Archives by Subject: Technology
10 Most Common Passwords
Naturally, "password" is at the top of the list. [link]
I Got a New Digital Camera!
I look forward to learning a lot more about photography, and hopefully taking some decent photos along the way.
Keep your eyes on my Flickr!
They Say Imitation...
They at least could have copied the design better!
Searching on Wired.com
If someone can tell me how to search for an article on Wired.com, I will give them a cookie.
Spam of the Day
Registering International Domain Names
Looking for international domain names?
A great place to start is this page, which gives you a direct link to the registry of each domain extension.
Exclusive Interview with the Podcast Pickle
Catching up on videos from SXSW... here's an interview with the Podcast Pickle.
The Double Feature Finder
Enter your zipcode, choose a theatre, and you see a grid listing of all movies showing. With the click of a button, you can see which movies are showing exactly before and after the movie you selected.
So, that way, it's easy to know to buy two tickets instead of just one. Or something.
Dell Hell: Currently in Purgatory
For those playing along at home, my Dell Hell episode is almost complete. After additional hours and hours on the phone, on the web, and over email, I think I've come to a resolution.
As far as I can tell, the original tech support team that helped me (in India, in case anyone cares) was entirely negligent. They violated numerous Dell policies, were unclear, and did not respond to follow-up requests for assistance. It's possible they even tried to sabotage the case number.
This final chapter resulted in a Dell US-based Small Business Customer Care representative and her supervisor staying on the phone with me, fighting the agents in India that were disconnecting and transferring me to automated systems. I owe an enormous amount of gratitude to these valuable employees, but don't want to print their names in case Dell decides to freak out.
Last week, I decided this had to end, and called Dell and said I was a small business customer (more on this later) determined not to hang up until this was resolved. Now, I am a small business customer. I've even signed a reseller contract with Dell. Yet for some reason, this order was processed as a home office order.
Regardless, I reached a nice representative, explained the situation, and asked for her supervisor. In summary, my client had shipped the computer back to Dell over a week ago, and Dell had neither refunded my money nor begun processing an exchange.
The supervisor told me there wasn't anything they could do as it was the wrong department, but they promised to make a new case number, clearly explain what had to happen in the notes, and direct me to the correct department. I was then transferred to the Home Office department and sent to India. The representative was, again, incompetent. Even after pulling up the new case number and being told by Small Business policy states I should receive an immediate refund, she cited some nonsense and said I had to call technical support. I said I need to speak to her supervisor. Here's how it went:
Dell Rep: "Yes sir I will transfer you to the appropriate supervisor, please hold."
"Thank you for calling Dell's Automated Technical Support Status System."
At this point, I literally scream. Loudly. I couldn't believe after all that, I had been essentially hung up on. All of the sudden, I hear a voice:
Dell Rep: "Scott, Scott, are you there???
It turns out my amazing rep from the powerless Small Business department had secretly stayed on the phone with me to witness the incompetent representative ignore procedure, cite incorrect information, lie to me, then pawn me off to an automated system -- certainly not their supervisor!
My amazing rep was obviously horrified. She didn't know what to say, besides "This amazes me." We decided to try again. She called again, this time staying on the line and explaining the situation. This time, the Indian rep randomly disconnected us, or at least that's what my amazing rep's system indicated. She was once again speechless and didn't know what to say.
Finally, the third time being a charm, she was able to convince the Indian Home/Home Office rep to issue me the credit I deserved. After dozens of hours dealing with Dell, it is possible my situation may be resolved.
Some other notes:
- I had learned that you receive better service when you call and say you are a small business customer, not a home/home office customer. Home and home office customers are outsourced to India. Small business customers are handled in the US. I hate to sit here and give power to a stereotype, but it was absolutely my experience. With only one exception, every Dell representative I spoke to in India was incompetent.
- The credit card I actually ordered the computer on has since expired, so I doubt the credit can go through. We'll see how long it takes me get them to credit a different credit card.
- Don't forget to read about the evidence I uncovered proving that the refurbished system I was shipped was such a lemon that the previous owner eventually sent it back, too. Apparently, Dell didn't take this as a hint that something needed to be fixed.
- I am exhausted. Anyone know any good lawyers?
