Archive for May, 2009

Make Twitter Better

One of the things I like about Twitter, believe it or not, is the simplistic design. There's not a lot of useless options. There not many things to click on at all really, compared to other sites. There are a few missing items that should be on the site, however. I just recently installed a Firefox extension that accomplishes everything I need.

I've found that a lot of the twitter "clients" are lacking. For instance, I can't easily search and follow people from TweetDeck. I really like to just use the web client. I only thing that I could use on the web interface is a notification of @ replies. Every other option that I found useful in the clients is now available on the web client via Power Twitter Firefox extension. There's also a few features I wasn't expecting. For instance, Song.ly is now integrated. I had never tried Song.ly until I installed this extension. I love it.

Check out the extension. It's worth it if you Tweet much at all.

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Hava Titanium HD Wifi

Ok these things are awesome for someone like me. Wireless is the way to go with these too. There are a few different models and they are super cheap if you get them in the right place. Cheap, at least, considering what they can do. Hava Titanium HD Wifi provides a premium home theater experience. It allows you to watch and control HD digital cable, satellite. You can also record the programs wirelessly on a PC or even a mobile phone.

Not only that, but you can also view YOUR TV stations while you are away from home. Let's say you are on vacation and you have your laptop with you. You can watch and control your TV stations from your computer. If the place you stay at only has basic cable, for instance, and you've subscribed to the full deal at home, you can watch it remotely. You just have to have a recommended 300kbit/s upstream. Most broadband connections are at least three times this.

These things are truly awesome and you can get one for less than $200. It's a steal for anyone who likes to watch TV on their computer. I stay on the computer so having a TV is very nice.

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Technology in Reverse

Is it just me or is technology going in reverse? I thought we were making progress, you know with things likes tapes, CDs, DVD, and BluRay. Things like that have generally been going in the right direction. Other things are completely backwards. This seems especially true for things in the communication arena.

For instance, around ten years ago we had these things called alpha-numeric pagers. We could even get two-way alpha-numeric pagers. The service was around $10 per month. This was the precursor to today texting conversations over a normal cell phone. The only major difference is that it costs a lot more to text over cell phones.

This isn't the reverse part though. We all expect prices for things to climb at least a bit. It's no surprise that once "texting" caught on with the populous and not just the geeks, the cell phone providers would start jacking with the prices. No, the reason texting is a reverse in technology is the fact that MAKING A PHONE CALL IS SO MUCH MORE EFFICIENT.

Everywhere you look there's someone typing on a cell phone and even though some of them are extremely fast, they can't be communicating faster than just using the phone. Image we were in a word where there was no such thing as voice calls. The only thing we had is text-messaging. Now image someone invented the PHONE. Can you just image what kind of shift toward that technology we would have? Everyone would be talking on the phone.

So, just because something is new doesn't mean that it is better. This is especially true with the internet. There is a lot of talk about Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and other sites that offer "Web2.0" experiences. They are "so-called" user-driven content sites, social networking. This isn't a new invention. Web2.0 has been around since the early days of the internet. It's only a big deal now because there are lot more people on the internet.

Twitter is about as useless as these apps get too. It's horrible realy. I'm sorry but there have been much better technologies in the past. If you take out the marketing side of Twitter, where everyone is trying to sell something, it is just a low efficiency chat room. You are limited to 140 characters. I understand the concept of micro blogging. It's the same concept of chat rooms. You have friends/followers, and they see what you say. BIG DEAL....chat rooms have been doing that for ages. IRC has been around forever. It's still the most effective way to chat on the internet, if you ask me. What about IMs? You have friends. You change your status. They see it. It's the same thing as twitter. The only difference I can see is that you can search for people to add to your friends/followers.

So where IRC would allow you type much more at a time, was more anonymous, was easier hold a conversation in, and was/is a much faster conversation experience, people just love these Web2.0 apps. Even Oprah joined Twitter.

The driving point behind most of these new sites is the ability to advertise to people. They are great for online marketers. Since that is the case, the marketers push these sites heavily. This makes them more popular. Unsuspecting internet users just go with the flow and join these sites because "everyone" is on them. Everyone else is joining for the same reason. That is the angle the marketers take. They talk about how popular the sites are before they even get popular. This in turn drives the traffic up.

In conclusion, my ability to communicate is much better thanks to phones and IRC. I'll stick to those things. Texting and the new Web2.0 social media sites are very inefficient. The pseudo-geeks that use these things should realize that real geeks and nerds look for efficiency. These new technologies are much less efficient than what we've used in the past. Why are we going in reverse?

