Month: August 2008

Retaggr card.

Retaggr is a new service that provides links to all of your profile pages on the various social websites, provides twitter updates and affiliation links all in one card. Mine is included below and will eventually get added to the side bar of the website (or added to the AboutMe section)

This functionality is great for gathering all the buttons together and keeping people up to date on your latest tweets etc. It’s also great for stalking someone or for doing research on a job applicant!
I did notice that the goodreads link was broken – shot off an email to them and less than 10 minutes later it was fixed – very impressive. I’ve added a request to have links to the geocaching website added too.

Digital TV

A while back I applied for a coupon that would give me $40 off a digital tv converter box as the US is switching off analogue broadcasts on 17th Feb 2009. This is similar to the switch off that is happening in the UK at the moment but seems to be a staged process as opposed to one definitive date.
Anyway, the coupon arrived and I finally got around to going shopping for one. The coupon is for $40 off selected (low end) converter boxes but you would be very lucky to get one for $40. Most of them seem to be $49 or $59.
I went to BestBuy this afternoon and got the Insignia NS-DXA1-APT. About 10 minutes after getting it home I had 11 REALLY clear tv channels. The difference between tv on the standard rabbit ears aerial and the aerial with the digital converter is amazing. The picture is now very similar to the quality of the picture you’d get with cable.
A lot of the channels are broadcast in wide screen though, and then some of the commercials are broadcast in 4:3 format so you end up with a small picture in the middle of the screen with black bars all around it – however pushing the zoom button on the remote brings it to full screen (but you will loose some of each side of the picture).
The remote also has the ability to turn off the tv if it is supported (there are about 45 different makes supported) and there is a auto shutoff option too.
One other feature is analogue passthrough – by turning off the unit, the tv will continue to receive the analogue broadcasts which could be useful if your stations are still broadcasting in analogue only.
There is also a basic EPG guide that shows you whats on now and next – better than nothing but nowhere near as sophisticated as the EPG you’d get with cable.
If you are still using over the air transmissions for your tv then I’d highly recommend you apply for a coupon and get a box now rather than wait until Feb and this unit is well recommended.

Does your ISP spy on you?

Listening to Security Now a few weeks ago they had a couple of podcasts (sn153 and sn151 about isp’s using software such as phorm or nebuad to track the surfing habits of their users. Thanks to LightBulb Interactive, who just happens to be a local blogger, I have discovered a list of isps that have admitted to this over at Silicon Alley Insider.
Time Warner was not on the list but WOW cable was (which is a bit worrying) – I’ll pass this information on to a couple of my work colleagues.

Blackberry install number 2.

I thought second time around was meant to be easier? This one certainly wasn’t. Initially I had to reboot the server to get all of the windows patches installed but one of the Exchange patches wouldn’t install properly and the machine hung. Rebooting, stopping the services and installing the patch manually fixed it. After a reboot the server was back up and I started the install off. The first part of the install went through fine and the server rebooted again. After logging in the server struggled to create (or rather populate) the database on the existing instance of SQL. I kept getting messages that the database couldn’t be created and the logs showed DDL statement not allowed. Funny thing is that the database was being created, it just wasn’t being populated with any tables or data. Not much in google to go on and after trying various things I ended up installing a new instance of sqlexpress on the machine and then using that for the install which went through perfectly. Unfortunately I’ve inherited this particular server so I’m not sure why it failed to install on the built in database which seems to work fine.

Blackberry Professional Software installation.

I’ve had two requests in the past week to install the Blackberry Professional software for clients – this software allows you to sync your blackberry to Exchange (or domino) without having to buy a Blackberry Enterprise server. It comes with one free client access licence and others can be added for $99 (up to 30 devices).

The software is fairly straight forward to install as long as you follow the documentation carefully and ensure you have the prerequisites satisfied.  My notes below are all covered in the documentation but for those of you who don’t read the instructions, hopefully it will help.

  • Watch the tutorials/read the manuals from the Blackberry Professional Software Installation Toolkit
  • Ensure you check the Microsoft kb articles on setting up appropriate permissions for the Besadmin account as this is needed for the Besadmin account to send the mail for you.
  • You do need to install the software as your newly created Besadmin account  – not the administrator account.  The server does need a reboot and the first login on the server needs to be the Besadmin account.
  • When installing the database and an SQL instance already exists on the server you will typically need to enter server\instance for the host – a new database will then be created for you.
  • Once you create a user, using the wizard, you will need the user to go to options/advanced options/activate and enter their email, password and activation code that was emailed to them – so this needs to be done before the user goes out on the road with no email access!
  • The software can be downloaded from the Blackberry Professional page but you do need to register (with the pin number of the Blackberry Device that is going to be used) as you will get an activation key via email.
  • Don’t forget to document the password for the BesAdmin account!

The total time to install is probably about 15-30 minutes pre-configuration of exchange, creating the besadmin account, 30-45  minutes to install the software (plus reboot time) and then 5 minutes to set the first user up.

Green computing links.

I’ve been thinking about reducing the power consumption of pc’s for clients and have also had some questions directed to me about these settings. Doing a bit of research I’ve come across these useful links. I’ll write a post about my findings when I get around to deploying this in production….

Live Mesh Update

I have been using Live Mesh on the home computer and work computer for a couple of weeks and the synching of data between the two computers has been very useful.  The synch process works the same that foldershare does and copies files between the machines (and the web site) well. The only issue I have had so far is if I move the location of the data files by hand. The default location for a new Live Mesh folder is on the Desktop. As I don’t want this location I used explorer to cut and paste the folder from the desktop and put it in a different location such as c:\andy\livemesh.  However, going to My Computer/Live Mesh folders then shows the folder as not synched on this computer and in the original location.  By double clicking on the folder a browse dialog box appears and the new folder location can be selected. If the new folder is the new location a merge data prompt will be given.  Selecting yes will then set the folder up to be synchronised again.

Quickly enable or disable external monitor on laptop

I often have to quickly move my laptop from the office and go to a meeting or client site where I do not have the luxury of plugging in an external monitor. Unfortunately the laptop doesn’t know this and will continue to send applications to the previous screen it was in. As I typically have Lotus Notes running on the external monitor (as it has a higher resolution) this means I have to manually go in and disable the external display. This is annoying and a little time consuming so I went hunting for an application that would automatically do this.  I had thought of using sendkeys to do it myself but I didn’t really want the dialog boxes to appear on the screen.

Over at donation coder, a post in the forums came up with tv_out by nod5  Download this application, extract to a directory and then double click tv_out. This will then create a shortcut on your desk that you can use to toggle the external display on and off. By editing the ini file you can change the location for the shortcut. As I don’t really want to display the desktop and then toggle the display I have actually changed my location to be in the quick links toolbar that is always displayed.

Another application I have downloaded from donation coder is the excellent screenshot captor. This does really nice screenshots and has some nice tools for creating borders, highlights and annotating the captured image. The only drawback is that I often find it crashes the first time I use it, but after I reopen it, it seems stable.  (Note that I was running an old version (now corrected) so this may be fixed in the new version)

Update I forgot to mention that this application is directly compatible with Live Mesh as LM creates a virtual screen so my extended desktop becomes display 3 but tv_out only toggles display 2.  There are some instructions to change this – that is a future project for me….