I've been enjoying reading The World Is Flat, a refreshing look at outsourcing and its effect on our now global economy. If you are at all interested in business and technology, I recommend you read it.
With this in mind, an article in today's Wall Street Journal about Computer Science students outsourcing their homework caught my eye:
But if U.S. companies can go online to outsource their programming, why can't U.S. computer students outsource their homework -- which, after all, often involves writing sample programs? Scruples aside, no reason at all. Search for "homework" in the data base of Rent A Coder projects, and you get 1,000 hits. (An impressive number, but still a tiny fraction of all computer students, the vast majority of whom are no doubt an honest and hardworking lot.)
A few examples: "I need a simple console-based program and a PHP script written that uses the openssl library." "I need 2 algorithms filtering -- median and Gaussian." "A C++ program that will implement a billing system using threads. Needs to be completed tonight if possible."
Indeed, some programming students appear to be outsourcing their way through college. "Pascal Rookie," from Colorado Springs, Colo., has put five school projects to bid. And while he may be a plagiarist, at least he treats his helpers well: Mr. Rookie has received the highest marks possible for a buyer in the eBay-like rating system used by Rent A Coder. "A pleasure to work with him," said one.
You can't tell from the site how much was paid for the help, but usually it's well less than $100.
Notes from my Barcamp Session
I'm not quite cool enough to know how to use a Wiki, so here are some notes and links.
Some Useful WordPress Plugins
· Get-a-Post: I use this plugin to let the front page blurb be edited without changing the rest of the front page template.
· Get Custom Field Values: This lets me create templates with multiple text areas, using WordPress' custom fields. An example is the two-column layout on this page. The right column is the body text, but the first column is a custom field.
· Redirectify: Allows a WordPress "page" to actually redirect to another site entirely. Useful for integrating "legacy" pages into your automatic navigation structure. On the MGross site, this is used for The More Things Change link in the books submenu.
A Note on .htaccess
One of the most important things to do when you recreate a site in WordPress is make sure the old links still work. Lots of people still link to your old URLs -- they don't want a 404 error! So, you can go to Manage > Files and add redirects to the beginning of your .htaccess. Here's a few from mgross.com's .htaccess:
# Redirects from Old Site
Redirect 301 /profiles.htm http://www.mgross.com/articles/profiles/?
Redirect 301 /articles.htm http://www.mgross.com/articles/article/?
Redirect 301 /author.htm http://www.mgross.com/about/?
Redirect 301 /740.htm http://www.mgross.com/books/740-park/?
Redirect 301 /times.htm http://www.mgross.com/books/740-park/?
Redirect 301 /model.htm http://www.mgross.com/books/model/?
The 301 means permanent redirect, so search engines like Google will update the link. The /? is required, or else WordPress will get confused and error.
These are some links I've found on Google, though I haven't had time to read all of them:
· WordPress 1.5 as a Website CMS [AlexKing.org]
Find more? Comment here or email me, scott AT skidder.net.
The Dell Outlet: Lemons for Sale!
I recently documented the problems I had with a client's Dell refurbished computer. Up until now, I've been a big supporter of the Dell Outlet. No longer -- apparently, they don't fix machines that are sent back because they are faulty!
As this screenshot shows, I wasn't the first person to have major problems with Dell Service Tag 7PN0581. The previous owner had almost a dozen support calls with problems that seemed to focus on a blue screen error (the support history "detail" doesn't tell me much). They had so many problems that they ended sending the computer back. Just like I did.
Why wasn't this system fully tested? Even minimal testing would have discovered the serious problems this computer had.
· Previously: Dell Hell, Indeed [ScottKidder.com]
Barcamp New York
This weekend will be my first back in New York City for over four months, in addition to the last weekend of winter break before beginning my Spring semester. So, it's obvious what I'll be doing: spending Saturday and Sunday talking and learning about new technology at BarCampNYC.
BarCamp is an ad-hoc un-conference born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment. It is an intense event with discussions, demos and interaction from attendees. All attendees must give a demo, a session, or help with one.
Dell Hell, Indeed
For as long as I've been dealing with the technology needs of myself and my clients, I've recommended Dell. In the past 14 days alone, I've spent thousands of dollars at Dell ordering new computers for clients.
