Trying to Twitter

Posted on March 10th, 2008 in General, Internet & Networking, News & Updates | No Comments »

As I have oft pointed out, I don’t do most of the social networks out there, at least I don’t do them well apparently 😉 But recently I have started delving into the world of Twitter. So good, bad, or indifferent you can follow me now at

Good Cheap Hardware, the Wisdom of a Child and Wireless Woes

Posted on March 3rd, 2008 in Business & Industry, Linux/Unix, Windows | No Comments »

As a parent of three teenagers it seams like every time I turn around I’m paying for something, couple this with the fact I’m turning into a real miser these days – and I’m all for any bargain I can find! With this in mind, it was less then thrilling when my son came begging for a new notebook for his birthday, but after a couple of weeks of working mom and myself over, we succumbed to the pressure, and off to the Best Buy we went.

Good Greif that’s Cheap!

Sometimes a good slap in the face is what a jaded IT guy like myself needs, and the trip to a big box retailer to purchase a prebuilt system, rather then the Fry’s do it yourself approach, was indeed enlightening. Illuminating that is, as to just how clueless the average retail sales guy is; but he was efficient enough to take my money and get us out of the store with a shiny new HP/Compaq. It was a Compaq Presario C751NR to be exact, with decent specs – AMD X2 Mobile chip, 1 Gig of Ram, and an ample 120 GB HD. But the shocker – Out the door under $500!

Just Say No – to Vista that is

On the drive home my son began to question which OS he should run on the new system. Of course it was preloaded with some Vista Home Shit edition, and I suggested that we reload it; figuring on a version of XP Pro. He heartily agreed, say that he (my non-geek son) had heard nothing but bad things about Vista. But he shocked me when he asked, ”Dad, I want that cool looking one you run, what’s it called… Ubeny?” I grinned on both the inside and out, as I corrected him, Ubuntu, to which quickly agreed that was the one he wanted, as it, “Just looks so cool!”

What the Duce? Wireless always just works…

Now at home the hard drive wiped of the vile interloper, Vista, we quickly loaded Gutsy, Ubuntu 7.10 (possibly the most gorgeous release of any distro, I’ve ever used.) Install was uneventful and all the hardware was detected on this very new model notebook, but no WiFi. Not that the Atheros nic was not detected – it appeared in the Restricted Drivers – but just didn’t work. However, after about an hour of searching around on Ubuntuforums I did find a solution (Click here if you are interested.) This was a bit surprising though as device detection has been on of Ubuntu’s strong points.

All and all this has been a Win/Win/Win. Junior has his new notebook and is happy, I got out of the deal relatively unscathed in the pocket book, and perhaps best of all there is one less system out there running Vista.

One SPAMtop per Child: Raise of the affordable Subnotebooks

Posted on February 21st, 2008 in Business & Industry, Gadgets, Linux/Unix, Windows | No Comments »

Thanks to the OLPC initiative’s XO device rolling out to emerging markets, you can look forward to some changes on your desktop even if you never own one yourself.

The Good, The Bad and the Slender?

There is no doubt that getting technology into the hands of impoverished, and developing youths in these markets will empower a new generation to strive for a prosperity that families and whole villages have never know – that’s certainly good. But while this technology is inherently neutral, these new found skills and tools will present individuals with the opportunity to employ them for positive or nefarious purposes!

“The lure of easy money has a very strong appeal”, Glenn Frey mused in the 80’s classic, Smugglers Blues. And while the illicit activity might be different, in the case of these SPAMtop syndicates compared to that of the crime lords on Miami Vice, the motive to exploit hapless users is strikingly similar. Armed with new found knowledge, computing power, free time and an untraceable “mess” internet connection, just mix in some abject poverty, lack of social morals and two bit governments with no principals, ethics or will to enforce local laws, much less international ones, and you have all the ingredients necessary for a new wave of fishing and bot-nets the likes of which we have never seen before.

If you think that assertion is a bit alarmist consider this; they don’t call them Nigerian scams for nothing. Heck forget automated spam attacks as we know them today, these can be detected, intercepted and prevented. But not this new generation of attacks, with this kind of man-power, organized cyber-crime rings can just pay kids with XOs to write personal emails to their unsuspecting marks around the world. Not to be overly dourer, but imagine the pour souls that will be duped by these young scammers with the time and tools to not just email, but build phony web sites, hack credit cards, employ social network sites, even hold IM conversations all with the goal of building up the trust of the victim. Mercy, and we thought the Islamo-terrorist where a threat to Western Civilization!

