has been overused, the principle works. Here's what its creator says:
“CollectiveX was born out of my personal frustration. Being involved with several organizations, boards and informal groups, I receive an abundance of meeting and event notices. More often than not, I forget to add them to my calendar. Through these groups, I have also accumulated a large Rolodex of business cards from people I have met on a surface level, but had no time to gain enough knowledge about their backgrounds, interests and contacts to really know them on a deeper level.

CollectiveX was created so that I, and others like me, could stay informed about group related activities and maximize our return on involvement by building deeper working relationships with fellow group members.”

I'll keep you abreast of my network's development and how its members benefit from each other's participation. Give it a try at collectivex.com.

Friday, February 16, 2007

New Blackberry 8800: Thumbwheel out, Trackball In


MSNBC's Gary Krakow reviews the new 8800, which is thinner and more powerful than ever:
It was only a matter of time. When the Research in Motion people came to show me a Pearl a few months ago — they also had a prototype of another phone in its very early stages.

That prototype would borrow some of the innovations in the Pearl and add them to larger phone format. You know which ones I'm talking about —the with full keyboards. The new handset was thinner and lighter than previous “large” bristling with new features.

They did a lot of work to make their new model but apparently didn't spend much time coming up with a name. They called it the Blackberry 8800.

For all you “CrackBerry” addicts I must warn you at the outset that the 8800 is different from any other . It’s the first one without a thumbwheel. The experts at RIM, seeing the success of the Pearl and its little trackball, decided that their new model didn’t need an ancient-style navigation device. Don’t worry; you’ll get used to the new system within an hour.

The 8800 is a quad-band world phone. It runs on the 850/900/1800 and 1900 MHz GSM/GPRS and EDGE networks. In the United States, the 8800 will be first be sold by Cingular Wireless. The big, bright color screen has a built-in light sensor which adjusts the brightness of the screen, keyboard and trackball depending on your surroundings.
Read more...

Your Home Router May be at Risk

If you've got a home router, you should be in a better position, security-wise, than if you don't. That's because your router acts as a firewall to the outside world, in effect hiding your home computers from would-be hackers. While that's still true, experts are now warning home router users to make sure they have changed the default password to your router's settings. When setting up most routers, users are not prompted to change the default password, which is usually something like "admin" or "password." Hackers can now gain entry into your router's settings if you haven't changed this password. I won't go into detail about what they can do if they gain access, but you know it's not good. The moral of this story is, change your default router password. Now!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

RSS Feeds: What they Are and How they Work

You've probably seen this orange button before. I've got one prominently displayed in the sidebar of my blog. But what is it? Clicking on the button on my sidebar will take you to a page where you choose which RSS Feed Reader you prefer to use. There are many different readers to choose from. Let's say you choose Google. Click on the Google button and you'll be taken to the Google Reader page. From now on, the Google Reader page will have a link in the sidebar to the most recent posts on my blog.

A simpler way to subscribe is to click on the "Click here to Subscribe by Email" text at the top right of my blog. You'll enter your email address, and every morning you'll get an email with my most recent post.

Who should subscribe? Everybody! Seriously, if you enjoyed your first visit to my blog, you should subscribe so you won't miss any of my fantastic content. Many people misunderstand, when they read the word "Subscribe," they think of something that you have to pay for. In this case, the word has no such meaning. Subscribing to my blog keeps you informed and costs you nothing.

So now you know. A final word...subscriptions mean regular readers, so obviously I want as many people to subscribe as I can get. So go ahead and click that orange button on my sidebar. You'll be glad you did!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Dress Up Your Desktop with WinStep!


If you don't like computers and hate having to work on yours, perhaps your machine's interface just needs a new look. Windows gets awfully boring awfully quickly. I've been a big fan of the WinStep Full Pack for years now, and they've make their product better and better over that time. With WinStep you can change the look and feel of your desktop interface whenever you want, with a skin that will fit any mood or personality. Above you can see a screenshot of one of their most recent skins. It's a dark one, which you may or may not like, but don't worry because there are light and bright ones too. Once you have the software, the skins are free, so get them in abundance.

To get the WinStep Full Pack, go here.

