Friday, 31 August 2007

My friend Brad Pierce is in the middle of his trip around the world (literally), where he is doing the whole trip on the surface - no airplanes. He's crossed the United States, then the Atlantic, and is in Europe as I write this. Paris to be specific. It's a lifelong dream of his, and he left the familiar world behind to live that dream. I am a lot proud and a little envious. :)

You can keep tabs on Brad's travels at http://www.peopleinpassing.com/, where he is logging his experiences and posting some photos as he goes. Brad is also a talented photographer.

He says 5-6 months or more are still left to go, and the path is one that gets determined on the fly. It's a trip with it's bumps, which is really a critical part of the great experience in Brad's book. Great stuff, man.



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Blogging | Random Stuff
Friday, 31 August 2007 21:24:03 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Tuesday, 28 August 2007

It doesn't have to be mean or vandalism to be a good school prank.

  

Gotta give 'em credit. Well done.



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Humor
Tuesday, 28 August 2007 21:50:45 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Ummmm, wow. Just click it.



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Humor | Random Stuff
Tuesday, 28 August 2007 18:54:30 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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blu-ray_hd-dvd_logo I just saw a post over at digitalmediathoughts.com that points out an unadvertised sale at Amazon.com on HD-DVDs and Blu-Ray discs. So, I went to Amazon and got three movies for the price of two - I can confirm it's for real. no idea how long it will last, but if you're a HD disc person, it's a good deal on some flicks.

Not all titles are available. You have to put them in your basket (no one-click) and then "proceed to checkout," and then you will see the credit for the lowest priced disc under "Promotion Applied" (see my order below).

UPDATE: Here is a link to Amazon.com where they have a list of all the movies that are eligible for buy two get one free (for HD DVD):

Buy Two HD DVDs and Receive a Third Title for Free

Select any three titles from the list below and get one of them free. The promotional discount will be applied at checkout. You will see a credit in your shopping cart. Limit two of each title per customer. Quantities are limited; order now before we run out.

Cool.

     amazon-order-hds

Obviously, I could have been better off to choose three discs priced at $27.95, but you get the point.

Get it while it's still there. Enjoy.



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Tech
Tuesday, 28 August 2007 11:27:04 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Monday, 27 August 2007

I'm a little more behind the times these days than I tend to want to admit. Management work, flying all over the place, integrating two companies and the day job will do that to a technologist, let me tell ya. So, I was pretty amazed otday when I finally got to see some cool stuff I have been hearing about lately.

I have an older Mac Mini in the kitchen at home and that's the extent of my Mac world: Checking the day's weather, doing an occasional Google search, getting movie times - and applying seemingly weekly OSX and app updates.

Sidebar: I'm leaving my place of work after this week and moving on to new things, so I have been thinking about laptops (I have used a work laptop for pretty much everything up til now). I have been looking at Lenovo machines and some Dells as well, but someone mentioned running Windows apps on a Mac recently, and I started thinking about that this evening.

There's a cool app called Parallels that lets you run Windows apps on the Mac. People have told me it's really cool. But my friend of many years, Chris Pirillo, told me tonight to look hard at VMWare Fusion. Chris is a geek's geek and you might know him from his Lockergnome empire or from when he was on TechTV a while back (obligatory funny link here, heh). Anyhow - He cares desperately about usability and product quality. My area is more infrastructure, so we compliment each other. When he says look at Fusion, I listen. When I say look at RackSpace for hosted exchange, he listens.

Chris runs this great live video show online, and when I IMed him this evening to ask him what he thinks about running Windows apps on the Mac, he was pretty emphatic and told me to turn on the video feed:

Greg Hughes says: have you run windows on the macbookpro? with that program that lets you do that things where you can run windows apps in OSX and all that?
Greg Hughes says: i liked the idea of running a native windows app in OSX
Chris Pirillo says: Vmware.
Greg Hughes says: parallels?
Chris Pirillo says: Vmware fusion
Chris Pirillo says: Trust me, d00d.
Greg Hughes says: k
Chris Pirillo says: TRUST ME
Chris Pirillo says: Perf + seamless
Chris Pirillo says: Here.
Chris Pirillo says: watch
Greg Hughes says: k
Chris Pirillo says: No, i mean - watch the vid.
Greg Hughes says: one sec
Greg Hughes says: ok am watching...

