Thursday, December 08, 2005

Google Transit detailGoogle has released an early version of Google Transit, a Google Maps internal mash-up that my fellow Portlanders can use to find public transportation to get from point A to Point B around the metro area. Once you search for your trip, you can compare the relative costs and time required to use public transportation or drive, and have complete instructions for each. Click here for a sample transit search from Hillsboro, Oregon to the Portland International Airport (PDX).

I mention that my fellow Portland residents can use it, because this is an early beta so (as of the time of this post) it contains information for public transit services in the Portland, Oregon metro area. But hey, it's a beta release, and Portland's a great place to try something like this. It's a large city but not huge, so it's manageable. the transit info is available electronically, and with the many bus and light rail options and all the interconnections, it's a good test bed. So those of us that live here can be very happy, and the rest of ya can learn more about Portland until your city is available. Just don't move here, heheh. Just kidding.

From the "About" page:

"Do you live in or near a city? Want to go someplace—to the airport, to dinner, to work every day—and not worry about the hassles and expense of driving and parking? Google Transit Trip Planner enables you to enter the specifics of your trip—where you're starting, where you're ending up, what time of day you'd like to leave and/or arrive—then uses all available public transportation schedules and information to plot out the most efficient possible step-by-step itinerary. You can even compare the cost of your trip with the cost of driving the same route!

"At the moment we're only offering this service for the Portland, Oregon metro area, but we plan to expand to cities throughout the United States and around the world."

One problem with the interface when I used it - no scroll bars. The directions pane is cut off at the bottom of the browser window and there's no way to scroll down to see more. The data is there, but it's not displayed. But I am sure they'll work on it. After all, it's a beta.

     google transit page



Add/Read: Comments [1]
Tech
Thursday, December 08, 2005 5:10:20 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  
 Tuesday, December 06, 2005

I've written before about FrontMotion's Firefox MSI installers and their Active Directory ADM policy templates, but with the recent release of Firefox v1.5 and the resultant updating of the installers by FrontMotion, I figured it's worth another mention. In a security-conscious IT environment, we all know how difficult it can be to exercise the necessary level of control over programs that are used to access the Internet - and the web browser is number one or two on the list of possible problem Internet apps (along with email programs). So being proactive whenever the tools are available to us is quite important.

Luckily, FrontMotion distributes MSI (Microsoft Installer) versions of the Firefox web browser for people to use (free of charge at this time) and there are two editions of the installers available. FrontMotion's Firefox Community Edition - which is the one that includes the Active Directory integration for centralized management and control - is slated to be updated shortly, and their stand-alone MSIs (which are not AD-integrated) have already been updated to incorporate Firefox v1.5.

The features of the Firefox Community Edition should be of interest to companies that centrally manage software for IT and security purposes, and the package allows you to upgrade non-MSI installations as well as those from other organizations. Features of the community edition include:

  • Active Directory deployable and upgradeable.
  • Active Directory management through Administrative Templates (*.adm).
  • Desktop Icon similar to IE.
  • Shell integration similar to IE.
  • Set Default browser
  • Macromedia Flash plug-in preinstalled
  • Detect and upgrades non-MSI installs.
  • Can upgrade 3rd party MSI's from MIT, Webheat.co.uk, and ZettaServe.
  • Able to properly perform uninstalls and restores system associations

You can subscribe to the FrontMotion mailing list for occcasional announcements about updates at: http://www.frontmotion.com/mailinglist.php. I don't see a blog or RSS feed, but we can hope.



Add/Read: Comments [0]
IT Security | Tech
Tuesday, December 06, 2005 2:32:28 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  
 Monday, December 05, 2005

Kathy Sierra does her typically terrific job of distilling the Web 2.0 hype down to something meaningful in a post where she says:

"If I were a VC, the 'elevator pitch' I'd ask for would be simply: 'Tell me how this thing helps the user kick ass?' If you can't answer that, don't bother launching your power point."

Check the full post (with trademark cartoons and buzzword bingo) and find out why "engaging" and "inspiring" are what today's techies should be thinking (and talking) about.



Add/Read: Comments [0]
Monday, December 05, 2005 8:33:07 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  

Always wondered who that dude was talking to...

