Sunday, October 26, 2014

Two of Three

Not computer related this time but a little story I wanted to share.

When I was a student, like most, I had to be a little more conscious of where I spent my money. This restriction doesn’t sit well with those of us who collect things, any things. It meant that from my student years, there were three things that I wish I’d bought but didn’t. And now that I have a little more disposable income, I have been trying to track them down. Yesterday, the second of the three items was delivered to my door.

Now these things that I seek aren’t items of great value. They have some collector interest and enough value that you will see them occasionally but not enough that I’m going to blow my son’s college fund on purchasing them. Not that some sellers aren’t asking for the entire college fund, just that most are more sensible.

I found the first of the three items, a boxed Grendel mask from the original Matt Wagner run at Comico, about fifteen years ago. I had seen one, but just one, years ago upstairs in the comic department at the Virgin Record Store on Oxford Street in London. I did not have the funds back then to pay the asking price that I think was £100. Just as communities were starting to evolve on the web, Dan Homer put together a forum for those interested in Matt Wagner’s work. An archive of that site still exists. I think it was Dan who mentioned that he had tracked down the original manufacturer of the masks and that he (the manufacturer) still had some. Following Dan’s lead, a few weeks later I had four of the masks in my possession; two to trade and two (one a signed, limited edition) for myself. And the final price? Free, after selling off the duplicates. The first of the trinity had been acquired.

The second item, the one I just received, was a CD single by the group Dire Straits. I’m still a huge Mark Knopfler fan and have a good collection of singles, albums, CDs and the like. But the one I didn’t have was a copy of the first CD single ever release, the Live in ’85 version of Brothersin Arms. Again, I had seen one in a record store in Harrogate, North Yorkshire some years back but didn’t buy it. This time, the reason was not the lack of funds but that I didn’t own a CD player at the time. I was and still am a huge fan of vinyl so didn’t make the switch back then. By the time I did buy a CD player, the single was long-since out-of-print. I found a copy of the CD single on e-bay a couple of weeks ago and had it shipped to my home in the US from Sweden. The final price this time? A little more than the original £20 at $80, but still not too unreasonable. The second of the trinity had been delivered.

And what’s left?

The final item I am looking for is the boxed set of fourspinners (toy cars for the uninitiated) from the movie Blade Runner. The set was released by ERTL. I had originally seen them in a store off Oxford Circus, again while I was a student in London. I passed this store for weeks and they just sat there, of course until the Saturday when they didn’t. I’ve never seen one since, other than online where I see them pop up every now and again on e-bay but for silly money. Anyone can throw money at a problem; I want to add these items to my collection for a reasonable cost. So the final “holy grail” to my collection still sits out there, elusive. But I’ll get it one day.

Just like I will the bronze Grendel statue.

And the Amazing Fantasy #15 (the first appearance of Spider-man).

Collecting is an addiction and there’ll always be that one other thing out there to get.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Apple to Buy Beats for $3.2B

Apple, a well loved hardware company  (by their users, execrated by others), to buy Beats, another well loved (by their users, execrated by others) hardware company, for a lot of money.

And the pundits start.

Rather than add my uninformed opinion, I'm going to use this post as an excuse to promote an artist whose work I love, Len Peralta, who designed the logo to the left.

Disclaimer: The author of this post has no connection to Mr. Peralta other than being a fan. Buy his stuff, people!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Steve Wozniak - My Warm Up Act

I got to present at a conference this week immediately following Steve Wozniak's presentation.

Talk about a tough act to follow.

Steve was, as always, very engaging and thoroughly entertaining. Most of us in the audience sat there listening, thoroughly enthralled, until he pulled his gold iPhone 5s out of his pocket then all of the fanboys (hey, I'm in there too) started snapping pictures.

Thanks Steve for a great presentation and some wonderful stories.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

My First Smart Phone

Anyone else have one of the Motorola Startac's with a ClipOn? I also had an external modem for this phone at one point too. Add the in car kit and in home booster and I probably paid more than I paid for a couple of iPhones to get this system back in ancient history (also known as a couple of decades ago).

What was your first smart phone? (and yes, I realize I'm using "smart" pretty loosely here).

Friday, September 20, 2013

LinkedIn Shares E-mails

LinkedIn is essentially the Facebook for business. It is a social network designed around business relationships.

