Google and OpenOffice

If I were Microsoft, I’d be very afraid. This could do some serious damage. And unlike MS Office, you don’t need to sell your first born to obtain a copy. OpenOffice is a great product. Hopefully Google will give them the edge they need to take their rightful marketshare. Or at a bare minimum, force Microsoft to make it possible for people to afford Office without taking out a loan from the bank. I know people with computers that cost less than MS Office Professional. That’s rather sad.

Thank you Google. Please continue to put Microsoft in it’s place.

Backup fun

Back in July I set out to get a good backup solution for my laptop (and my Mac). I then found a 300 GB Hard Drive for $99 (after rebates) [btw: the $99 offer is back again as of this posting], and a $60 case for that drive. My new laptop came with some IBM branded backup software, which royally stunk. Slow, no incremental updates, just not up to par. The only big advantage was that it’s integrated with IBM’s Restoration software, which has an emergency partition, making recovery super easy.

Last week I ordered Acronis True Image (8.0 because I heard 9.0 is still a little rough, and doesn’t have anything I really need). So far this product is a real gem. Easy to install and use. I can do a complete HD backup in 30 minutes, meaning incremental updates (yes it supports them) will be much quicker than that. Lets you put them in a secure partition on any drive you want. It has compression to save space, and you can mount your image should you need to retrieve one or two files from the backup. Appears just like another hard drive. One of my favorite features is that I can still work while it’s backing up my hard drive. I’ve only had it a few days, but so far I think the product is a real gem. This will be great if I get to update my hard drive to an 80 or 100 GB Hitachi 7k100 as you can just mirror your data over with the migration functionality. No reinstalling.

So overall my backup solution is rather cheap (relatively speaking), but works extremely well. I don’t think there’s an excuse these days to not back up. Disk is pretty cheap, and so is decent backup software.

While I’m on the topic of Hard Drives, I’m considering DiskKeeper after hearing so many good things about it. Looks like the Home edition would be enough for my needs. Perhaps I should checkout the demo. I tried it once, but that was quite a while ago.

Mac Need Not Apply

BrassRing Enterprise 8, which is used by many companies to allow applicants to apply for a job online is going to be adding Firefox support in version 8 (due out December) to address incompatibility with Mac users (I presume Linux users are also affected). This is great news of course, and may mean that they are close enough to standards compliance that you can use your browser of choice (although it sounds like Firefox will be the only non-IE browser supported).

American Express also uses BrassRing Enterprise according to the article. This is a separate issue from the #1 reported issue I discussed the other day.

That’s another win for alternative browsers. I’m hoping American Express and others follow.

[Hat tip CNET News]

Reporter Most Wanted

American Express is the number one reported website to have issues with Firefox. You can see the report here. It would be great to get this one resolved. So here’s what I need:

If anyone out there works for American Express, or knows someone who does, let them know about this blog post, and ask them to pass the message along to the Web Team.

If you happen to be someone with the capacity to make a difference, let me know. You can also leave a comment with any information you may have to offer.

Again, this is currently the #1 issue regarding website compatibility. It has a ton of reports against it, and viewing a bunch of them myself, they seen to be legitimate.

Firefox is a community effort, so here’s a chance for the community to make a difference. According to the theory of Six Degrees of Separation, it’s within our grasp. So if you can’t help, see if you can find someone who can. While your at it, if you have a connection to Kevin Bacon (your no more than 5 intermediaries away), see if you can find out if he uses Firefox [for the unaware, Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon is a rather popular game based on the theory].

Microsoft Office

Anyone else thing Microsoft Office is way overpriced? Take a look at your options. $149 is Academic (you’d think for that money, you get Professional on an Academic license, but your wrong). The cheapest upgrade is $239.

Wouldn’t mind upgrading to have XML support, but is there anyone who can justify those prices?

Microsoft should be ashamed at their pricing. Thankfully there is OpenOffice.

VoIP via Asterisk

Asterisk@Home looks like it would be a lot of fun to set up. This could totally rock to have at home. I see a few great advantages:

  • Share the lines. Rather than have a phone or two per line, you can have all phones being able to access the lines. No need to go get a phone
  • Add phones everywhere. You could take advantage of WiFi to put phones even where Ethernet cables don’t reach. Take it outside, wherever.
  • Put people on hold, and have music in the background. Because you know you want to do that when a telemarketer calls you
  • Digital Receptionist would make everything about it more fun
  • Have Voicemails sent as email when your not home, never miss an important message
  • Away during the day (Work/School)? Set up a SoftPhone on your laptop or office computer.

There are so many possibilities to make phones rock.