So, obviously I was upset when I got a lemon yesterday. I'll save you from the technical details, but the machine just simply didn't work. From out of the box, Windows crashed with every opportunity. I called them and after 1.5 hours on the phone, "Sam" determined that the problem was... a defective Dell Resource CD?
I don't think so. Later they said it was the hard drive. Then they weren't really sure. They also apparently have no way to tell the time in America from India: they asked me what time it was at least six times.
Almost 5 hours of being on the phone, hours of hold time, 2 techs and a manager later, I convinced them to ship me a completely new system. But the experience was far from pleasant.
Buyer beware, indeed.
One of the things I got this Christmas was a Tivo -- something I'm very excited about. But what made me more excited was that even though we ordered a 40GB version, they sent a 80GB version!
Even if they don't send you a higher model than you ordered, they have a great promotion where you pay only $50 for the hardware when you prepay the monthly service for a year.
Why PayPal Sucks
Yet on today, one of the busiest shopping days of the year, their downloadable log files decided not to work. For no reason. And that's all they told me: "Please try again later."
This is topped only by an email received from PayPal earlier in the weekend:
I couldn't believe they were serious. After waiting a week for a response for a serious issue, they just decide not to answer my question and then have the nerve to tell me what to do if I have "further questions"?
PayPal sucks. Right now, at least.
Edit: Apparently the history problems are only with the accounts with the highest numbers of transactions. In other words: their best customers. Go figure.
In Florence, ATMs Close Sunday, Too
The guidebooks tell you that in Florence, many shops and businesses are closed Sundays. It's possible that's true for the ATMs ("bancomats") too!
I just spent 30 minutes trying to find a working ATM. Only the seventh ATM I visited was actually working.
Gawker Media Launches Deadspin, Sploid Redesign
Today Gawker Media launches both Deadspin, our new sports blog, and a redesign of our news site Sploid. While I can't promise 80% ads or a million posts a day, hopefully you'll check them out all the same.
Wonder what comes next?
T-Shirt Polling at Gawker
Today at Gawker Media we're launching a reader poll for readers to vote for their favorite catch phrases. We'll print some of the ones that receive the most votes.
Jessica says it best:
Perhaps you feel like telling the world It's not whoring if you do it for free; maybe you're more the type to proclaim that Vogue is a food group.
Whatever you feel like, tell us!
Look for more t-shirts in the near future.
WordPress.com Announced (And a Similar System)
While details are still sketchy, it seems that it will be a hosted service based off of the Wordpress Multi-User version -- and it will be free! It involves the new version of WordPress (1.6), which among other things, apparently includes a new WYSIWYG editor.
While WordPress.com is currently invite-only (and invites will probably be hard to come by), you can see a similar service at PRBlogs.org. It, too, is based on WordPress Multi-User version "1.6-ALPHA-2-still-dont-use". I played with it, and it looks pretty sweet. Check out PRBlogs.org to see how the service may work if you can't get into WordPress.com.
· Presentation Feedback [matt.wordpress.com]
· WordPress commercial arm to compete against TypePad [Blog Herald]
Page Views versus Hits and CNN
One of my biggest pet peeves is confusion regarding hits versus page views. A hit is recorded each time a file is accessed on the web server, whether is be a HTML document, a graphic, etc. Therefore, a page with five graphics will register at least six hits.
A page view is just that -- a page view. Hits are a relatively useless metric. It's page views or unique visits that you should be interested in (not that those metrics don't have their own problems, but that's another story).
I was watching today's premiere of The Situation Room on CNN, and while I'm thrilled to report that Inside the Blogs has been reworked and finally looks decent, the "internet reporters" told Wolf Blitzer that they'll soon have a segment showing how many hits the various blogs have in an effort to tell how many people read them.
"Interlinking Various Things on a Webpage of Sorts..."
I just watched both short clips and loved them. There's a man on the street segment where they ask people what blogging is. One person's response:
"Um, something to do with connecting news stories I think and interlinking various things on a webpage of sorts...and then adding content...and writing prefatory statements in regard to those stories."
World of Warcraft: The Real Cult Consumers
During lunch with a friend today, the topic of World of Warcraft came up. For those like me who aren't hardcore gamers, it's a very popular multiplayer online game. Wikipedia says it had 240,000 subscribers in its first 24 hours on the market.