But those with whom we do business and those with whom we want to interact further are not always the same. You might have a colleague with whom you're happy to discuss business matters on the site (or app) but don't want them to have your e-mail address. You know the guy. You might be the guy. Maybe I'm that guy?

Well, tough!

If you're connected through LinkedIn then they can get to your e-mail by exporting their contacts. The export function provides the user with a nice list of user names and e-mails in .csv format that can then be imported into any number of programs.

To get the .csv file:

  • Under NETWORK select CONTACTS
  • On the bottom right of the page is a link to EXPORT CONTACTS
  • This will take you to a new page where you can select format (.csv is the default and works for this application)  and then EXPORT (you may go through a CAPTCHA page and if so, verify).
  • A file will drop on your desktop that you can open with Excel (or equivalent) and read off the e-mails in plain text (you might have to give permissions in IE if you're stuck using IE).

Not cool!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Apple iOS7 Vs The Otterbox Defender

Many pundits complain about the amount of time Apple spends on the design and slimming of iPhones as users immediately put those slim, pretty phones in big, clunky cases. The big, clunky case of choice for many (myself included) is the Otterbox Defender. My son does not get a phone unless it fits in an Otterbox (phone, pad). I am a long time fan of the product and know that they've saved my electronics more than a few times.

Apple released iOS7 yesterday to the general public. A welcome update with many nuances we users are learning. The new OS includes three new significant swipe commands. They are:

  1. Swipe down to access Notifications
  2. Swipe up to access the Control Center (frequently used features), and
  3. Swipe from the middle and pull down to access Spotlight (yes, that's where they've hidden it).

However, after updating my Otterbox Defender clad iPhone 5 so that it runs the new iOS7 yesterday, I find, along with many other dissatisfied owners, that the the Control Center cannot be accessed. The large, hard plastic surround for the button limits access to the part of the screen required to activate the Control Center.

And Otterboxes response is less than useful. Users on the Macrumors Forum have reported that the official response from Kendra was "I am very sorry that you are having trouble accessing your iOS7 software. I recommend that you contact Apple and make them aware of the issue. I am very sorry for this inconvenience. Thank you for your time."

Not what I'd expect from a company selling a $60 case! And of course, the issue is not mentioned on their web site and they are still advertising that the Otterbox Defender works with the iPhone 5.

Edit 10-28-13: It seems that Apple listened and fixed the issue, now allowing swipes from the left side of the lower screen. Thanks to Anonymous (no, not that Anonymous, they have bigger fish to fry) for notifying me of the fix.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Free iOS VPN from TouchVPN

It's been a while. I haven't had much to say recently and rather than publish noise, I kept quiet. But I wanted to share this information so here goes....

You've seen that option in your settings and are wondering what exactly is a VPN and do you need one. A VPN is a Virtual Private Network. Typically this means that you will have the ability to access your network over the internet with some level of security. Great if you work at a multinational or university who doesn't want to share secrets.

But why do I need a VPN on my iPhone? I don't need to access secret data on my work computer on my phone. Is there anything there for me?

Well, yes. According the the TouchVPN web site, "Everyone Need VPN". To paraphrase their content, VPN has a number of benefits to the average mobile user.
  • Web Surfing Anonymously - users can browse the internet anonymously even when using public Wi-Fi hotspots or through your cell provider.
  • Enhanced Safety and Security - data is encrypted through the VPN. Well, as long as you trust the company providing the VPN service*.
  • Unblock Websites & Bypass Web Filters - VPN has servers in the UK and US and becomes an efficient way to unblock region-restricted sites that allow access from those countries (I'm looking at you BBC).
  • Hiding your IP address - VPN replaces your local ISP's IP address with the VPN public IP. All websites you visited will only know the VPN IP intead of your real IP address.
Possibly the most well known public VPN (I love that oxymoron) is Hotspot Shield but their service is not free. If you are too cheap to pay for their excellent service (hey, we can smell our own), try TouchVPN.

Their web site provides adequate details on how to connect through their UK-based or US-based VPN. The US-based VPN is pretty fast but the UK-based VPN is slow (so no BBC on my iPhone, still have to rely on Netshade on my Mac).