How to Understand the Middle East by Reading One Awesome Novel

I finished Richard North Patterson's newest book, Exile, last night. What a fabulous read! I don't know why this is, but lately I've been reading novels that inform as well as entertain. And let me tell you, Exile entertains. The ride takes you along as you watch the planning and execution of America's first suicide bombing, and continues as David Wolfe tries to find the designers of the attack in order to save his client from being convicted of this heinous crime. His investigation takes him to Israel, the West Bank, and Lebanon, where he discovers the fears and hatreds that keep the Palestinian/Israeli confict burning white hot.

Please believe me when I tell you that I now have a much better understanding of the continuing conflict between Palestinians and Jews. It is a complicated mess, beset by the dreams and hopes of two peoples who claim the right to live in the same land. I highly recommend you get this book. Click on the graphic below to get it from Amazon.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Move Aside, Powerstrip. Make Room for PowerSquid!

Sometimes a product is released that makes you say, It's about time someone thought of this. I wish it was me! Well, unless you invented the PowerSquid, it wasn't you, so shut up. The PowerSquid, which comes in a variety of colors, replaces the old powerstrip. We all have had problems trying to fit everything into a powerstrip, especially power adapters, those brick-like things that are twice as big as the device they power. They tend to take up 2 or 3 slots on the strip so you end up getting less than you paid for. No more. The squid is designed so you'll never have that problem again. I plan to get a couple myself. You can click the graphic below to get yourself a couple of 'em.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

A Mouse for the Lefties Among Us!

My wife is a leftie. Until now, finding a mouse that been designed just for her left-leaning tendencies has been difficult. People like her have had to either adapt to mice made for normal right-handed folks, or use an ecumenical, somewhat shapeless mouse that fits either hand poorly. Well I've got some good news. If you are a leftie, or know one, you can check out the Logitech MX610 Left-Hand Laser Cordless Mouse. CNet has a very favorable review:
With a black-and-silver color scheme that fits in with most modern computers, the MX610 left-handed laser mouse is shaped so that your hand rests in an upright, neutral position for better ergonomics. Two volume buttons, a mute button, and the e-mail and IM buttons are lined up on top of the mouse, along the right edge; two programmable buttons are placed further down on the side for easy thumb access. The rubbery scrollwheel moves smoothly, providing tactile clicks but no noise. The wheel also tilts left and right, letting you scroll horizontally. There's a small on/off button on the bottom, and the mouse shuts off automatically when the computer shuts down or sleeps. A battery-indicator light on top of the mouse lets you know when you're running low on power.

Click on the graphic to learn more.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Valentines Day: An Opportunity for Virus Mayhem

Computer experts are warning the public to keep an eye out for worm-laden Valentine's Day email messages. Social engineering is often used to fool unwary computer users into opening malign emails during special occasions like the upcoming Valentine's Day. You think you've received someone's romantic or love-besotted message to you, so you open it without thinking, and then it's too late. Your machine is infected with a worm that assimilates it into a bot-net army that spews out spam and more copies of the worm. Be forewarned and forearmed. If people want to send you a Valentine's Day message, let them do it the old fashioned way. It'll mean more.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Do Your Taxes & eFile...Free!

I've had an accountant do my taxes for many years. I began using an accountant because I was living and working in a foreign country and the issues were beyond my ken. This year, I'm going to try doing it myself. (My accountant is also a friend who might read this. I hope he's not going to be upset with me. Who knows, I may go crawling back to him if it gets too messy or troublesome.)

Of course the only reason to do it myself is to save a few simoleons. So I find that there are several varieties of free tax prep software and webware on offer. For a review of what's available for free on the IRS site, visit here. (You have to have had an adjusted gross income of below $52,000 to qualify for these, apparently. I think I might have squeaked past that, so I moved on.)

I ended up downloading TaxAct's free version. I'll give it a whirl and see how it serves. Good luck with your taxes!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Yet Another Cool Browser

PC World has a very interesting article on the amazing changes taking place on the web and with browsers. Take a listen:
"Browser." once upon a time, that was a logical moniker for the applications we use to navigate the Web. In 2007, it's pitifully inadequate. Sure, we still browse. But the same software lets us talk to the world, share stuff of all kinds...even crunch numbers and process words.
They're right. Browsers now seem to do so much more than simply take us around the Internet. This article introduces a browser I'd never heard of called K-Meleon. Get it? Give it a whirl and see if you like it. Different browsers are good at different things, so it makes sense to have a handful of them, each with its own special something. Some of the features of K-Meleon are:
Choose Your Desired Bookmarking System

K-Meleon is the only browser that allows you to use your existing Internet Explorer Favorites or Opera Hotlist in place of or along with Netscape/Mozilla's Bookmarks system.

