Archive for October, 2008

A survey with no reward? (or, Am I a bad person?)

Received an email from VeriSign today.  They would like me to take 5 or 10 minutes to complete an online survey because my “opinion is extremely valuable” to them.

I’m sure it is.


Actually, I’m ruined now, because a few vendors have offered Starbucks cards or other rewards in return for taking their survey.  You know what?  I *totally* went for those surveys.  Now when emails like this come in, I do a quick visual scan to see “what’s in it for me”, and then promptly delete it if there’s no reward.

Does that make me a greedy jerk?

Probably. 😉


Thanks, Intuit…

Contacting Intuit – the makers of Quickbooks – for some support today.  Thankfully, their support contact page details *exactly* which phone number to use when!


Got it.  Thanks, guys!

Pet peeve: caulking curved things

We’ve been remodeling our main bathroom for about…oh…’forever’ now, I think.  It never ends!  Made some good headway this past Saturday, however, when I finally installed our two sinks, faucets, water lines, and ran the drains.  Guess what?  It all works and doesn’t leak!

What I don’t like?  Caulking around the curved sinks.  The green-tiled countertop looks great, the white sinks are purty, and the faucets are just about perfect.  What better way to complete the project than with a poorly run bead of white caulk around each of the sinks?  Honestly, that part of the project appears to be beyond my skill-set.  😦

I’ll have to post a picture…

Limit 1000 per customer

Just another example of the “man” holding back us little folk…


I’ll take my business elsewhere, NewEgg!


Getting to know you, Live Mesh

Earlier this year, Microsoft introduced a service called “Live Mesh”, which is part of their continuing ‘cloud-computing’ initiative(s).  Although the Live Mesh service is still technically a tech preview, it’s clear that they want folks using it. 

My initial read on the Live Mesh initiative was from Paul Thurrott’s SuperSite for Windows – one of my regular reads.  I have to admin, though: I didn’t “get it”.  I trust Paul’s judgment, though, so I decided to give it a spin for myself.

I was primarily sucked in by the ability to sync files between my home and work computers – clearly the biggest use case for this service.  I have a great number of files/folders that I’m constantly trying to maintain between these two worlds, and it gets out-of-sync very quickly.  Where’s the Word doc I was working on?  Oh, yeah – it’s at home.  Then I would call home and have my wife email the file to me.  Great!  Except that now I have a *more recent version* of that file on my work box, instead of at home. 

So on and so forth.

Installing Live Mesh is pretty straight-forward, assuming that you have a 32-bit Windows Vista or Windows XP machine – the majority of the computing world.  A small icon appears in your sys-tray, and you’re ready to go.  At this point, you can right-click on file or folder to “Add to a Live Mesh folder”, which will suck those contents up into the secure “cloud” where your data will live.  You can then access that data from your PC or via the website – so it’s really available anywhere you have an Internet-accessible PC.  Even better, you can install Live Mesh on a 2nd PC – say your home computer – and have those same folders “sync” to that box as well.  You can change the sync options, of course, since you may *NOT* want all folders/files syncing to every device that you use, but that’s really up to you and how you plan on using it.


So… I now have Live Mesh installed at work and at home.  I have (4) folders that I am syncing between the two computers, and that sync is performed immediately.  (Note: my “Home” computer has a red X because it was physically turned off at the time of this screenshot.)  The Mesh-enabled folders change to a shiny-blue icon, which let’s you know that it’s activated.


Also, those folders spawn an interesting sidebar that let’s you see the “history” of that folder – syncing, added files, deleted files, etc. – as well as meshSidebar other devices in your mesh, and additional folder “members” that you may or may not have added.  Members?  HUH??  This is pretty cool, actually.  I can create a folder, add it to my mesh, and then “share” that folder out to others – perhaps many others.  Imagine working on a project with a friend, and having a shared, constantly updateable folder to hold your files.  What about those relatives that *always* want the latest photos of the kids?  Put ‘em in a folder and share it out.

Pretty cool stuff, actually.