Then he proceeded to show me via the live video feed (along with everyone else in his viewing and chatting audience) how incredibly slick VMWare Fusion is, and why I should look at it instead of Parallels. Both are cool apps, but the VMWare seems really cool for performance.

This stuff is really amazing, and this is a great example of something that's a lot easier to explain by showing it to you.

Chris has an archived video (see below) and a related blog post where he did a comparison of the two products (Parallels vs. VMWare Fusion). If you have not checked out Chris' video show, it's pretty slick, he does call-in's for tech support and all sorts of stuff -- and http://live.pirillo.com is the URL to watch.

I'm looking forward to playing around with this stuff. My inner geek is waking up and getting a bit excited. I need to find a Mac notebook to see how this stuff works, then write some more I think. Should be fun.

Here's Chris' archived video where he discusses the VMWare Fusion and Parallels software products:


Thanks Chris, and I just realized that's two "Holy Craps" in one day here. Nice. :)


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Tech
Monday, 27 August 2007 22:40:33 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Well, I just discovered that I am missing at least one blog entry from the past. I know it's missing because I specifically went looking for it today. I also linked to it in the past from another entry that still exists on this blog. It's just gone. Weird. Also not good. Makes me wonder what else might be missing. I have an idea what might have caused this, but that doesn't help solve the issue. I may have to go back and find some old site content backups and figure out when it disappeared, and probably enumerate all of my posts from the old backups and compare them to what's online now. from there I can make repairs.

Ugh, that just sounds like so much fun... A use for my copious spare time, I guess. Not. Heh.

If you happen to find a link to something here that doesn't work (it will probably redirect you to the main home page), please let me know the original URL and the topic or place you found the link.

Thanks.



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Random Stuff | Things that Suck
Monday, 27 August 2007 12:48:08 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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This one should be interesting to watch. There's a new blog at Microsoft's MSDN blogs system called hackers @ microsoft (http://blogs.msdn.com/hackers/), and the first (introductory) post is up. I hope to see some interesting security and general information here. Might be a good source of some useful insight. There are many things Microsoft is doing right these days, security-wise. More on that in another post some other time.

From the opening post on hackers @ microsoft:

"Welcome to a new blog from Microsoft.  The focus of this blog is likely to be a little different from most other blogs you'll see on blogs.msdn.com.  Microsoft employs some of the best hackers in the world and actively recruits them and develops them.  They work on all kinds of projects, whether it be in development, research, testing, management and of course security ... So yes, Microsoft does have hackers, and its time to introduce you to some of them and show you what it is, exactly that they do."

Cool. Subscribed.

(via betanews.com)



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IT Security | Tech
Monday, 27 August 2007 10:22:20 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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John Nack at Adobe links to a video that I saw up on YouTube as well the other day after a friend sent me link, where a couple of incredibly smart people have presented a new way to resize (and otherwise edit) images. And apparently, according to Nack, one of those smart people - Shai Avidan - is working at Adobe now. Here's the video:

Technically, it's very interesting, even amazing to watch. From a pure photojournalism ethics standpoint, it's certainly to be considered as yet another real concern to those who work in the field. As much of a technology geek as I am, I was a photojournalist long before I got heavy into computers. As soon as I started watching the video my thoughts were as a former news photographer: "Wow, that's a lie." Proof again why art and reporting are not even close to the same thing, and why so few people with a camera fit into both the artist and reporter skins. You don't need to anymore, you can just cheat. Or at least that's what some people would call it.