"Tabbed" Browsing

Through the layers plugin, K-Meleon offers a convenient way to manage the many sites you may visit during a browsing session. Commonly known as "tabbed" browsing, this feature allows you to keep multiple web pages open simultaneously, navigating easily between them by clicking on each page's "tab" located beside the others on a separate toolbar within the browser. This can be quite helpful when doing extensive web search as it eliminates the need to go back or forward repeatedly to find a previously viewed page. If you wish to have other applications running, this feature will provide a less cluttered Windows task bar.

Mouse Gestures

Introduced and popularized by Opera, mouse gestures are now a common staple among alternative browsers. Through the mouse gestures plugin, K-Meleon offers a quick, easy way to navigate the web by right-clicking on a page while sliding your mouse left or right to go back or forward. Like all of K-Meleon's other features, the mouse gestures plugin is very customizable and allows initiation of almost all commands and macros.

Complete Toolbar, Menu, Context Menu, & Keyboard Shortcut Customization

One of the defining characteristics of K-Meleon is its extensive user customization feature. You can easily revamp your main menu and context menus by deleting or adding the items of your choice, access any function from your toolbar or assign any keyboard shortcut to any function. There is no need to extract and compile jar files or download various different extensions which may add other unwanted items to a desired feature.

Block Popup Windows

A hazard of browsing the web is the annoying popup window advertisement. K-Meleon comes equipped with a Popup Blocking feature that blocks these popups and also allows you to quickly enable popups at a particular site.

Fast Load Time

The time it takes for K-Meleon to open from when you click its application icon is the fastest of any Gecko based browser. There is even a symbiotic loader to further reduce start time for older, slower PCs.

Easy Web Searching

Click on the Search button in your toolbar to enter items to search for with Google. By default the keyboard shortcut to view the search prompt is Ctrl+G. This, of course, can easily be changed along with the search engine. K-Meleon also supports searching directly from the URL bar with support for Mozilla keywords and Microsoft Quick Search.

Themes & Skins

K-Meleon is one of the simplest browsers to skin and all of its images can be changed to your liking. Visit the TutorialSkinning Guide for instructions. Various user contributed Themes and Skins are available for download.

Macros

K-Meleon's unique macros plugin greatly expands its features and capabilities. Take a look at just some of the many examples in the MacroLibrary. Once you gain a better understanding of the MacroLanguage you can customize the macros to your liking or submit new macros of your own.

Get it here.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Internet Out? Other Stuff You Can Do

One of the best time management tips I know of is this: When you can't make progress in one thing, do something else. As happens to all of us from time to time, we get temporarily stymied in our attempts to make progress on a particular project. Maybe we have to wait on someone to complete a step before we can move on. The details don't really matter. What matters is that we don't use that as an excuse to sit around wasting time. (OK, if the wait is only a matter of 5 minutes, it might be a good time to take a break.) For those of us who need the internet to do a lot of our work, a loss of connection can be a real blow to the solar plexus, or even lower. What can we do to make good use of that potentally lost time? Speaking Freely has some great suggestions.
1. Clean out and categorize your bookmarks. I don’t know about you, but I tend to just click ‘bookmark this page’ and call it good. Yesterday, when I hit the little ‘down arrow’ on Firefox to let the bookmark list scroll down I counted. Not sites, but seconds. 11 seconds worth of scrolling bookmarks is way too many. If you haven’t visited a site in a month it’s not important.

Create categories and organize the list of bookmarks after you’ve eliminated all those links you don’t need. Do not create a miscellaneous category. Catch-all categories do exactly that and soon become difficult to use.

2. Delete programs you don’t use. Why delete them when you have plenty of space on the drive? Because it makes things like Scandisk and Defrag run faster. It might not make your PC run any smoother, but you’ll feel good knowing you aren’t wasting space.

3. Unplug your PC, take the cover off and clean out the dust. Invest in some canned air. Heat is a PC’s enemy and even in a clean environment, cooling fans suck dust through every opening and it builds up fast. If you have pets, do it once a month. I cleaned out enough dust to build a rabbit hutch to keep all the dust bunnies in.