"The Worst Job Ever"
(Windows Media video - contains strong language, etc etc)



Add/Read: Comments [0]
Humor | Random Stuff
Monday, December 05, 2005 7:04:23 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  
 Sunday, December 04, 2005

Air Combat USA planesIt takes a really gullible type to fall for one of my secret plans. Either that or someone who trusts me implicitly, misguided as that may be.

Along those lines, I didn't tell my friend David where we were going or what we were doing this weekend, just that I'd pick him up on Friday, that he should bring enough clothes for a couple days, and I'd have him back to his ship (he's in the U.S. Navy) in time for duty early Monday morning.

We try to do something crazy and insane once a year or so, and we were a bit overdue for this trip. I've actually been planning it for more than a year, at least in part. Without going into all the details, what matters the most if that Dave knew nothing of what we were doing on our trip (not even that we were flying to California) until we got to the location for each planned activity.

The plan included roller coasters, jousting dinner, visiting David's family in the area, and other fun stuff. But the real big event of the trip was on Sunday at the end of our stay in Orange County.

Dave and Greg at Air Combat USA (before Dave puked)On Sunday afternoon, to end the Secret Plan trip, we went to Air Combat USA in Fullerton, California. There we suited up, were briefed by former military pilots, and climbed into two high-performance military training aircraft, which we flew with the instructors for about an hour in some training maneuvers and six real-live dogfights. Gunsights, smoke and all. It was - to say the least - a blast. I can now say I know what it feels like to fly 5.5-G turns and that I did just that. Wow.

It's not cheap, for sure, but if it's something you've ever wanted to do, check our Air Combat USA on the web - http://www.aircombatusa.com - and give it a try.

Just be sure to keep the yak-bag handy. Dave's new call-sign is "Ralph," if that tells ya anything.

Above is a pic of Dave and I in front of one of the planes before we took off. Good thing we took the pic before we left - no stains on Dave's flight suit. Heh.



Add/Read: Comments [4]
Sunday, December 04, 2005 5:34:22 PM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#  
 Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Thomas Hawk wrote about a severe problem he had ordering a camera from an abusive online retailer that's really nothing but a major, unethical sales scam operation. The fact that he wrote about it and pointed to a number of other people's experience is great, and it brought to mind a number of other things that people need to know, especially this time of the year.

First of all, there ARE unethical, bad people out there trying to sell YOU their stuff. And there are some that will threaten, extort and otherwise manipulate their "customers." It doesn't just happen to other people - it can and will happen to you, too. Protect yourself and do your homework. While the vast majority of online retailers are good, solid companies, there are the few bad apples, just like in any community, that make it bad for everyone they can take advantage of. 

  • If the price is too good to be true, it's probably not true. Seriously. Don't fool yourself.
  • Do your homework if it's a company you have never head of or dealt with. You're trying to save money, so spend some time. That means getting information about the company. A good way to do this is to look for bad information online, by using Google or another search engine to search for "The Company Name"+scam (like this and this show some serious info). Look for the NEGATIVE information. Keep in mind that there are times when the bad guys will try to make themselves look good by posting positive information. It happens.
  • Don't rely solely on the Better Business Bureau to tell you what you need to know, but do be sure to check information there. The company Thomas wrote about has a record with the New York BBB that's pretty terrible. Also be sure to use epinions.com's "Online Stores and Services" search and read through the whole lot. Again, there are bad guys that will post fake positive comments about themselves - so be a pessimist.
  • Always use a reputable credit card, never use a check or debit card. If you ever need to reverse charges, a credit card with purchase and fraud protection is invaluable; You can't reverse cancel payment on a check that's already posted, and you fighting the debit card battle is painful if the money has already been pulled from your account. Credit cards provide lots of real protection, so use them for these purchases. That's why I have credit cards, really, is to protect myself if ever needed for major purchases. That and true emergencies. Other than that I think they are evil, heh.
  • Did I mention "If the price is too good to be true, it's probably not true?" Okay, well it's worth repeating.

Finally, based on other people's experiences with the company Thomas had his problem with, I'd suggest you never, ever do business with Price Rite Photo, which also uses a number of other business names. Check the BBB for retailer names and aliases, and alway always always be careful and suspicious of the too-good-to-be-true deals.



Add/Read: Comments [1]
IT Security | Safe Computing | Things that Suck
Wednesday, November 30, 2005 5:20:00 AM (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
#