It's becoming easier and easier to take liberties with the truth when it comes to recording scenes. With the continued technological progress in digital imaging pretty much anyone with a few bucks for some software and a computer (or even without a few bucks if their ethics are truly in the toilet) can create some pretty compelling imagery. But the easy way out doesn't do it for me... I prefer the actual scene, and non-story-telling edits limited to things like cropping, minor exposure compensation, lint removal and color/white balance. At least that's the way I feel with regard to photos that need to carry the journalism label (and for the most part for my photos, as well).

Artists and anyone creating images for effect as opposed to telling a true story, you can go for it. I won't count it against you too much, heh. But I think I'll just try to stick to taking a good natural picture. :-)



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Random Stuff | Tech
Monday, 27 August 2007 09:45:06 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Saturday, 25 August 2007

The Satellite Alignment Calculator over at UKSatelliteHelp is a great resource that allows you to choose the satellite(s) you need to point your dish at, specify your address, drag a pointer to the spot on your home or building where the dish is, and from that determine the specific angle and elevation you need to use to get a signal.

It also provides a visual representation of the direction to the satellite by drawing a line on the map, so you can see what landmarks fall in the path of the line of sight.

Satellite Alignment Tool Sample

It's a great tool and works great in the United States and elsewhere, not just in the UK. For example, all the Dish Network and DirecTV sats are listed and can be aimed with the information from this service, as well.

(via jkOnTheRun and Hacks)



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Tech
Saturday, 25 August 2007 22:07:20 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Thursday, 23 August 2007

My good friend Scott Hanselman just published the latest annual installment of his Ultimate Developer and Power User's Tool List, which you can always see the most recent version of over at http://www.hanselman.com/tools. As usual, it's a great list of the many, many, many, many pieces of software and sources of information - big and small - that Scott has found make his life as a developer and power user better. I love this list and it's fun when he updates it. Look for the new items this year (there's like 50 of them) in red.

Also, while you are there, take a minute or two and contribute a couple bucks to Team Hanselman in the fight against diabetes. The team has an incredible goal of raising $50,000 to go to fighting the disease, and as of this writing is almost half way there. Every penny counts, so give what you can if you can. And get a tax deduction. Click here to donate.

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Geek Out | Helping Others | Tech
Thursday, 23 August 2007 17:23:54 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Wednesday, 22 August 2007

UPDATED: As "Digger Dog" points out in the comments below, there is now a national hotline you can access by calling 811 from any phone, which will connect you to the proper utility marking service for your area. Funny thing is I heard a radio spot describing it yesterday, just a day after writing the original post, heh. Here's the description of the national service from the Call 811 web site:

image "One easy phone call to 811 starts the process to get your underground utility lines marked for free. When you call 811 from anywhere in the country, your call will be routed to your local One Call Center. Local One Call Center operators will ask you for the location of your digging job and route your call to affected utility companies. Your utility companies will then send a professional locator to your location to mark your lines within a few days. Once your underground lines have been marked, you will know the approximate location of your utility lines and can dig safely, because knowing what's below protects you and your family."

YouTube has the 811 video PSA spots online, as well. Here's the shorter of the two:

People are also arriving here searching for campaign materials and signage for the Call 811 program. Bumper sticker, bus signs, workplace signs, ad slicks and a whole lot more -- you name it -- get that stuff here.

Thanks, Digger Dog!

My original post:

Driveway at Home This weekend someone is going to be helping me to solve my long gravel driveway woes. After five years, it's time to take that lumpy surface out here in the middle-o-nowhere and fix 'er up, pot holes, bumps, ruts and huge puddles of water be damned. No more roller coasters for me. We'll have to sink some tractor teeth into the ground a foot or two, maybe deeper in some spots, so I needed to get the utilities marked ahead of time for safety and all that, of course.

Turns out there's a centralized service for a few states (specifically Oregon, Washington, Montana and Hawaii - weird but true) lets you make one call (or file a request online) and all the utility companies in your area will be notified and sent out to mark the spot. No need to call each one individually. In fact, when I called my electric company they directed me to the one-call service. You speak to an operator for a few short minutes and within 48 hours they'll have everyone out and the place all marked up.