Another handy feature is the ability to “remote desktop” to any of the PCs in your Live Mesh.  Connect to that computer as if you’re sitting in front of it!  I’ve had this ability for years via the built-in Remote Desktop capability of Windows Server, XP, Vista, and so on – or via 3rd party offerings like GoToMyPC, LogMeIn, VNC and other – but having the “remote desktop” feature combined with something I’m already using is a good thing.

Now, let’s see a run-down of what I like and don’t like (thus far).

What I Like

First of all, I like the fact that Live Mesh is free.  If I had to pay for it, well… I never would’ve tried it out.  Would I pay for it in the future?  Perhaps – if the price point is right. 

Secondly, the ability to sync files between devices without having to think about it is really great.  Whether I’m at home, at work, or away at another computer altogether, I can get access to the *most current version* of my important files.  Nice!

Thirdly, sharing folders with other users (members) is really quite cool.  I confess: I’m not using this feature just yet, but I plan to in the very near future.

Lastly, built-in remote desktop capability is icing on the cake.  This feature didn’t make or break it for me, but it’s super-nice to have.  In fact, I’m finally connecting remotely to my home computer, since this feature is built-in.  I could’ve set that up with other products, but I honestly just never got around to it… until now!

What I Don’t Like (thus far)

It seems like Live Mesh wants to always use my desktop for new folders.  I like to keep things organized, and having an ever-growing collection of blue folders on my desktop doesn’t excite me.  I would prefer a different “default” location – perhaps I can change this – or a wizard that prompts me for where to store this folder.  You can move folders to other locations, but I don’t entirely have that process down, and it seems a bit cumbersome.  This area needs some work.

Speaking of organization, I tend to “keep things where I keep things”, and it was a stretch for me introduce a new filing system with the Live Mesh way of doing things. 

Let me explain. 

I have a folder of stuff that I use for items associated with my church – Word docs, graphics, Corel files, “archived” files, and so forth.  Having some of those files available to me at work would be *great*, but I don’t want all of them.  What should I do?  Have two folders for church stuff – one in the “mesh” and one local only?  In this case, that would’ve included an extra 1.2gigs worth of stuff that I *don’t* need access to all the time.  It can be perplexing to figure out a different organizational system when you’re introducing something like this.  I feel pretty content with how I’ve moved things around now, but it took some time for me to arrive at a good, organizational setup.

From here…

I’m going to continue to use Live Mesh in my daily life.  It really is well-worth having, and it has solved an issue that I’ve been wrestling with for years: file syncing between work spaces.  Also, I believe that they are planning a Live Mesh installer for Windows Mobile phones, which would be awesome, and it would solve the file syncing issue that I have there as well, since I carry a few dozen Word and Excel files with me on my phone.

All in all, I recommend looking into it if any of these issues crop up in your life.  Live Mesh is a good solution to a problem that many folks don’t know they have, and this offering is only going to get better.

My $.02

Hilarious! The RRoD pumpkin!!

(thanks, Paul.)

Wacky green check marks on my file icons

I came home to “computer woes” yesterday evening.  Certainly my favorite thing after a long day of working on computers is to then work on my home computer.

I jest, of course.

Anyhow, our Vista machine — which is typically rock-solid — was no longer booting into the OS.  Before booting Windows at all, however, the box was giving some memory errors, which led me to take a gander at the RAM we have installed — (4) 512mb sticks.  This particular box needs the RAM installed in pairs, so I yanked out the first pair, booted, received the same errors, yanked the second set of RAM, replaced the original set, booted again, and all was well.  Booted in Windows, tinkered around, turned the machine off again, and tried the “bad” sticks of RAM once again.  The errors returned, so it appears that I’ve found the culprit.  Groovy.  For $25 at NewEgg, I can purchase a replacement gig of RAM and be done with it.

iconsWithGreenChecks Back at the desktop, I notice something strange: green check marks on the corner of many of my files – and typically Word docs, PDF files, etc..  What’s that all about?  Now I’m really irritated, and I want to get to the bottom of this.

This day in age, “searching” is your friend, and I’m surprised at 1) how often folks don’t do this, and 2) how truly poor some folks are at using a search engine.  Heck, even I fall prey to this sometimes as my friend Swannman totally schooled me by quickly finding info that I couldn’t find.  (Check the “comments” section!)