When someone talks about customer evangelism, JetBlue comes up to the top of the list. A recent New York Times article quoted a "trendwatcher":
"Flying JetBlue isn't just about taking a trip," the trend watcher Faith Popcorn said. "It has actually become something fun to do."
Okay, so JetBlue is popular. Everybody knows that. But World of Warcraft, to me, is no less amazing. A Google search for World of Warcraft brings up 3,660,000 results (and almost 50,000 images!) while a Google search for JetBlue only brings up 796,000 results.
Apparently, it's not uncommon for WoW players to devote a suprising amount of their waking hours to this computer game. Plus, these 3.5 million people pay $15 each per month (even if they aren't playing). These sound like cult consumers to me.
· Wikipedia: World of Warcraft [Wikipedia]
· World of Warcraft Achieves New Miletsone with Two Million Paying Customers Worldwide [Blizzard Press Releases]
· A Discount Airline Creates Some Wealthy Admirers [New York Times]
A Different Online Ad
Surfing Gridskipper today, this leaderboard stuck out. It's rare I see something that actually seems different.
Though, it didn't make me click on it. Alas...
Another Day, Another CollegeHumor Article
Another glowing profile of CollegeHumor/Connected Ventures appeared in this morning's New York Times.
In other (more important) Connected Ventures news, with my new camera, I can finally post videos on Vimeo! You have no idea how happy this makes me.
Much to my delight, my brand new Casio EX-Z750 7.2 Megapixel digital camera arrived a few days ago. I picked one up after reading Mike's review and doing a little bit of internet research. I picked it up for $325 after various discounts from Dell. I've only had it for a few days, but I love it.
It's so small I can easily take it anywhere. It takes fabulous video.
I can't wait to use this in Florence.
I'm More Popular Than You.
The programmers of AOL Instant Messenger have created AIMFight, a site that, in the words of its developers, "crawls through the depths of the Internet to answer the all-important question that plagues us all: How popular am I right this second?"
Using "a complicated algorithm," AIMFight compares two screen names to determine who appears more frequently on buddy lists. It's pretty cool.
And I've won almost every time. Ha!
WeblogsInc Network Compromised?
It seems like a whole bunch of the WebLogsInc network sites have been compromised. Many sites, including Jason Calacanis' weblog, their corporate site, Luxist, HackADay, their very popular Autoblog, and a bunch more display the following message:
Fuxz Ownz You!
Click the screenshot above for a bigger version.
This seems to affect weblogs that appear to be running the "older" version of their custom-built BlogSmith software.
I've sent a whole bunch of emails to people over there, though I doubt they aren't aware of it by now. Hopefully they can take care of this soon.
Update: Brian Alvey, CTO and co-founder of WeblogsInc, responds:
Our oldest web server's FTP ports were not locked down in our firewalls. Not good. Someone ran cracking software, gained FTP access and defaced our sites. All of our other servers which run Engadget, Joystiq, TV Squad and any blog we've launched since January were untouched, but Hack A Day, Autoblog, Luxist, Gadling, Blogging Baby and several others were affected.
Not much left to say besides we got the holes on that old server closed and I can't wait to migrate everything off of it and decommission it. The new platform has no FTP. All files are managed via web form-based uploads. It's not the easiest way to get a large group of files to the server, but it isn't a hack waiting to happen like IIS's FTP server can be.
I'm not sure how practical it is to abandon FTP, but hey, whatever works.
Disclaimer: Yes, I work with Gawker Media, but it sucks when anyone's website gets hacked.
TheFacebook Hot, Friendster Not
Friendster is so one year ago, anyway.
(via Zach Klein)
· Alexa comparison of TheFacebook and Friendster [Alexa]
· Thefacebook To Expand Social Network [MediaPost]
· Friendster CEO Fired [Google News]
· Student's Start-Up Draws Attention and $13 Million [New York Times]
Vimeo: Flickr for Video Clips
The cool kids at Connected Ventures are building up Vimeo, best described as a Flickr for video clips. Since bugging Jakob for an account a few weeks ago, I've watched the site add a bunch of cool features, and I have no doubt there are plenty more coming.
As a current user, I can apparently invite friends to use Vimeo. Perhaps I can invite random strangers, too. If anyone wants a Vimeo account, shoot me an email: scott AT skidder.net.
