FTC Disclosure

Life is complicated enough without getting into hotwater with federal agencies so: TAKE NOTE Many things I review I got at no charge in exchange for an honest review. Consider this as informing you that ALL things I review may have been gotten at no charge. Realistically about 60% but in order to keep things above board just assume that I got the stuff free. I do not collect information on my readers. If cookies or other tracking stuff is used on my blogs it is due to BLOGGER not ME. Apparently the European Union's new rules state I need to inform you if cookies are being use. If they are it isn't byu me, consider yourself INFORMED.
Words like, “sponsored,” “promotion,” “paid ad” or even just “ad” are clear ways to disclose that you’re being paid to share information and links so BE AWARE that some of what I write can be described as an AD by the government. BTW I will NEVER say a product is great, super or even acceptable if it isn't, whether I got it free or NOT!



Please check out my other blogs
Pick of the Literate 
or Azure Dwarf’s Horde
or visit my web site

Monday, April 28, 2008

What’s in your wallet, basement,garage?

An article in Wired magazine entitled “Waste Management” hit too close to home the other day. A daughter was writing about the enormous collection of computers and related paraphernalia that her father collected. She and her brothers had to help him divest himself of the collection when his building was sold and he had to move. Sadly I see my self in this tawdry little tale. Admittedly I have little or not use for a multi node network at home. I was able to reluctantly get rid of my 25ppm, multi-tray, networked Lexmark laser. Like I really print that much. I am attempting to divest my self of other workable items. Craig’s List and Free Cycle have helped there. My hobby of recycling Pentium 3’s for the computer less is floundering at the moment due to a lack of operating systems. Thus my garage does look like a recycling center. Growing up in a home where you fixed things, you didn’t trash them, makes it difficult to junk workable stuff. I guess this should be titled the confessions of a computer-holic. However, I will again make a plea for some unused, legitimate operating systems to perhaps I can get my garage cleaned out and not have to resort to trashing (GASP) good computer stuff.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Are you sure you’re Backed Up?

I had a guy out to clean the gutters the other day. He said he hadn't called me because he lost his entire customer data base. He is presently reconstrucing everything from old invoices and memory. His experience is not unique. Even if you don't run a business, think of the number of irreplaceable photos you have on your computer. There are no negatives to reconstruct those photos. A back up is crucial.

In the event of a catastrophic failure, applications can be re-installed, hardware can be replaced but DATA that isn’t backed up is gone. Gone, as in, disappeared, never to be seen again.
Even those of us who do back up:
When was the last time you verified a backup?
When was the last time you checked to see if there is any data on your backup?
When was the last time you did a test restoration of your backup to see if it really works?
“If you haven’t verified your backup system, then you may as well not bother backing up.” And even if you do verify, you may still have other issues.
Many insurance companies are now asking their business clients if they have a disaster recovery program.
A solid backup procedure is a major factor in disaster recovery. Some part of the country is bothered by tornadoes, hurricanes, earth quakes, mud slides and other natural disasters. Don’t try and tell the businesses along the Mississippi River that there is a slim possibility of any disaster happening. Consider the client who was saving data to the hard drive when a car took out a pole on the near by highway and knocked out the electric. Surge suppressors don’t do a thing when the electric goes out. A head crash on the hard drive can destroyed it, without a backup you are out of business.
Backup is primarily designed to save the data.
If your systems or network were washed into the river:
►how much time would it take to replace the equipment?
►find the applications?
►re-install the operating systems?
►set up the network?
►re-install the applications?
►and then be able to restore from the backups?
►What if your tape drive is obsolete?
►How long will it take you to find a way to restore from obsolete media of any type?
►What if your backup was in the same location that is now merrily floating down the river?
Now is the time to start thinking about improving your backup procedures and implementing a disaster recovery program.
Simplest solution is to go out and buy a USB hard drive that is twice the size of your hard drive. Many of them come with a software utility to back up your data. If they don't, something as simple as 2nd Copy http://www.secondcopy.com/?gclid=CJLEuNfk8ZICFQQIFQodoSxT4g for a whopping $30.00 will copy your data daily to your external drive.