What about the Slender?

Take heart, its not all bad. Another positive upside is the recent availability of affordable and innovative mini and micro sized notebooks. In addition to XOs offering, there are Intel’s classmate PC initiative, and the very well received Asus EEEpc, which unlike the OLPC is targeting the retail market directly with a sub $500 all flash based unit. But more then these specific units, there are new incentives to bring down prices on this segment of the market; which has been very pricy in the past.

So the next time you delete a get rich quick scam email or are contacted by a member of a foreign royal family, enjoy it on your inexpensive sub-notebook and just remember to say thanks OLPC!

MicroHooSoft: The Undoing of an Empire?

Posted on February 11th, 2008 in Internet & Networking, Windows | No Comments »

“Do you MicroHoo?” Nah, doesn’t have the same ring does it? however, judging from the recent semi-hostile bid from the folks at Redmond, product branding and name recognition are just a couple of trivial details Microsoft has not thought through with regards to the software giant’s bid to take over number two Internet search provider Yahoo. The past week’s happenings surrounding the possible acquisition of Yahoo have proved almost as interesting a drama as the political primaries, and they’re arguably just as pointless in the final assessment. Look at the players and consider what each has to lose and win and see why:


While Microsoft has done many things right; a consistent and successful Internet strategy has not been one of them. Therefore, their desire to purchase an under-valued web pioneer (Yahoo) is not surprising, and on the surface looks like a shrewd move even at the current offer of 44 Billion. Notice I say “current” – expect this number to go up! The thought of the Operating System / Application behemoth mated with Yahoo’s online market share congers thoughts of a technological juggernaut previously unequaled.

Fear mongers are quick to point out that such a marriage would certainly result in a monopoly that would crush all competition and leave only Google and Microsoft to slug it out for technological and market dominance on the web. Perhaps, perhaps not – Microsoft does not have the best track record absorbing companies, and they have never bit off a mouthful like this before.


While Google may be the reigning Silicon Valley media darling don’t kid yourself, Yahoo is no also ran. The undisputed veteran of the portal, Yahoo has over a decade in the space. Unlike others who have come and gone (remember: AltaVista or Dogpile?) Yahoo has not just rested on its past success, but has remained relevant via a combination of internal innovations, brilliant partnerships and enlightened acquisitions.

Yep, Yahoo has a lot going for her – and its not surprising that she is looking for a bigger Valentine’s gift then the current 62% per share premium MS is offering. But other than cash, certain to please share holders, what does Microsoft have to offer Yahoo long term?

Or does it matter, has Yahoo’s usefulness as an innovator been out lived? Yahoo Mail and Messenger platforms boast large users, but so do Hotmail and MSN Messenger, is there any motivation, specifically a financial one for them to be consolidated? Sure Flickr is sexy and drives traffic, but can it be monetized successfully? By these standards Yahoo should take the money and run, what Microsoft does with the brand and properties becomes secondary.


And then there is the 800 pound gorilla in the mix – Google. Frankly, there are so many upsides for Google with the possibility of a Microsoft/Yahoo merger, the entire Mountain View campus has to be watching with unabated glee. That comment might surprise some, but think about it, to start with the longer this drama plays out the more uncertainty is injected into Yahoo and Microsoft web plans and futures. Google is already firing on all cylinders in the web space and quickly reading its entry salvo into the mobile space this year. Market and personnel uncertainty at MS and Yahoo, would only serve to distract these competitors and allow Google to move even farther ahead.

So will there be a Wedding?

Others have speculated that the DOJ and EU will likely block this merger, and I don’t really have an option on that aspect of the merger. I tend to think not, as the inflated demands that Yahoo is now seeking, but its just as well for both Microsoft and Yahoo if there is no deal.

Should this take over proceed I have to believe it will be a catastrophic disaster for both, especially Microsoft. Some point to long term synergies of the two firms, and that might even be true, but the short term consequences will be staggering. For 12 to 24 months Microsoft’s focus will be redirected drastically into the morphing of Yahoo services under the MS brand. Backend systems will be impacted, staff will be transferred, you know – general chaos!