Fix Your Links, Drudge
Nobody would argue against the fact that Matt Drudge is doing very well for himself. I was reading the latest XXXXX FLASH XXXXX about one of my employers and decided to go back to the front page... so, following web etiquette, I clicked on the Drudge logo. That brought me to this page:
XXXXX DRUDGE REPORT XXXXX FRI DEC 05, 2003 19:58:09 ET XXXXX
HILLARY RIPS BUSH: WARNS OF 'IRREPARABLE HARM' TO NATION
(blah blah blah...)
Uhhh.... December 5, 2003? It turns out that links to matt.htm, and for whatever reason, Webmaster Drudge has decided not to update that page. It turns out that the logo on every single flash links to the mysterious matt.htm.
You craaazy, Matt Drudge.
Nashville Is Talking!
Cool: Today I came across Nashville is Talking, a blog and blogroll by Nashville ABC affiliate WKRN. On their About page, they call Nashville Is Talking "a blog devoted to the daily conversation that is news in the Greater Nashville community. If it's being discussed in Music City, we hope you'll find it here."
Will other stations follow? Nashville is a pretty big market -- the 30th largest in the US.
Backpack by 37signals
I haven't played with it much, but I'll say this: Wow. They've done it again. They describe Backpack as the "personal information you've been craving" -- and it's not too far from the truth.
I'm sure they'll be lots of buzz about this over the next few days.
Six Apart Partners with MLB to Launch MLBlogs.com
Wow -- Om Malik reports that Six Apart has partnered with Major League Baseball to launch MLBlogs.com: "MLBLogs, a service of MLB.com, is the only blog service that offers the official colors and logos of every current MLB team."
Will users pay for something they can get for free from places like BlogSpot? The deal is obviously a steal for Six Apart, but why is MLBlogs.com so ugly? It's awful. The blog templates are a little bit better, but they seem to have advertisements on them. Right now I'm looking at one for Gameday Audio from MLB.com.
It'll be interesting to see where this goes.
· Major League Baseball, Six Apart Deal in the Works [Om Malik on Broadband]
· Now I Can Finally Blog at Work... [Ryan Nelson's Blog, MLB Web Developer]
· Major League Baseball Empowers Fans to Blog [Micro Persuasion]
Google Does It Again: Real-Time Stock Quotes
Google has done it again... they now offer real-time stock quotes. This, to me, is huge! Hundreds of web sites will give you stock quotes, but they are all 15 or 20 minutes delayed.
Yahoo, for example, charges $9.95 a month for this service.
Adobe Purchases Macromedia for $3.4 Billion
The Wall Street Journal tells me that "Adobe Systems Inc. announced the acquisition of Macromedia Inc. for $3.4 billion in stock in a deal that will bring together the software of two companies with broad resources to distribute documents, video and other media to personal computers, cellphones and hand-held devices."
Adobe CEO Bruce Chizen, who will continue as chief executive in the new company, said of the two companies "we are probably twins separated at birth." I think that's going a bit far, but this is a huge deal that could have giant implications for web developers.
The mergers and acquisitions continue!
CNN's Inside the Blogs - Why So Poorly Produced?
There's been lots of talk about CNN's "Inside the Blog" segment on Inside Politics. Basically, two CNN staffers get in a studio with two Macs hooked up to large plasmas and attempt to tell the world what the "bloggers" are talking about that day.
Does anyone else think the segment looks awful? Two cameramen (that are frequently visible on-screen) shakily zoom into the plasmas as the CNN staffers highlight and scroll what they're reading. I rarely can even read what's on the screen.
Why not get a direct hookup to the video out like they used to use on TechTV? It can't be that hard... and it's pretty safe to say CNN won't stop covering blogs.
Perhaps there's something I'm missing, but come on CNN, get your act together.
BREAKING: GAWKER MEDIA LAUNCHES SPLOID
"One thing the webheads among you will notice: the headlines are big and, in the default view, headlines are ranked by importance rather than by recency."
MTA Now Uses Address Verification for Credit Cards?
Hardly the most exciting story of the day, but as I was coming home from work today, I needed to refill my metrocard -- something I've done dozens of times. But this time the machine asked me to enter my billing zip code on the keypad.