CallBeforeYouDig.org is the web site where you can file your request online, and 800-332-2344 is the phone number if you're lonely or something and you want to speak to a human being. Again, it's available for people in Oregon, Washington, (most of ) Montana and Hawaii.

Enjoy, and don't dig without calling. It's not worth the hurt.



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Random Stuff
Wednesday, 22 August 2007 08:56:31 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Friday, 17 August 2007

I recently acquired a boat. A smaller jet boat, made by Sea-Doo. Yeah, I know, go ahead and bring it on... Mid-life crisis comments welcome, whatever. Heh.

ScreamingTurtle It's amazingly fun. I've been out with friends a bunch of times and it drives like crazy. the jet drive means you can turn literally on a dime, it slides an skids and turns and flies fast. We've pulled kneeboards and a big tube and it's a blast. No wakeboard yet, mostly because they're so much more expensive and we already have the tube and kneeboard.

The boat is a Sea-Doo 150 Speedster, and it's a 215-horsepower little water demon that seats four. It has a name (people seem to ask me that question a lot), which is Screaming Turtle. Long story behind that, so let's just say it's a random name that one of the kids in youth group and I came up with well before I bought the boat. Kind of pre-planned.

So, I had it out on the upper Willamette River (the clean part that is well upstream from the Portland sewage mess) Wednesday evening this week with a couple friends, and we were pulling the water tube. I was careful each time to make sure the tow rope, which floats on top of the water, was not under the boat. This boat has a water intake opening on the underside toward the back, into which water is sucked to feed the impeller in the boat - the "jet" drive. After several runs of carefulness I got lazy and started the boat without looking for the rope closely enough, so it was pulled into the intake, wrapped around the drive shaft and into the seal, and slightly into the impeller. Ugh. The result of that was a dead-in-the-water boat two miles from the boat ramp where my truck was. Not fun.

Anyhow, lesson there is *always* check to see if the rope is clear, without exception. It's a lot easier to get home that way, and it will save you a couple hundred bucks in labor.

On a side note, there was a very nice man who was out with his church youth group on the river who finished up for the day and towed us with our boat all the way back to the Boone's Ferry ramp, which was awesome. He was a true saint, and although I offered to buy a tank of gas in return for the favor, he declined and said he'd been there before as a new boat owner. Something about a sand bar and a destroyed prop. Heh. Nice guy. It's sure good to know there are people like him out there. Would have been really bad to be stuck in the dark.

Here's some video from Wednesday evening before the whole line-intake-suck-up thing. It was a really nice out. The sun was low in the sky so depending on which way we were heading it was really darned bright. Dave, Lisa and I had a blast.



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Random Stuff
Friday, 17 August 2007 22:00:09 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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UPDATED: On December 19, 2007 Blockbuster notified its customers that it is once again increasing rates for the Total Access service. Click here for more information.

Nothing like BS marketing diversionary explanations for what amounts to a profiteering move. Come on, Blockbuster - we're not stupid... Tell it like it is.

It looks like the great Blockbuster Total Access Premium plan I've been on was a little too good to be true, and Blockbuster is reeling in some line to cut back on the likely massive number of free in-store rentals they've been handing out for free when customers return their online rentals to the brick-and-mortar stores. I know I have enjoyed that service, but I'm not especially enjoying the news I just got in email this evening telling me my account is changing.

In a nutshell, for the price I have been paying all along I will get less. I can still get 3 DVDs at a time, but will only be able to exchange five of the online movies for in-store rentals each month, where before there was no limit. To get what I'm used to, I'll have to pay another $7.00 a month. Looks like I have some decisions to make.

Here's the plan I have today, at least the next week or two...