4. Write your next blog post. If you use a blog client like BlogDesk just write and save. If not, write to a text file and format it after your connection is live. Not being connected may force you to write about something different, like say, five things to do when you have no Internet connection.

5. Run any maintenance programs you don’t have auto-scheduled. Reclaim your drive space and allow your PC to run smoother.

And now for number six, the bonus item. This is something I put off for a long time because it’s time consuming and no one really likes to think about what happens to the ones we love should something happen to us. You may need connectivity to accomplish this one, which is why the title isn’t six things to do with a PC when you have no Internet connection, but this one is important.

6. Write down your logins and passwords for all your sites, blogs, email accounts, Adsense, affiliate programs, where you purchased your domain names, etc. All that information is the key to your business. If something should happen to you your spouse or significant other will need that information.

When you’re done, put the information in a safety deposit box or keep it in a fire resistant safe at the house and let the people that may need that information know where it is kept.

Have a Web Site? Use Skype? Grab a Skype Button!

More and more people are using Skype (a system that allows phone calls via the Internet) as a primary means of communication, whether for business or pleasure. Also, more and more folks have at least one web site or blog. Why not combine the two by placing a "Call Me" Skype button on your web site? In my quest to increase my blogs' readerships, I think it would be great to provide an easy means for readers to give me a Skype call. Perhaps I'm being naive and I'll either get no calls or calls from strangeoids. But if you've got friends who visit your site and want to ease their means of calling you, this could be just what the physician prescribed. You can get your free Skype account here, and your button or balloon here.


Skype Me™!

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Today's Giveaway of the Day: Post2Blog!

12 reasons to use Post2Blog 2:

  • WYSIWYG (what-you-see-is-what-you-get) editor with complete hot-keys support;

  • Built-in "Live" spellchecking;

  • "Portable Mode" support;

  • Images are uploaded automatically (supported uploading types: Flickr, file area of your blog, imageshack.us, picturelli.com, custom FTP server);

  • Post text and/or images from Firefox or Internet Explorer to your blog with 2 clicks only using plugins for Firefox and Internet Explorer;

  • Compose new posts in MS Word and post them to your blog using Post2Blog toolbar for MS Word;

  • Integration with RSS Bandit (rssbandit.org) and Sharp Reader (sharpreader.net) - you can post selected items from these RSS readers using Post2Blog plugin;

  • Post files, images, documents from Explorer or any other program using "Send To -> Post2Blog" command;

  • Add Technorati, Del.icio.us, Buzzwords, 43 Things tags to your posts;

  • Automatically send trackbacks, ping web-services to notify about updates in your blogs;

  • Earn money using "Insert Amazon Link" feature;

  • Use built-in smiles for use in your blog;
Click here to get it!

ALZip: A Freeware Zip Utitlty

ALZipALZip is a one-stop archiving and compression program designed for speed and ease of use. Beginners can easily perform advanced tasks, while power users can do things faster. With support for more compression and archiving formats than any other major utility, ALZip is the only ZIP utility you’ll ever need. You can open 36 archive and compression file formats, open CD image files (ISO, BIN), open virtual CD files (LCD), create 8 archive and compression file formats, create self-extracting files (EXE), split files for easy transfers, recover lost passwords from ZIP files, integrate antivirus software, automate tasks with ALZip command-line functions, and get more done faster. The ALTools family of free PC utilities share the same cute Egghead characters, are a fun addition to any computer, are ideal for children, and powerful enough for IT pros.

Version 6.7 adds cuter Windows Vista style icons, stronger command line functionality, as well as other minor improvements.

Get your copy here.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Especially for Listophiles: Ta-Da Lists!

I think you know who you are. You really really really love to make lists. Lists of anything. It doesn't matter what. You will make lists of what you got for every birthday you ever had, all your boyfriends or girlfriends, and every single person you ever kissed. You certainly make lists of things to do, and you check off every item as soon as it's completed. This web app is for you. You can make lists of lists, and you can even share your lists if you want to. Wow!