Compounding this Microsoft is struggling with its worst OS launch since Windows ME, Apple is having a real impact in the PC space, Linux is eroding Windows market share and oh yea, the 800 pound gorilla – Google – just keeps on rolling.

So MSYahoo, or MicroHoo or YaSoft, Do a deal if you must, someday we will look you up on the internet WayBack machine.

Year of the home NAS – A Tera-byte in every pot!

Posted on February 5th, 2008 in Apple, Internet & Networking, Linux/Unix, Windows | No Comments »

The digital home is here, and to feed a hungry media rich world you need a terabyte or more; at least that’s what NAS vendors (Network Attached Storage) are banking on this year. Large hard drives are nothing new, what’s novel for 2008 is the appearance high capacity, inexpensive, consumer friendly NAS systems for the home.

Despite CES 2008 being largely unimpressive, with regards to new innovative product launches, there was one interesting theme that persistent all over the show floor; the appearance of RAID based NAS boxes for the home. In the past home based storage has been limited to external USB or Firewire boxes, but not any more. Thanks to the raise of home networking and the digital lifestyle, every member of the family from parents to teens and even little ones have storage needs.

Here are a few of the standouts in the home storage arena:

Netgear – Ready NAS Duo

HP – MediaSmart Server

Lacie Ethernet Disk mini – Home Edition

The truly unique aspect about these offerings if just how consumer friendly they are! No need to be a network admin or have your local geek force out to install them.

If you have been looking to add storage to your home computer this is the method you should employ, any of the above products will do wonderfully.

Any Friend of Apache, is a Friend of Mine!

Posted on January 30th, 2008 in Apple, Internet & Networking, Linux/Unix, Windows | No Comments »

I’ll gladly concede that backend web server technology is about as sexy as a 1980s’ Volvo 240GL. But having said that, the good folks at Apache friends are making a hot rod out of these mundane, but critical applications.

The XAMPP project is an easy to install and configure bundle containing the Apache web server, MySQL, PHP and Perl. The emphasis here is on EASY! If that does not sound appealing, then you have not experienced the full pain of trying to deploy these services individually. XAMPP eliminates these wows with an all inclusive package for Linux, Mac, Windows and Solaris. Oh, and did I forget to mention you get all this for free.

Recently I deployed the Linux package onto a Ubuntu 7.10 server in my office. The process was painless, and I was able to deliver web services to my designer in less then 30 minutes.

So next time you are setting up a web server do yourself a favor – install XAMPP!

CES 2008: Product Death Watch

Posted on January 19th, 2008 in Business & Industry | No Comments »

It’s far too easy to chronicle about all the fun new and exciting products at a show like CES so I thought I’d share with you about some of the unreported “failing” products at the show – companies whose strategies and offerings just make you scratch your head and say WTF.

Nero – Dieing ROM

Giving up on it tried and true formula for success, a great burning application, The latest Nero 8 throws every video and audio manipulation and play back tool under the sun at you. When I questioned company reps about the decision to blot the bumblebees out of the once straight forward app, the answer, “we need to differentiate ourselves from the built in burning functions of Windows.” News flash guys, underpowered personal video editing suites are also part of base OS offerings these days too, MS Movie Maker and iLife’s apps come to mind, If you must abandon your core competencies please come up with a better excuse.

WiMax – “WhyMax”

One stop by the Intel booth would reveal two things; 1) The entire show staff were polished, positive and positively jacked up on Caffenie/Zoloft cocktails and 2) delusional enough to believe WiMax is still viable. Guys, maybe you missed the fact that WiFi is here to stay and most major carriers are backing away from metro, much less nation wide mobile, deployments of WiMax. But hey reality is soooo over-rated, can I get some of whatever you guys are on?

Palm – The Circle is Complete

Two years ago I saw the then new and unproven Microsoft Windows smart phone versions of the Treo. I commented to the pleasant Palm rep then this was a sad day and marked the death of the Palm OS, for soon all Palm devices would only be available with Microsoft Mobile OSes. She assured me that nothing could be farther from the truth, and Palm was “committed to both platforms.” This year when asked, company reps proudly proclaimed that while the Centro (the only new Palm OS based phone) is a nice low end offering, all of the companies present efforts are in the Windows Mobile arena.