Your Current Plan: BLOCKBUSTER Total Access Premium 

  • $17.99 / month (plus taxes)
  • 3 at-a-time, unlimited mailings
  • unlimited in-store free movie/discounted game exchanges
  • +2 FREE bonus Movie or Game Rental E-Coupon / Month

And below is the chart from their web site with the new plans. Ouch...

newblockbusterprices

The other thing that really gets me is the lame explanation (my opinion) they provided for why they're pre-determining and limiting the number of in-store rental exchanges they're allowing each month. This is taken from their online FAQ (emphasis mine):

QUESTION: Why is BLOCKBUSTER offering plans with a pre-determined number of monthly in-store movie exchanges?

ANSWER: We are now offering a full range of subscription options so that our customers can more easily find a plan that meets their specific needs, whether that means a basic online-only service without any in-store exchange privileges or a premium plan that includes unlimited in-store exchanges. Our new line-up of plans allow subscribers to get the right number of movies for their needs. Current subscribers are welcome to change their plan at any time by going to My Account.

What?? I already had a plan that met my needs, the very same plan that now costs $24.99, and which used to cost $17.99. Gah.

Why can't they just say it: They want/need to make more money and this makes it possible. Seriously, open and honest explanations about the obvious reasons would be much easier to swallow. In fact, if they told us the reason for the increase is because they didn't anticipate lower margins associated with lots of unlimited exchanges in the store, I might even consider paying the higher price to keep the same level of service. But putting forth what looks like a veiled, lame excuse for a reason doesn't exactly motivate me to do even more business with the company. Hey Blockbuster, just tell us what's really up -- please.

Oh and another thing - If you have one of the accounts with the limited in-store exchanges, apparently the counter for tracking your the in-store exchanges is based on how many you do in a calendar month, not per billing period.

Because I have been with the Total Access program for some time, I have also been getting two e-coupons a month for free in-store movie or game rentals. But I can't tell whether I will still get those after this change takes place. I might have to contact their customer support to find out. I hope they're keeping those in place for their longer-term customers.

Am I just whining here, or do you feel my pain? Are you affected by this change? What do you think?



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Movies | Random Stuff
Friday, 17 August 2007 20:33:54 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Minutes ago and well in time for the Tuesday release goal on the West Coast, Omar released dasBlog v2.0 on Sourceforge, which as Scott mentioned a few days ago runs under the .NET framework v2 and supports medium trust deployment.

dasBlogv2.0releas.0andmediumtrustsupport_1387E/dasblogbannerimage_2.png" width="500" border="0">

Downloads can be found dasBlogv2.0releas.0andmediumtrustsupport_1387E/dasblogbannerimage.png" target="_blank">here for source and compiled web files.

I'll upgrade soon (when I can find enough free minutes, probably later in the week). The dasBlog dev team is also pushing ahead with a version that will take advantage of the .NET 3.5 framework and should be very, very cool as well. So, lots there now and lots more to come!

I'll update here with details (or more likely a link to someone else's details list) soon.



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Blogging | Tech
Tuesday, 14 August 2007 21:27:44 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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imageI just ran across Microsoft.com's strong password checker, which is a little web-based app that lets you type a password or passphrase in and it tells you the relative strength. It's pretty nice and worth bookmarking.

Why are strong passwords important? Simple - because the simpler it is, the easier it is for someone to "brute-force" attack. That's a term that means they take a program that uses common terms, words and phrases to try to figure out your password by trying it over and over until it works. Strong passwords are complex in the variety of character types, are longer in size and don't use dictionary or other predictable, common terms.

Links:



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IT Security | Safe Computing | Tech
Tuesday, 14 August 2007 21:02:12 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Wednesday, 01 August 2007

Well, Amazon.com be praised... My new projector is here - The Epson PowerLite Home Cinema 1080 projector, along with a fresh-off-the-press copy of 300 in HD-DVD, a home theater HD-DVD calibration disc, The Matrix Ultimate Collection in HD-DVD (sense a theme yet? heh...) and a VGA cable for my Xbox 360 (which the the one that will let the HD-DVD player get output in true 1080p format - we will see how that goes).