A full image backup captures not only your data but your operating system and all programs. The best I have found in that area is Acronis True Image 11 Home for the home user for less than $50.00. Frankly for the money and the peace of money, you should really go for the image backup. For those of us who are truly paranoid, of which I am, do both day to day, image and copy to other network drives. Your data is too important to lose.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Analog To Digital TV Change Controversy

By now we have all been subjected ad nauseum to the controversy surrounding the change over. If you have had an opportunity to see broadcast digital quality then you will have no questions as to a major reason for the change over. Over the air broadcast quality is terrific with digital. The down side is if you have a weak signal you get nothing. With a weak analog signal you could watch the fuzzy picture until your eyeballs fragged out. Many a Steelers game I stood gently moving the rabbit ears to try and get any picture. Of course the freeing up of air wave space is also a big factor. Digital will allow a lot more information in a much small volume of space.

Regardless of why, how does it affect you and me. I have way too many TVs, especially considering how little TV I watch. Now Comcast says they are going to continue their analog signal so I should be ok. If your cable company decides to cash in on converter boxes, then you could be hit for $60.00 for each and every TV you want to continue to use. The government is handing out $40.00 coupons to apply against the price of the converter boxes, a maximum of two per household as long as the supply of coupons last. Again, if you have cable or Dish, you shouldn’t expect much difficulty with the transition. Cynic that I am, I highly doubt that but hey, you can only go on what these monopolistic thugs put out as information.

If you get your TV through an antenna, you are pretty much stuck with going to some type of conversion box unless the TV is digital capable. That isn’t likely if the TV is several years old. If you a roof top antenna system, you could put the box on the single antenna as long as you are willing to watch the same show on every set. Since that is unlikely, you will be stuck with the cost of sticking a box on each and every TV. At this time I haven’t read anything that sounds like a work around this problem. Do the math, if you have six TVs and the converters are $50.00 each(currently at Walmart), you are looking at $300.00 minus $80 if you are lucky enough to get the government coupons and the store is actually willing to take them, you are looking at least $220.00 plus tax out of pocket to continue to watch TV.

This link is to Radio Shack who has a good overall description of the issue.

This link is to the site that lists all of the conversion boxes that are presently acceptable to the government couponing agency.

This whole issue will, no doubt, become even more interesting as we get closer to the dead line of February 17, 2009.

This blog is based on my understanding of the situation and realistically that may not be as accurate as I hope.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Online Credit Card Protection

Being a bit paranoid, I was always nervous about putting my credit card information on line for purchases. I got a specific credit card with a low limit to protect myself. I only used that card for online purchases. Then the credit card company bumped up my low limit by a factor of 10 due to my paying my bills on time and defeated the whole purpose of lower liability. I know they claim you won’t be held responsible for more than $50, yadda, yadda. The folks who claim that are the same ones who hose over the poor schmuck that misses a payment and has his interest rate bumped so high that loan sharks would be ashamed.

There is a surprisingly simple solution. Discover will provide you with a little popup program that assigns a unique credit card number each time you make an online purchase. That number is then specific for that online vendor. The number on the plastic card in your wallet is never used and thusly never exposed to online tampering. Plus the unique numbers per vendor undoubtedly help the credit police track down evil doers. I have received communication from my Visa folks that they have a similar program. I don’t think I need multiple online credit card protectors.

I thought this was common knowledge but after the subject came up in several conversations recently and neither party had even heard of this service, it seemed like a logical blog. So if nothing else this protects you from even the supposed $50 deductible claimed by most credit card companies. Of course this is assuming that they (credit card industry) can’t come up with some new way of insuring that the lead foot of exorbitant profits remains on the neck of the consumer.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

S is for Silence by Sue Grafton

I have not read Sue Grafton’s books in order. Some of them I have liked a great deal and some have left me feeling so-so. I don’t know if this particular book veered from her style since I didn’t read the two prior to it. Bouncing back and forth from the 50’s to the present and presenting in depth looks at a wide range of characters could be confusing. I liked it and felt this book was a better effort than anything else she has done and that I have read. It is not one to make you stay up turning those pages but it provides moments of contemplation regarding the plot that are mentally stimulating. I liked it and recommend it.

Off The Chart by James W. Hall

SciFi is my first love but I find to keep some perspective on reality, I need to read other books. James W. Hall writes about as other as I can imagine. This guy writes a story that can keep you up at nights. Thorn, his main character in his books I have read*, is a dyed in the wool lone wolf. He makes lone wolves seem social. Thorn gets into bizarre situations and works his way through them. This particular book has a pirate focus. Interestingly enough, it drove me to the web to see how prevalent piracy is today. It is way more prevalent than I had a clue about. I love the web, it allows quick and easy research albeit often erroneous but still I love it. I am not real fond of reviews that provide too much detail on the book. I often don’t read the slip covers because I want to be surprised. Thorn shows he is growing and possibly maturing in this outing.
I strongly recommend all of the following for a great read, sometimes a bit disturbing but nevertheless a great read. He also wrote “Tropical Freeze”, “Blackwater Sound”, “Red Sky at Night”, “Mean High Tide” and “Hot Damn” which I have not tracked down yet.
Bones of Coral
Buzz Cut
Gone Wild
Hard Aground
Off The Chart
Squall Line
Under Cover of Daylight

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Any OS out there?