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Ubuntu Synergy Howto

There's really not much to setting up Synergy in the latest Ubuntu. The reason I'm writing this is because I ran into a roadblock while setting it up and it was a stupid mistake on my part. I know someone else will probably make the same mistake.

I'm used to Debian-based distros. I ran Debian for a few years on my home desktop, and I use Debian on my personal development servers. I should have realized that synergy and quicksynergy were in the Ubuntu repositories. It just makes sense. They are even available for the 64bit version.

Before I realized this, I looked for the package in Ubuntu's "Add and remove software" app. I searched for synergy and found nothing. Stupid me assumed that it wasn't available. I should have just ran the ole trusty apt-cache search synergy. Assuming that it wasn't in the repos, I downloaded the source. The only binary available for Linux was in RPM form. I just don't like converting RPMs to DEBs using Alien. Sorry. So, I tried to compile it. I ran in to a few issues while trying to compile. That's when I decided to check the repos. Lo and behold, there both packages were. So to install synergy and the nice graphical front-end for it called quicksynergy, simple run: sudo apt-get install synergy quicksynergy

I'm pretty sure these are both in the universe repository. However, in the event I'm incorrect, they are at least in the multiverse repo. So if universe doesn't turn up anything, just add multiverse. If you don't know how to do that, Google.

If you've never tried Synergy out, it's one of those must have apps for Linux, Windows, or OS X. It's useful if you have more than one computer and more than one monitor, but only want to use one keyboard and one mouse. It makes the two computers seem to work in unison by sharing the keyboard and mouse over IP. It's not exactly the same as KVM over IP because video doesn't get shared.

It's great for me because I have a regular desktop and my "server" box at my desk. I have dual displays on my main box and I now have another display connected to my "server". My keyboard and mouse are shared between the two computers. When I mouse over to the far right hand side of my main box's desktop the mouse goes to my server box's display. My keyboard then works on it. Mousing back to the left gives control back to my main box.

If you've never tried synergy, give it a shot. It's open source, free, and extremely handy.

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International Whats-hot-weekly.com

I finished up modifications to whats-hot-weekly.com. There is now a drop-down list which lets the users choose their country. This is all handled with eBay site IDs. Categories are still being stored in a MySQL database locally on the server. This make the menus function much better. I've already noticed many people in the UK, Canada, Spain, France, and Australia are using the site. Currently the site is averaging over 100 unique visitors per day. This isn't great but it's nice to have even that many people interested in your work.

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Free Candy Sample – Jelly Belly

I've always liked candy and one of my (and one of Ronald Reagan's) favorite candies is Jelly Bellies. They are great. There are so many different flavors. Plum is my favorite. There's one suggestion I have for eating Jelly Bellies. Always eat one at a time, unless you are combining the different flavors to create an intentional flavor. For instance, you could create a cream soda float by combining cream soda and vanilla. There are actually recipes for this.

If you've never tried them before, do one at a time. You can get a free sample of Jelly Bellies here.

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Really cool online auction idea

At this point, most people have heard of eBay. A high percentage of them have probably signed up for an eBay account and have made a purchase on the online auction site. EBay has been the defacto online auction site for years. Through those years many other auction sites have tried to get some of that market share with little luck. Most just didn't have the right marketing. After all marketing is a major factor in whether a site succeeds or not. One can have the best site on the internet, and if no one knows anything about it, it'll never rank well on search engines or become a high traffic site.

Sometimes there are ideas that just can't be ignored, even if they have suffered from poor marketing. This is especially true for one of the coolest sites I've come across recently. It is a great idea and already there are many sites trying to copy the idea. The idea is simple really, but it is ingenious. This site is an auction site that works slightly different. It is possible to win items and end up paying pennies on the dollar for the item's worth. As an example, a Macbook which normally sells for around $1300 could sale for $200 bucks.

What's the catch?

Well, the catch is all in the way you bid on the items. It's more of a competition. It's actually pretty addictive. Bids are incremented by a certain amount. There are regular auctions and penny auctions. The regular auctions increment by a larger amount, while penny auctions go up a penny every time someone bids. Any time a person bids, it costs them a certain amount of money. I believe the current going rate is around 75 cents per bid. When they bid, the current bid price goes up a certain amount and they become the high bidder. These auctions are also timed, but every time a person bids, it adds a little more time to the auction. So if one waits till the last second to place a bid, hoping to be the last bidder, the time goes up and a bunch of other people jump on board.

Now it doesn't go on like this indefinitely. There is a permanent end time for auctions as well. This is pretty easy when you understand what's going on.