New Laptop

I’ve now had about about 48hrs with the new laptop. Just a few thoughts (in no paticular order):

On the plus side

  • Well built as typical of IBM. Nothing if squeaky, flimsy. It feels very solid, despite being so thin.
  • The 9 Cell battery sticks out the back a little (about an inch). And provides longer battery life over standard 6 cell. No big deal and more battery life.
  • ATI Radeon X300 Graphics Chipset (64MB) is much better than the 3200 ATI Radeon 7500 I had.
  • DVD±RW hasn’t been tested yet. I should get some DVD media (anyone have brand preference?)
  • Fingerprint reader is so 007. Very cool way to log in. Now nobody sees you typing your password.
  • Intel 802.11a/b/g card works fine. Not sure why so many people swap them out for IBM cards. As I see it right now, it’s working perfectly.

On the questionable (not really much here)

  • Fan Noise – this is the biggest complaint I’ve heard about the T43. The fan does seem to be a little louder than it should, but I don’t think it’s a deal breaker. Mine will likely cool a bit when more RAM arrives and my paging file doesn’t cause my hard drive to spin for hours on end.
  • Rescue and Recovery for backup purposes (imaging) isn’t that good. It’s really slow, and doesn’t seem to like incrimental backups. I’m going to order Acronis True Image to do the job instead.
  • PATA->SATA bridge causes many normal ATA drives to produce errors with the IBM BIOS. Ideally IBM would have just used SATA already, or stuck with ATA, but this bridge means great drives like the 7k100 won’t work, at least not yet (fingers crossed they release new ones with upgraded firmware).
  • No 2nd bay for extra hard drive. I’ d have to swap between the DVD/CD drive and another drive
  • No web navigation keys. I got used to having them.

So there’s really not much to improve on. The biggest would be the fan noise, and getting backups to be quick and smooth. Both aren’t that big of a deal. Fan noise I can deal with (my old laptop I think was louder), and the backups will be done with other software.

I’ve also decided to abandon Sygate as my software firewall, and move to Kerio (which is going to be unsupported soon). I really run these only because it’s a laptop, and not always on my clean firewalled network. Anyone have a recommendation for a good (free) firewall on Windows that doesn’t suck (read: no zonealarm). How could it have gone this long without an open source contender? Kerio doesn’t seem to bad, but I don’t like that it’s approaching End of Life.

Oh yea, Opera fans [read: anyone who doesn’t like IE, including Firefox fans] will be interested in this (if they haven’t found this yet). If you boot this system, and press Access IBM you go into an emergency partition on your hard drive (apparantly powered by a scaled down Windows NT or 2000 with a bunch of utilities. One option is to browse the web. On closer examination, they use Opera, not IE (info on the feature found here search for “Get help, by being connected”).

It’s alive

The laptop story is finally over.

Yesterday, a shiny new Thinkpad T43 arrived. I gave it a few hours yesterday and it performed well, no signs of any problems. I’ve got some extra RAM on order to help things out even further.

Executive Relations did come through, despite some supply issues limiting their abilities. They actually sent two (2) laptops in an attempt to get this resolved by today (Friday 10/21/05). One coming from Lenovo/IBM itself, one coming from a business parter. One arrived yesterday, and one arrived ahead of schedule (today) rather than next week sometime, and will now be mailed back.

Thanks to anyone over at Lenovo/IBM who slaved over my old A31 in attempts to resurrect it, or battled supply issues to get me a new T43 replacement.

And a reminder to everyone with a laptop: keep that warranty going for as long as you value your computer. It’s very good to have.

For anyone wondering, the fingerprint scanner, is somewhat of a toy (it’s not really any more secure than a good password, because it apparently on matches parts of your fingerprint, not the entire fingerprint, for speed purposes)… but makes logging in much less obtrusive. Kinda feels like 007.

And yes, I’ll be back working on the reporter tool a bit during the week now, not to mention mozPod, which I’ve neglected for months.

Apple iPod Software Update?

Will Apple ever update the firmware for the iPods to provide a few more toys? One thing about the iPod is that they haven’t been to good with firmware updates. They seem reluctant to give even the slightest enhancements. They likely port over easily as there’s really no large difference between versions under the hood (it’s revisions more than complete overhauls, such as the infamous PortalPlayer chip).

Remember the days when updates with enhancements were available for download?

100,000,000 Downloads

100,000,000 downloads. That’s almost 1/3 of the US population. Here’s another cool stat:

Countries Ranked by Population: 2005
--------------------------------------------------------
Rank Country                                  Population
--------------------------------------------------------
   1 China                                 1,306,313,812
   2 India                                 1,080,264,388
   3 United States                           295,734,134
   4 Indonesia                               241,973,879
   5 Brazil                                  186,112,794
   6 Pakistan                                162,419,946
   7 Bangladesh                              144,319,628
   8 Russia                                  143,420,309
   9 Nigeria                                 128,765,768
  10 Japan                                   127,417,244
  11 Mexico                                  106,202,903

Source:census.gov

That’s right. Only 11 countries in the entire world have a population higher than the download count. And were not to far from just 10 left.

In case anyone else wants to play with the number of the day (hint 100 Mil), leave a comment with a statistic to show how large the number really is. If you can, also cite your statistics. If a few people participate, perhaps I’ll make a little poll so people can vote on what the most impressive way to show 100 Mil is.