What about if you aren't a listophile? What if you just need a place to make a list that's accessible to you everywhere there's a computer? What if you're planning something with other people that makes a list necessary? Yes, you too can use this web app. Ta-Da Lists makes it easy to:
  • Keep track of all the little things you need to get done
  • Make lists for other people (co-workers, friends, family)
  • Share lists with the world ("My favorite movies of 2004")
  • Subscribe to your lists in RSS so you're always on track
Click here to visit and see if it can meet all your list-making needs.

Phix Your Photos Online

Here's a sweet online photo-fixer that will come in handy when you are away from your own photo-fixing applications. Come to think of it, this will come in handy even when you're home. Not only will it help you enhance your photos, it will also let you import and export photos to and from several different photo storage sites like flickr, fotopic, livejournal, photobucket, fotolog.com, buzznet and dropshots. You can email photos to Phixr via your phone if you want. Here's a bit of exlanation from the Phixr site:

Let's pretend you are on vacation. Feels good, doesn't it.

Now, let's also assume that you are at some internet cafe in a country far from home and want to email the photos you've just taken with your digital camera to your friends and family at home to share the unique experience.

There is only one problem. These photo files are huge. And a nice border around the photo would be nice, apart from some color adjustments. .... Too bad.. this computer doesn't have any image editor installed.

That's just one situation where phixr comes handy! Another typical case are computers in schools or companies where users are not able or not permitted to install software.

Check it out here.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Dan Simmons: The Terror

Dan Simmons is a truly amazing author. Stephen King is quoted on the back cover of Dan's latest, "I am in awe of Dan Simmons." So am I. I just finished The Terror, which was 769 pages of astonishing depth and sphincter clenching suspense. The length of the book may be intimidating, but I found it very difficult to put it down, resulting in several nights of staying up way past my usual bedtime. The book is based on the Sir John Franklin expedition in search of the Northwest Passage, but it is in no way a dreary historical book. It is fiction of the most compelling kind, creepy, moving, horrible, and humorous. Simmons pulls no punches in his descriptions of what these men did to survive. I will say no more, except that the ending was the kind that leaves you fully satisfied, as if after a bountiful and delicious meal. Click on the link below to find out more about Dan Simmons' The Terror.

The Terror
The Terror

Bloggers: Get Your Blidgets Here!


Blidget = Blog + Widget. If you've got a blog and want to create a widget from it, this is the place to go: Widgetbox. Create widgets of your blogs, then set up a widget panel. When you place the panel on your web site it will show your widgets. The key feature of this platform is its incredible ease of use. Click on the widgetbox button on my sidebar to see a widget of this blog, created on widgetbox. Visit widgetbox.com to learn more.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Unrealisitic Computer Scenes in the Movies

useit.com brings us the top ten "bloopers" from computer scenes in the movies...

1. The Hero Can Immediately Use Any UI

Break into a company -- possibly in a foreign country or on an alien planet -- and step up to the computer. How long does it take you to figure out the UI and use the new applications for the first time? Less than a minute if you're a movie star.

The fact that all user interfaces are walk-up-and-use is probably the single most unrealistic aspect of how movies depict computers. In reality, we know all too well that even the smartest users have plenty of problems using even the best designs, let alone the degraded usability typically found in in-house MIS systems or industrial control rooms.

2. Time Travelers Can Use Current Designs

An even worse flaw is the assumption that time travelers from the past could use today's computer systems. In fact, they'd have no conception of any of modern technology's basic concepts, and so would be dramatically more stumped than the novice users we observe in user testing. Even someone who's never used Excel at least understands the general idea of computers and screens.

You might think that people coming from the future would have an easier time using our current systems, given their supposedly superior knowledge. Not true. Like our travelers from the past, they'd lack the conceptual model needed to make sense of the display options. For example, someone who's never seen a command line or typed a command would have a much harder time using DOS than someone who grew up in the DOS era.

If you were transported back in time to the Napoleonic wars and made captain of a British frigate, you'd have no clue how to sail the ship: You couldn't use a sextant and you wouldn't know the names of the different sails, so you couldn't order the sailors to rig the masts appropriately. However, even our sailing case would be easier than someone from the year 2207 having to operate a current computer: sailing ships are still around, and you likely know some of the basic concepts from watching pirate movies. In contrast, it's highly unlikely that anyone from 2207 would have ever seen Windows Vista screens.

3. The 3D UI

In Minority Report, the characters operate a complex information space by gesturing wildly in the space in front of their screens. As Tog found when filming Starfire, it's very tiring to keep your arms in the air while using a computer. Gestures do have their place, but not as the primary user interface for office systems.