   IMG_0329

Gonna be a fun evening at home. I'll post a review with details once I get my hands dirty. This projector is replacing my old Infocus X1, so I am upgrading from a 800x600 native image to a full 1080p (1920x1080) image and a much newer set of technologies behind it. Should be pretty amazing.

More to come. Time to go geek out for a while.

Quick Update: A-MA-ZING. Like as in wow. Watching the movie "300" in full 1080P at 130 or so inches projected size (I'll have to measure to be sure) is visually amazing. It doesn't even look like a video projection - you can clearly see the film grain and the screen door effect is non-existent. More later, I can't stop looking right now. And after a quick try, Xbox 360 games and HD TV both look amazing, too.



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Tech
Wednesday, 01 August 2007 13:43:36 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Microsoft's Windows Live Folders (Beta) is (another) service that allows you to upload your files to a secure, remote, backed-up, high-availability server system so you can access them from anywhere on the Internet with a web browser and your Windows Live ID account information. It's a pretty basic service, but it's clean and functional and that counts. You only get 500MB of storage (did I just say "only??"), so it's not (yet) a place to back up your entire hard drive or even a large number of pictures or other binary files, and there is a 50MB per-file limit. The service is currently in a limited release while it's in beta, but you can sign up and get in at some point.

You can store files in one of three ways:

  • So only you can access them (personal files and folders)
  • So only those you specify can access them (shared files and folders)
  • So anyone can access them (public files and folders)

Below are a few screenshots. When you first log in and see your new account, you have 500MB of free space available. The graphical representation of the system functionality is nice and clean and very easy to understand. Anyone could use this stuff, it's plenty intuitive:

   Live Folders - 500MB

Once you choose how you want to store your files (in this case I chose Personal folders), you're presented with the opportunity to create or choose folders to store them in:

   Live Folders - Choose a folder

Then you can choose, as expected, which files you want to upload using a standard Browse dialog (below). It would be nice to have a tool I could run to choose a whole directory, or multiple files in a single dialog, or even that I could just drag-and-drop onto. Maybe someone else will write one (or already has for all I know).

   Live Folders - Choose Files to Upload

Once you upload your file, the details page for the document (file) can be seen and reviewed. Options exist to rename, delete, etc:

   Live Folders - File Details

All in all it's a good start. I am hopeful that larger storage and bulk upload tools will become available. If that happens, this will be a viable contender in the online storage market. But hey, it's beta and it's free, so it's hard to complain. :)



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Tech
Wednesday, 01 August 2007 13:32:36 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Want to quickly track your package being shipped by UPS, just type the word "track" followed by your tracking number into the Google search box and click. Google will help you find the info. In fact it look like you can just type the number in and Google figures it out for you.

track_with_google

Cool stuff. I don't have a FedEx or DHL package to track right now - but they say those work, too. Looks like Google automatically recognizes tracking numbers from UPS, USPS, and FedEx. But if you have a DHL tracking number, you can precede it with "dhl" on your search string. For example, something like "dhl 1234567890123" should work.

Or try isnoop.net's visual online tracking tool to map out your tracking information. Not sure what real value that adds, but hey it's really cool if you're watching your Amazon or Woot shipment with great anticipation. :)

track_maps_isnoopnet



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Random Stuff | Tech
Wednesday, 01 August 2007 09:21:24 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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Recent security issues revealed by a group of security researchers, which will be showcased this week at the Blackhat conference in Las Vegas, are apparently dealt with via an update to the iPhone software released last night by Apple. You can read the change-log here.

Time to load up iTunes, all you iPhone users, and get your security fixes.

Also, looks like the Engadget guys seem to think Safari runs better in general and Boy Genius Report has a few non-security-related fixes/changes they have found.



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IT Security | Safe Computing | Tech
Wednesday, 01 August 2007 07:36:17 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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