Great Quote

I was reading the Brian Dudley column in the Seattle Times on September 20, 2010 on gaming consoles and I just had to share the last two paragraphs.

"Otherwise we'll be facing another digital divide. Upper-crust kids will have virtual pets and play virtual sports in front of their big TVs while their parents smile and look up from their iPads.
The hoi polloi will be stuck with low-definition Wiis. Or, heaven forbid, forced to play with real animals and balls while their parents pass sections of the newspaper back and forth."

This hits so close to home!

You Need This Software

This entry is a list of software that I feel you need or I strongly recommend. Items in this list will be added and removed as needed.

  1. Cloudmark DesktopOne: This is email spam filtering software that is the best I have ever used. You and other users "vote" on which email is spam by clicking the "block" button. The block button removes the email from your inbox and sends a vote to Cloudmark. The more votes an email gets the better Cloudmark gets at automatically removing spam. Since there are millions of users voting then there is little chance that good email will be blocked and also a very good chance that bad email will be blocked. Go to www.cloudmark.com and click the download button.
  2. Cisco's Network Magic: This program monitors your network and alerts you if an intruder is using your system. In addition if you want to share files on your network it really helps when you have mixed operating systems. For example sharing files between Windows XP and Windows 7 can be a real pain without Network Magic. For parents there is a feature I really like which is "screen snapshot" which allows you take a snapshot of what's on your kids computer so you can see what they are doing. In addition you can set it up to take a snapshot on a regular basis. I recommend you set it up for a snapshot every 60 seconds. You can also get daily reports of your computers usage. In addition you can also run speed tests to see how fast (or slow) your network is. Network Magic was created by Pure Networks who was bought by Cisco. If you have any Cisco or Linksys hardware then Network Magic is free! Go to www.purenetworks.com/NetworkMagic to download the software.
  3. Carbonite Backup: This package backs up your computer to the internet. It only backs up selected files on your computer including your email files. This is a good product for recovering individual files but not for restoring your whole computer. I had the occasion to restore my entire computer once and it took 4 days, 24 hours a day to restore everything that had been backed up. Some of the things that are not automatically backed up are executable files, only the data files. If you want to back up executable files, like downloaded programs, you can manually mark them for backup. You should backup your entire disk to a local external disk drive with different software; see the next entry. If you have lots of pictures or videos they to should be on a local external disk drive. More about this later. To get the Carbonite software go to www.Carbonite.com. The cost is only $55.00 a year.

Solar Powered Battery and Charger for USB Devices

If you commute to work in your car or on your bike then you really need a battery backup and charger for your USB devices like your cell phone and MP3 player. Use the commute time to keep your backup battery fully charged.
The one I bought is the Scosche solBat II for about $25.00. It's a solar powered backup battery and charger for most USB devices. It is a very simple device consisting of pack about the size of a small cell phone. To charge it initially you use the supplied USB cable and plug it into your computer or into a USB wall outlet adapter and charge it for 4 or 5 hours. Alternatively you can just stick it in the sun for 4-5 days (!), maybe longer in Seattle, to fully charge. I went with the "stick it in my computer over night" route. It also comes with a cradle and suction cups so you can stick it to your windshield to keep it charged after the initial charge.
Forgot to recharge your cell phone or MP3 player last night? No worries, use your solBat. To use it, all you do is take the USB cable that came with your phone or other device and plug it into the USB port in the solBat and you're good to go. What I really like about the solBat is the lack of adapter tips! Every other battery/charger I looked at had a special cable that had interchangeable tips depending on what device you wanted to charge. If they don't have a tip for your device you're out of luck. Some can sell you tips for the less popular devices; like I want to spend even more money! I used to have a real hard time finding tips for my Samsung phone. For you outdoor types there is also a carabiner to clip onto your belt, bike or backpack.

Portable Power

I no longer carry a separate power adapter for my cell phone, my wife's cell phone, my bluetooth headset, my laptop, etc. when traveling. I carry one power adapter that charges them all and this converter is smaller than my laptop adapter so it doesn't add much weight. All you have to do is get a power adapter and tips that fit the devices you want to charge. Make sure the adapter can charge a laptop because some can't and make sure they have a USB port to charge your phone and other devices. For your USB devices you will use your USB cables that came with your device. Note: To keep those cables from getting tangled up put each one in a labeled Zip Lock bag. Other options to consider are air plane and car adapters and whether you want international wall power support.
There are several brands out there and the two I have tried are iGo and Kensington.
The biggest problem I had when I ordered an iGo a year ago was that the iGo web site was almost impossible to use. Although they listed all of the products they sold you couldn't figure out which parts went with each other. I gave up on them and switched to Kensington. However, I have revisited there web site to write this article and their web site has been completely rewritten and they even offer phone ordering and interactive internet sales support so you may want to try them.
My favorite is the Kensington 120 watt power adapter which they no longer offer. The best you can get now is 90 watts which should be enough. Kensington does not offer telephone sales or interactive internet support. Hopefully you won't need it.