Many user interfaces designed for the movies feature gestural input and 3D data visualizations. Immersive environments and fly-through navigation look good, and allow for more dramatic interaction than clicking on a linear list of 10 items. But, despite being a staple of computer conference demos for decades, 3D almost never makes it into shipping products. The reason? 2D works better than 3D for the vast majority of practical things that users want to do.

3D is for demos. 2D is for work.

4. Integration is Easy, Data Interoperates

In movieland, users have no trouble connecting different computer systems. Macintosh users live in a world of PCs without ever noticing it (and there were disproportionally more Macs than PCs in films a decade ago, when Apple had the bigger product-placement budget).

In the show 24, Jack Bauer calls his office to get plans and schematics for various buildings. Once these files have been transferred from outside sources to the agency's mainframe, Jack asks to have them downloaded to his PDA. And -- miracle of miracles -- the files are readable without any workarounds. (And download is far faster than is currently possible on the U.S.'s miserable mobile networks.)

5. Access Denied / Access Granted

Countless scenes involve unauthorized access to some system. Invariably, several passwords are tried, resulting in a giant "Access Denied" dialog box. Finally, a few seconds before disaster strikes, the hero enters the correct password and is greeted by an equally huge "Access Granted" dialog box.

A better user interface would proceed directly to the application's home screen as soon as the user has correctly logged in. After all, you design for authorized users. There's no reason to delay them with a special confirmation that yes, they did indeed enter their own passwords correctly.

6. Big Fonts

In addition to the immense font used for "Access Denied" messages, most computer screens in the movies feature big, easily readable text. In real life, users often suffer under tiny text and websites that add insult to injury by not letting users resize the words.

Large text is an obvious concession to the viewing experience: moviegoers must be able to see what's on the screen. Still, enlarging the information that much makes for an unrealistic UI.

7. Star Trek's Talking Computer

The voice-operated computer in Star Trek is an even more egregious example of designing an audience interface rather than a user interface. Spoken commands and spoken responses make it easy for the audience to follow the action, but it's a very inefficient way of controlling a complex system.

In predictions about computing's future, voice interaction is a perennial favorite -- it probably even beats 3D, which is the other top contender for most over-hyped UI technology. While voice has its place, it's even less suitable than 3D for most everyday interactions because it's a less data-rich channel and it's harder to specify something in words than to choose it on a graphical display.

8. Remote Manipulators (Waldo Controls)

In Tomorrow Never Dies, James Bond drives his BMW from the back seat with an Ericsson mobile phone that works as the car's remote control. And 007 drives fast, while also evading bad guys.

In practice, there's a reason we use steering wheels to drive cars instead of joysticks, touchpads, or push-buttons. The steering wheel is an excellent input device for fast and accurate specification of directionality.

Many other films feature other types of remote control, which always work with high speed and accuracy despite input devices that are suboptimal for the task. Designing good input devices is a tricky human factors problem, and you can't substitute devices willy-nilly and retain the same performance. A foot pedal, for example, is not as good as a mouse for text editing, because you can't move your legs as accurately as your hands and fingers.

9. You've Got Mail is Always Good News

In the movies, checking your mail is a matter of picking out the one or two messages that are important to the plot. No information pollution or swamp of spam. No ever-changing client requests in the face of impending deadlines. And you never overlook information because a message's subject line violated the email usability guidelines.

10. "This is Unix, It's Easy"

In the film Jurassic Park, a 12-year-old girl has to use the park's security system to keep everyone from being eaten by dinosaurs. She walks up to the control terminal and utters the immortal words, "This is a Unix system. I know this." And proceeds to (temporarily) save the day.

Leaving aside the plausibility of a 12-year-old knowing Unix, simply knowing Unix is not enough to immediately use any application running on the system. Yes, she could probably have used vi on the security terminal. But the specialized security system would have required some learning time -- significant learning time if it were built on Unix, which has notoriously inconsistent user interface design and thus makes it harder to transfer skills from one application to the next.

*And what about Harisson Ford hooking up a piece from an old fax machine to his phone to read code from a scrolling screen in the movie Firewall? I thought that was a gargantuan load of crap, but hey, I'm no expert.