This is more of a request than a blog. I mentioned in an earlier blog that I refurbish used computers for donation purposes. I need OS for those computers. If you have any unused Win98 or newer operating systems that you are not using, would you like to donate them to a good cause? Legitimate only please. CD and activation code is needed.
Why you may ask?

I get computers from former clients and often combine the working resources from several boxes to make one box that can handle normal day to day activities. The computers have generally had their hard drives wiped which is a good thing to protect their former owner’s data. The wiping of the drive removes the operating system too. This presents some difficulties. The computers are basically just door stops without an operating system. I can put on free applications but outside of Linux there is no free OS. Since most of the recipients of the computers are not terribly computers literate I am reluctant to use Linux. Therefore if you have any Windows products that have been pulled from service with a legitimate OS I cold use them for a good purpose. I am not willing to pirate any software as I have a strong respect for the Microsoft Storm Troopers and a basically ethical personality.

Where are these computers going? The computers usually go to some incarnation of a non-profit organization. Last week the Children’s Cultural Center got three systems. In December I arranged a donation of an unused color laser and a monitor to Child Home and Community. I was able to faciliate a large number of used computers from a corporation to VITA, a nonprofit that deals with illiteracy. These are local non-profits. The computers may go to individuals. One went to a waitress who was going to start college and didn’t have the funds for a computer. The local chamber of commerce has a Women in Business committee that provides a scholarship for a deserving woman. They have gotten a computer in the past and I have offered to see that they get them in the future.

Not only does this keep a lot of equipment out of the landfills, it provides a step up for some of the many folks who can use some help. The recent economic downturn (recession) means there are more people out there just scraping along. If you can help please do so.

I am non-profit, not a non-profit. I am not incorporated nor am I any type of a charity. I can provide no receipt for income tax purposes. I am a retired computer guy doing what I can to help my community. If you need verification that this isn’t some kind of scam, I can provide the names and email addresses of some of the non-profits that have benefitted. If you are local to Doylestown, PA and have equipment that you don’t use or need, let me know. I really only want P3 or better since anything older is too much trouble to refurbish.

Not exactly a money saving tech tip but it might get some unused stuff out of your way and into the hands of someone who can actually use it.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Computer Cleanup by CCleaner

Crap Cleaner is a registry cleaning tool. The following is from filehippo.com CCleaner (formerly Crap Cleaner) is a freeware system optimization and privacy tool. It removes unused and temporary files from your system - allowing Windows to run faster, more efficiently and giving you more hard disk space. The best part is that it's fast! (normally taking less than a second to run) and Free.

Cleans the following:
Internet Explorer Cache, History, Cookies, Index.dat. Recycle Bin, Temporary files and Log files. Recently opened URLs and files. Third-party application temp files and recent file lists (MRUs). Including: Firefox, Opera, Media Player, eMule, Kazaa, Google Toolbar, Netscape, Office XP, Nero, Adobe Acrobat, WinRAR, WinAce, WinZip and more...
Advanced Registry scanner and cleaner to remove unused and old entries.
Including File Extensions, ActiveX Controls, ClassIDs, ProgIDs, Uninstallers, Shared DLLs, Fonts, Help Files, Application Paths, Icons, Invalid Shortcuts and more... Backup for registry clean. Windows Startup tool. If you like and use this software then it is polite to make a donation to the author. End of File Hippo description.

I use this periodically on my machines. It does suggest you make a backup of your registry and definitely do this. I have had no issues with it. It will remove cookies that hold passwords so if you don’t have the password written down somewhere and depend on the cookie that holds it, you will be unhappy. I am always amazed at how much left over crap there is on a computer. After running the program, I do seem to boot faster. As in all freeware, you get what you pay for so buyers beware. The best thing about it is that it isn’t one of those sneaky websites that says it will clean the crap off of your computer, shows you a list of the crap and then says, deposit $25.00 and I will fix all of this stuff for you. It is free and it has worked for me.
Download at http://www.filehippo.com/download_ccleaner/
 Money Saving Tech Tips