It is very possible to get a great deal on something on this site. I've seen items go for 10% of the retail cost with the bidder only spending about ten bucks for bids. There are TV's, game systems, laptops, and many other things that get auctioned there at amazing prices. Check it out here!!

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Updating Whats-hot-weekly

My task for this morning is to add additional site codes to whats-hot-weekly.com. It's not an easy task. At least, it isn't as easy as I thought it would be. All of the categories are pulled from a database that I refresh every so often. The database only contains the categories for the US eBay site. This is where it gets hairy because I wasn't aware before now that the other countries used didn't categories. So, now my task is to add all the categories so I can implement the additional sites.

This is going to take a while. The US along takes around half an hour. There are many other sites. I've recreated the database adding a field to record the site_id. Next I'll run my scripts to populate the database with API calls. After I populate the database for the US, I'll switch the site codes manually and add the next site. I would automate this but I would rather monitor it anyway so I thought I may as well do it manually.

The big issue that will come up later is currencies. I'll have to adjust for that. I'll also have to recreate the same code on the static version of the site.

While I wait for the database to refresh, the old site is still running as normal. I have a development environment that is a working copy of the production environment. I'll make the switch there, then simply move it over to production from there. There should be exactly no downtime to the site. I hope.

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The best projectors for the money

I've owned a few projectors. I love to have a 120 inch screen on my wall. It makes a great home theater experience. I look at a 60 inch screen and think it's small. My kids are spoiled. They have this huge projection screen for their games and Disney movies. Projectors are great.

My current projector does 1080p, so my Blu-ray movies look great and all our games do as well. There is a problem with owning a projector however. Lamps don't last very long. Now, as an aside, my current projector has been using the same bulb for over 2 years and it's well over 4,000 hours. That's double the length of time it is supposed to get. I still have the replacement lamp on a shelf here, waiting to be put in.

Lamps cost up to $400 for projectors. That can get expensive if you use the projector a lot. I just recently happened upon this deal at powerpointprojectors.net however. It's a CRT projector worth over $45,000 retail, selling for $3,000. It's an unbelievable deal. The projector was ordered by the US military for use in a helicopter simulator. This type of projector is extremely expensive for a few reasons. One, they are native 1080P hi definition projectors. Two, they use three lenses one for each color (Red, Green, Blue). Three, they have a bench life of over 100,000 hours. That means you don't have to replace the bulb for many years. This isn't even including the quality of these things. They are amazing, and for $3,000 you can't buy a better projector. Actually, you probably can't buy a better projector for anything less than $20k.

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Just How Relevant is Google

We have all come to expect good things from Google. In fact, many of us have come to believe that Google is the best at everything they do. This is especially true with their original application, their search. For the past few years Google has ruled the search market. It got there by making the most relevant search results appear every time a user executed a search.

Those days may be over. Recently, I've noticed a trend that Google isn't giving very relevant content. I don't think I'm alone, and I have a pretty good idea why we are getting such bad results. It's not entirely Google's fault. There are many "white hat" and "black hat" search engine optimizations that are being used to manipulate the results. Marketers are trying to draw content to their sites. That's how they make money after all. SEO has been used ever since the first search engine. Google just seems to be lagging behind in making their algorithms detect unwanted SEO.

This isn't to say that those marketers are doing something wrong exactly. It's just that most of them are concentrating on Google. Google is, after all, the most popular search engine. They know what works to get ranked on Google, so they do it. They do a lot of it. This skews Google's search results, but doesn't necessarily effect Yahoo search results because Yahoo uses different algorithms to determine where a result ranks.

Google also is notorious for de-indexing RELEVANT sites by mistake. For instance, this site seems to have been de-indexed, and I've not been attempting to SEO this site much at all. It could be due to my use of a WordPress plugin called All-in-one SEO pack, though that really shouldn't have anything to do with it either.

Here is my single example that has been perplexing me for a month or so:
Once upon a time, there was a script for the XChat IRC client, called "XLack". This script is my favorite system information script for XChat. I've used it for probably 4 or 5 years. The home site for the script used to be xlack.tk. This was where everyone would go to download it. That site is now a parked domain. It has been that way for close to a year. If you search google for "Xlack", xlack.tk is still the number one site. It is no longer relevant at all. It's a parked domain. In fact, if one tries to find a site from which to download the xlack script, one finds that there are none listed on Google.com.

Now take that same search over to yahoo.com. A simple search for "xlack download" gives you this site, which has the relevant download link of the actual script. Yahoo.com provides more relevant results. Try it on any of your search and see if you don't get better results from Yahoo or even Live.com. I guarantee you'll have more success from them these days than you do Google.

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