A quick bit of searching on Google pointed me to a *potential* issue with Mozy, the home/online backup service that we use.  I don’t know how (or why) anything would’ve changed, but it may be that Mozy was running (backing up our data) when our computer tanked.  Who knows.

So… I opened Mozy and clicked the “configure” button…


…then I selected the Options tab…


…and finally checked the ‘Disable Icon Overlays in Windows Explorer’ option.


Voila!  No more annoying, green check marks.


Sweet, sweet nectar.

Well no wonder…

Several months back, I had searched the Zune Marketplace for an obscure Robert Smith (of “the Cure”) side-project called ‘The Glove’.  I couldn’t find it, and I wasn’t that surprised, to be honest.  A few days ago, however, I was on a musical rabbit-trail that led me to Siouxsie & The Banshees.  Related to Siouxsie was an artist/producer named Mike Hedges, whom I remembered from some Cure material.  I clicked on him and found a wacky reference to a project called “G Lov E – Blue Sunshine”.  Wha??  I recognized ‘Blue Sunshine’ immediately as the name of the side-project album from ‘The Glove’.  I found the album that I was looking for, but under the artist/band name “G Lov E”. 


Confused yet?  I was.  It didn’t make much sense to me until I clicked on the MixView for the album and saw “related artists” like Was Not Was – an older R&B type group from the 80s.

Anyhow, I’m not sure how these things happen, but somehow the band name ‘The Glove’ got filed under some 90s artist ‘G Lov E’, which obviously spells out “glove” when smooshed together.  Even better, I’m not sure how to contact the Zune folks and let ‘em know.  I am happy to have found this album again, however, and it was easy enough to download and *fix* the incorrect info myself. 

Happy day! 😀

“Instant On” for Windows – irrelevant now?

Cnet posted an article today regarding a recent survey from Microsoft where they mull the idea of an “Instant On” version of Windows.  The concept has been around for awhile now, but hasn’t made a lot of strides in the PC market until recently, as Asus introduced the “SplashTop” OS into their EeePC line of netbooks.  The idea is pretty simple: a lightweight and very simple operating system sits between the BIOS and the full-blown OS (Linux distro, Windows, etc.) on your laptop/desktop machine.  That lightweight OS starts in a matter of a few seconds, and allows you access to a basic Internet browser, email client, instant messaging clients, and perhaps a few other tools.


A novel concept, no?  I can only wonder, though, if the time for an “Instant ON” OS has really come and gone. 

Here me out.

I can only speak for my own personal use-cases, of course, but having quick access to the web, email, and instant messaging is really handled by my mobile phone these days.  Ask an iPhone user (or anyone with a *modern* mobile phone) and they will likely tell you that they already get access to the Internet from their phone.  It’s small, lightweight, relatively fast, and (almost) always with them.  Need a movie showtime schedule?  I grab my phone.  Need quick directions?  Same.  Fire off a quick email (or check my messages)?  I grab my phone, not a laptop.  Otherwise, when I sit down at my computer, I’m typically wanting access to all of the applications that I’m use to having – full-capability browser, photo editing program, music manager, office apps, all my files, and so on.

Don’t get me wrong: having a netbook-sized device with an Instant On OS isn’t useless, but it’s not nearly as handy now as it would’ve been about 3 years ago — *before* most mobile phones had decent Internet/email capability.  At this point, though, I think that most folks will opt to use the device that’s in their pocket or purse, rather than grab a laptop or netbook.

For those reasons, I think that Microsoft would be wasting it’s time developing an Instant On operating system.  Rather, spend that money, time and energy working on better power management in Windows (“hibernate” is great!), and get the next version of Windows Mobile to market ASAP.

My $.02

Now Playing: October 2008

I have to say that my recent subscription to the Zune Pass “subscription”-based service has really opened my library – and tastes – to a whole new arena of music.  I like polka now!

Here are some albums/artists that I’m really enjoying right now…

  • Cold War Kids, “Robbers & Cowards”
  • Starflyer 59, “Old” (or most any recent album of theirs)
  • Rosie Thomas, “If Songs Could Be Held”
  • Damien Jurado, “Caught In The Trees”
  • Clinic, “Do It”
  • The Verve, “A Storm In Heaven”

All really good stuff.