TiVo – You will be assimilated

Times up TiVo, it was a good run and we will all miss you, but your wild and free single days are over. You had some good times with DirectTV and various Cable companies, but you aren’t getting any younger doll – time to look for a nice suitor and get married. Unfortunately like they say, all the good ones are taken, Vista Media Center is almost there (and already engaged to AT&T’s U-verse), and Apple TVs showing steady improvement, don’t expect them to come a calling. But your still the original UI beauty queen, it will be interesting to see who your knight in shining armor will be.

CES 2008: Gaming gets Ugly but Thin is always in!

Posted on January 12th, 2008 in Games, Linux/Unix, Windows | No Comments »


Now I realize I’m not the target demographic for high end gaming systems, but is it a prerequisite that all of the fastest systems on the planet be enclosed in oversized hideous, demonic or blingified cases? Judging from Cooler Master and many other high end system builders the answer is still a responding – Yes!


While the gamers or going after the seriously “over-the-top” look others like upstarts LimePC and DMP are going green and thinking small and thin. One of DMP’s models is pictured below – bear in mind this fully functioning computer is about the same size as a couple of decks of playing cards.


DMP Small Form Factor

Lime PC is looking to offer compact form factor systems running a Debian based distro called, you guessed it, LimeOS. But interestingly they will feature not only a fully functioning PC (similar in size to DMPs pictured above) , but a couple of smaller touch screen based models, one a sub 2 pound tablet style system and the other an iPhone/iTouch size system. Lime does not expect to ship till later this year, but keep an eye on them for new systems looking to challenge the conventional PC marketplace.

It’s CES 2008 Baby!

Posted on January 10th, 2008 in Business & Industry, Gadgets, News & Updates | No Comments »

Ladies and Gentlemen, the hour of the greatest tech event on a geek’s calender has come. Its the second week of January which means I’m writing this from the incomparable Las Vegas!


This year I was joined by long time friend Marc “Blue-Hair” Ortega – seen below seriously geeking out!

Marc gets his Geek on!


So watch for postings in the days to come with updates on products, highlights and lowlights of the 2008 Consumer Electronics Show.

Goodbye iTunes

Posted on January 4th, 2008 in Apple | No Comments »

Occasionally a piece of software comes along that is so good at what it does that you simply refuse to look objectively at the true cost of using it – Apple’s iTunes is today’s case in point.

While I’ve never owned an iPod or iPhone, nor do I use a Mac on a day in day out basis, I have come to love iTunes and use it regularly. Easy to use; especially for podcasts, free to download and nicely organized library features make it extremely compelling whether you are syncing to an Apple device or not. And while there have been buggy versions in the past, iTunes is generally void of critical defects and albeit its a bit on the bloated side, it performs well.

So by now you must be wondering what the problem is, or specifically what the “cost” is that I referred to? iTunes despite it’s “free download”, carries a heavy price tag; and no, I’m not even talking about the potential cost of overpriced, DRM iTunes content, but instead the cost of finding yourself mired deeper and deeper into the monolithic Apple world view. Apple does not want interoperability of their software – they never have and never will. Apple needs to sell more and more hardware to sustain its business model, therefore any software they “give away” will always carry out a more calculated objective, furthering the Apple gospel and feeding a subconscious desire to buy exclusively Apple products.

Ironically it was an Apple ad campaign that challenged us all to “Think Different”, yet nothing about the Apple ecosystem supports this mantra. However with a commanding market share of portable media players and the most successful online store, the last thing Jobs and company want is for you to think differently about what music (and video) library management application your using. But do other truly free and open options exist, preferably cross platform and GPL?

Rhythmbox is a fine, free and open, solution for Linux if you are looking for a comprehensive iTunes alternative, unfortunately I do not believe it is available for OSX or Windows. Juice is a promising looking pod-catcher that I’ve just started using, it supports all major architectures and is open-source. (you can find a link in my delicious bookmarks to the right.)

If you have found a good cross-platform iTunes replacement please share your findings in the comments. Maybe we can all start the new year by bidding iTunes farewell.