As a merchant that accepts credit cards myself, I know all about AVS (the Address Verification System). You can send the system the billing zip code and the first part of the billing street address when processing the transaction, and use the results to help you determine if it's fraudulent.
Has the MTA had problems with people using stolen credit cards at Metrocard machines? Gas stations are notorious for being one of the places credit card theives see if a card is still active.
How will this affect the already-long lines at Metrocard machines during rush hour? Certainly I'm not the only one that was surprised by this.
It's also possible that this was some sort of fluke or test.
AOL Instant Messenger Down Systemwide?
So, it seems like the entire AOL Instant Messenger system is down. At least... I can't get on it, and neither can a bunch of other people.
Like so many, I'm addicted to this free service that I've never paid a dime for.
How long will the outage last?
On Wednesday night I attended the New York City Photobloggers 3 in SOHO's Apple Store. I'm really glad I went. Besides seeing some amazing photography, I've (hopefully) become inspired to try and take more pictures!
I don't use my digital camera nearly enough. I plan to start carrying it around in my bag and just snapping some pictures. We'll see how that works out.
Apparently this has been in the Google labs for several years. Basically, you put in some words and Google tries to determine other items in the set. Things like colors are pretty easy, but things like ways to prepare food impress me.
You go, Google.
G00GL3 1$ HAX0R3D?!?!
Google is a really cool company. I wrote about them earlier after reading a seemingly-candid article in GQ, but had never actually met an employee of Google in real life until the Blogger party at South by Southwest this week.
They were all great and I somehow came out of it loving Google more than I already do.
Today I found a link to Google H4x0r. Google has their sites in many different languages... French, Spanish, and apparently: Hacker.
The fact that Google can make fun of themselves like this only makes them cooler.
PR Company Discusses Blogging. Hilarity Ensues.
I'm sitting here in the Blogging vs. Journalism Psuedo-Panel. I call it a psuedo-panel because it is on the "day stage" within the exhibit hall, not in the panel rooms restricted to conference attendees.
Now, as PR people, it's understandable that they seem to have issued a press release announcing this panel. It's certainly important for PR types to understand blogging. After all:
"This topic has considerable business and marketing implications, as companies will need to learn how to adapt to this changing environment to succeed."
But they're doing a horrible job with it. First off, when the moderator opened the panel, he read from what seemed like several pages of prepared remarks. Bo-ring. In every other panel I've been to, the moderator has opened conversationally... maybe using some talking points, but not prepared notes.
This panel is scheduled to go on for another hour, but if we keep getting interrupted by the overhead voice announcing the latest and greatest in the exhibit hall, who knows what will happen.
Give me a break. Clearly, PR agencies still have a lot to learn.
(Technorati tag: sxsw)
How Long Is An "Outage"?
As I've mentioned, I have a T-Mobile Color Sidekick. While I've had it for over a year, I've just recently got in the hang of how to use it properly and am loving it.
Imagine my displeasure when I found it stopped connecting to its network late Sunday. I assumed it was something I had broken, until I received this text message this morning:
Free T-Mobile Msg: We apologize for the service interruption. Voice calls and text messages are still functional. We're working urgently to restore full service
What a useless text message. I don't use my Sidekick as a phone, I think it looks stupid and I already have a contract with Verizon. Plus, the Sidekick is a tad bulky to bring out.
Apparently the outage was supposed to end today, but that isn't the case for me.
When something stops working for three days, it isn't an outage anymore. It's a failure. And I'm certainly not the only one that feels that way.
Interesting article on Google from GQ
John Heilemann's "Journey to the Center of Google" is an interesting look into the usually tight-lipped Google. The article spends a lot of time discussing how founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin had trouble "growing up" and letting go to certain aspects of the company. It especially interests me given that I read Lucky or Smart? today and author Bo Peabody suggests that the B-Student entrepreneurs should always cede control to the A-Student managers, when the time comes.
"I asked him, 'How the hell do you make decisions? From the outside, it seems crazy.' Eric spent forty-five minutes trying to answer, but he couldn't describe it. And the thing was, he was proud of that. He said it was a new way of doing business. There was no hierarchy; they acted as a triumvirate of equals. They were breaking all the rules. I thought it was a disaster in the making."
My favorite is that co-founder Larry reportedly tried to ban telephones from the new Google office complex.