*Do I trust TouchVPN? I did a lot of searching to find an answer to this question before I decided to write this post. Their server is out of a small town just outside Wichita, Kansas. They are a relatively new company but all the buzz seems positive. Scamadvisor gives it a trustworthy rating (do I trust Scamadvisor?).

**In researching this post I ran across Blogger Jin's web site that lists 21 free alternatives. You might prefer the service from one of the alternative sites he lists.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

How to Update Apple TV with the Latest Software Update

So evidently lots of people are having problems updating Apple TV to the latest version that was released on November 29th, 2012.

I thought Apple products were just supposed to work. Oh well...

Evidently there is only an issue updating if connected to the internet by an ethernet cable. So the answer is to unplug the cable, turn wi-fi on, restart the Apple TV and then restart the update.

Okay, that's a lot of steps, here's the break-down.

1. Unplug the ethernet cable from the back of the Apple TV unit.
2. In settings, go to General -> Network->Wi-Fi. Select your wi-fi settings, put in the password if you set one (you did set one, right?).
3. Hit the menu button to go back to the General screen then select Restart.
4. After a Restart, go to General -> Update Software. Select to update the software. Wait as the software is updated.
5. Plug the ethernet cable back into the back of the Apple TV unit.
6. Sit back and enjoy the update.

Really easy, just a shame that you have to go though all of these steps to get it to work.

No, not everyone will have a problem with updating directly but if you do, here's the work around.

Monday, September 17, 2012

NetShade: Anonymous Proxy software for Mac

NetShade allows you to access the web anonymously from an access point that you choose. It also makes your presence on the web anonymous by routing your connection through a proxy server. There are a bunch more claims on the site but in the end, it's a way to access the web and pretend you're coming from somewhere you're not.

Beyond the obvious security uses, it's a way to access web sites that have geographic limits imposed on them. For example, I use it to watch BBC's iPlayer in the US. It would have been really useful to have access during the Olympics so that I could have watched the BBC's coverage of the games instead of the cr@p NBC showed but better late than never.

Okay, so you can buy the software at a touch under $30 but where's the fun in that? Of course, we want to keep everything legit so here's a way to get a legal serial number that has no expiration date.

Go to the MacHeist web site and download the game, play it. Register and a full serial number will be sent to your e-mail address. Hurry though, the game won't be around forever.

And if you're not one for games, the solutions are posted on the MacHeist forum. The solutions for all of the levels are posted in this thread, just read through and play along. The games are pretty easy to solve though so you might enjoy the distraction without the cheat-sheet.

Time to get the serial number - about 5 minutes.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

The Death of iGoogle! Now What?

So I pick up my computer this morning and I see a notification from Google that they're planning on killing iGoogle. Looking into things a little more I see their blog post stating "On November 1, 2013, iGoogle will be retired. We originally launched iGoogle in 2005 before anyone could fully imagine the ways that today's web and mobile apps would put personalized, real-time information at your fingertips. With modern apps that run on platforms like Chrome and Android, the need for iGoogle has eroded over time, so we’ll be winding it down. Users will have 16 months to adjust or export their data."

So they're giving us a little notice as the death sentence isn't planned until November of next year but I like to plan ahead (and get used to changes). I looked on-line for some alternatives and found two mentioned, Netvibes and Pageflakes. I don't know if it's just today but Pageflakes doesn't load (I'll edit if it reappears).

When I first went to the Netvibes site I was pointed to a nearly $500 option. After clicking back, I saw that there was also a free option. I like free so I went with that choice. Signing in and creating a site that mirrored my iGoogle site was very easy. I've posted the two sites below for comparison purposes.



As you can see, there's not too much that's different between the two. I think that the iGoogle site is a little cleaner but that might be because I'm used to it. The news site is a little harder to read on the Netvibes widget and there aren't too many controls to make the text appear darker. But it all works. I can still see my mail come in and my appointments (yes I have stand-alone applications for those but this functionality always serves as a nice little reminder; I like the built-in redundancy).

So I'm a little less worried now than I was when I woke up. I won't lose the functionality I've gotten used to and my homepage (yes, I still like to have a homepage) will look essentially the same.

The one thing I will loose is the black Google bar at the top of the page that really did nothing more than remind me to go to Google+ every now-and-again.

With that gone, how often will I look at Google+?

As for Netvibes, very nice for free!