Best of the Best Weekly Roundup

In case you missed any of this week's best posts...

Insert Special Characters with Alt-Codes
"If keyboards held all the keys we'd ever need, they'd be enormous. So they're a managable size, but what do you do when you need to type a character that's nowhere in sight?"

FastStone Image Viewer
"FastStone Image Viewer is a fast, stable, user-friendly image browser, converter and editor. It has a nice array of features that include image viewing, management, comparison, red-eye removal, emailing, resizing, cropping and color adjustments."

McAfee SiteAdvisor: One of the Best Firefox Add-Ons
"McAfee SiteAdvisor warns you before you interact with a dangerous Web site. "

Friday, February 02, 2007

10 Signs you've been using Firefox too long...

1. You sit right next to a window but you still just look at your ForecastFox icon to see what it's like outside.

2. You fumble with the TV remote for a minute before remembering that you can't open another channel in a new tab.

3. Everybody else says "Google it" now, but in addition you can also Yahoo it, Wiki it, and eBay it.

4. Your sole measure of a celebrity's popularity is whether they appear on Stumble-Upon.

5. You have to think hard to remember what a pop-up or a banner ad looks like.

6. You think Debian should have backed down on the whole Iceweasel thing.

7. Your distaste for Internet Explorer has branched into an irrational phobia of the letter 'e'.

8. You message your spouse through ChatZilla to find out what's for dinner instead of just going upstairs.

9. A web page without CSS looks naked to you.

10. Your spelling used to be terrible until version 2.0 came out.

(Thanks to Penguin Pete for this hilarious list. It fits me perfectly.)

Why Can't I Have This????

When I grow up, I want a computer setup like Stefan's. Stefan Didak's home office is a wonder to behold. If you visit his site and read the specs on his systems, you just may find yourself becoming filled with envy. I have provided comparison photos of Stefan's desktop and my own. See if you can tell which is which.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Metal Storm: Weapon of the Future, Today

I really don't have a category for this post, so I'll have to start a new one. Naw, I'll wedge it in the Science category. I think this thing is so cool. This "thing" is a weapons system developed in Australia called Metal Storm. What makes it revolutionary (keep in mind that there hasn't been any significant change in gun design in a very long time) is that the projectiles are fired electronically, not by a firing pin. Each projectile carries its own propellant. This means that the rounds can be stacked, in effect pre-loaded, into the gun barrels. I said barrels, not barrel, because these weapons can have several barrels, each pre-loaded with multiple projectiles which can be fired in ultra-rapid, sequential order. Here's a bit more about the system:
  • electronically programmable rates of fire from single shots to ultra-rapid rates;
  • no moving parts, resulting in increased reliability and availability because there is less maintenance required and decreased possibility of malfunction;
  • increased firepower to weight ratio resulting in a lighter weapon with greater firepower compared to conventional weapons;
  • modular pods that could operate as a complete weapon system in one container;
  • 100% electronic operation;
  • the potential of grouping of multiple calibers and multiple lethalities in one gun allowing the user to vary the use to a specific situation;
  • numerous hybrid configurations and Special Forces applications that could result in enhanced capabilities for use behind enemy lines; and
  • fast second round strike capability before recoil effect.
Check out these photos if you don't believe me. My only question is, why aren't we (the U.S. miltary) already using these things? If you know the answer, please educate me.




McAfee SiteAdvisor: One of the Best Firefox Add-Ons

One of the most helpful Firefox add-ons I've run across and used is called McAfee SiteAdvisor. Here's why:
  • McAfee SiteAdvisor warns you before you interact with a dangerous Web site. Traditional security products focus on trying to clean up problems after they occur.
  • McAfee SiteAdvisor also complements and enhances your existing security software by detecting threats which traditional security products often miss, including spyware attacks, online scams, and sites that spam you.
The SiteAdvisor button sits in the status bar of your Firefox browser. Depending on the site you are currently on, it will be either green, grey, or red. You can figure out what the colors mean. If you want to find out why they rate a site dangerous, just click on the button. This will take you to the McAfee web page where an explanation of the rating can be found.

Another excellent feature shows up when you do a search engine search. Beside each result will be a small icon, again with the different colors. This is especially helpful because it lets you know which sites that come up in your results are safe and which are not.

If this sounds good to you, you can get the add-on here. If not, well good luck with that.