Did you know you could ...

This entry will be updated with little tricks I use to make working with computers easier. Basically I'm lazy and I want the computer to do as much work for me as possible.

  • It is an unwritten convention that the logo on web pages is a link to the home page. So if you are working your way through a web site and want to quickly get back to the home page try clicking on the site's logo.
  • All of the browsers I use (I use four) support a shortcut of Ctrl+Enter for entering URL (Universal Resource Locator) addresses. For example if I know I want to go to http://www.kensrot.com I just type in "kensrot", then hold down the Ctrl (control) key while I hit the enter key. The browser adds all of the other characters before and after what I entered and sends the browser there.
  • Suppose you don't know the URL you want? Most proper names and some not so proper names can just be entered into the URL and the internet will take a best guess as to what you are looking for. For example if you enter "University of Wisconsin" for the URL you should get http://www.wisc.edu/ which is the home page for the University of Wisconsin-Madison which may or may not be what you were looking for. This is a shortcut search and if it's not what you were looking for you can always add more information to the URL. For example you could enter "university of wisconsin greenbay" and get http://www.uwgb.edu/. Of course if that doesn't work just use your favorite search engine.

Get Streaming Video

Okay folks, you have to get a Roku box or get a DVD/Blu-Ray player with Streaming Video. Streaming Video is video on demand. So Friday night when you want to have "family movie night" you don't have to run to the video store to rent a movie and you don't have to have already ordered the Netflix video everyone in the family will agree to watch. If you already have a Netflix account just login on your PC and queue up "instant view" movies. Then go to the Roku and watch them. There is no additional fee and it doesn't affect your DVD queue! If you don't have a Netflix account get one. If you really, really don't want to get a Netflix account or you can't find the video you want on Netflix you can still stream from Amazon.com. When you pull up the Roku menu navigate to the Amazon.com section and search it for the movies you want to rent or buy. As far as I know Netflix doesn't sell streaming videos. Roku also has MLB.com and Pandora among other "channels".
The Roku box is about the size of a thick paperback book and is easily connected to your TV. There are three models, SD (Standard Definition) $80.00, HD (High Definition) $100.00, and HD RX (HD with 802.n support) $130.00. They all come with wireless 802.b/g the RX adds 802.n for wider area access. My recommendation is to go with the HD or RX.
If you are looking to replace your DVD player, which I just did, then get something like the Sony DVD/Blu-ray player with streaming video. It has all of the features of the Roku and more.

Who Stole My Search Engine?

Most browsers let you set your default search engine; I set mine to Google. If I start up my browser and simply enter in a search term such as "Kens ROT" in the URL instead of a web address I expect it to find www.kensrot.com. If I misspell my search term I expect Google to pop up with a bunch of search results and the words "Did you mean Ken's R.O.T.?". Oh, yes, I did, thanks!
One day instead of Google search results I got Ask.com search results; and that was a permanent change. No matter what I did to the browsers I could not get back to Google as my default. A similar thing happened when I entered in www.kenrsot.com. I expected Firefox to tell me "404 Error, domain kenrsot.com not found". Instead I got a web page offering to sell me the domain name "kenrsot.com". After several Google searches I found out what is going on; my ISP is trapping the error pages and sending their version instead!
But wait, there is a fix! So here is where it gets a little more technical. The domain name servers (DNS) that my ISP is using are changing the pages because my ISP gets paid for sending traffic to who they want instead of who I want. The solution? Use a free DNS instead of your ISP's DNS. I of course, switched to Google's free DNSes(?) which are at IP addresses 8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4. There are others out there just use you favorite search engine to find them. This requires you to know how to update your internet DNS entries which is way too complicated for this blog. Ask your favorite support person to help you out if your ISP hijacking your pages is a problem for you. By the way, don't be surprised if the "free" DNSes don't do the same hijacking!

About Cell Phones

I have read and I believe that there are three types of cell phone users; Apple, Google, and Windows users. Apple users (and closet Apple users) will use the iPhone. Google users will use the Droid or Nexus One. As a Windows user I use the HTC Imagio after trying the Palm Pre Plus.
I have three requirements and one desire for a cell phone:

  1. It has to synchronize with Outlook on my desktop (not exchange server)
  2. It has to support voice dialing from my bluetooth headset
  3. It has to run on the Verizon network; my cell phone network of choice
I also desire a hardware keyboard over a software keyboard but that is not enough to keep me from buying a phone.
So what are the pros and cons of these phones?

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