Archive for category Internet

What’s Killing Linux and Software Freedom?

I know many will say "we knew that already" when they read what I'm about to write, but I just came to this realization today. I was reading a blog title "I miss using Linux". The author was describing some of the reasons he can't avoid using Windows.

There are many good reasons like the ones he offers. Some people want to game, but game companies just don't make games for Linux because it isn't popular enough. Others need certain programs that are only available for Windows. Whatever the reasons, it's not going to be the "year of the Linux Desktop" any time soon.

One part that really stood out to me about the post was the reiteration that Photoshop was a main reason for not using Windows. I would actually go so far as to say that the entire creative suite is a major reason more people don't switch to Linux completely.

Sure, one could possibly run it in a VM but that's not a good solution. If you need a VM of Windows, why not just run Windows, right? That's the correct reasoning if you ask me, and I'm a Linux advocate. The problem could be that more people are procrastinating truthfully. They simply don't want to switch completely or don't feel comfortable enough in Linux to use it full time. I don't think this is the prime reason, but for some it could be a factor.

Adobe is the problem, at least in my mind. Adobe is the last non-open company. Microsoft office uses an open document format finally. There is a lot of compatibility with Open Office. Most other programs have decent open source alternatives. Even Photoshop has a decent open source alternative in the Gimp, but some people don't think it is enough. Adobe has a lock on a lot of the media on the web right now with Flash, even though there are better alternatives to using Flash, most sites use it.

Adobe is holding back Linux. Rather, our dependency on Adobe products is holding back Linux tremendously. There would be a lot more people to adopt Linux if the Creative Suite was available in it. There would be a lot of people adopt Linux is Flash was no longer the defacto standard for media on the web.

Apple has the right idea by not including Flash support on the iPhone. This will help push us away from the closed-standard. I'm for this change.


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Driver Scanning Scammers

I was trying to locate a simple audio driver for a Windows XP VM I have. Basically, I'm in Linux and I want to watch Netflix but my main VM is having trouble with SilverLight for some strange reason, and rather than deal with that, I decided to use a spare VM. The movies play but I don't have sound in that VM. I realized that the VM was an N-Lite created image, which means that most of the drivers were stripped out of it. So I decided to find the driver and install it.

This is when I started getting furious. The problem is, when you search Google for driver downloads, you will undoubtedly run into nothing but scams. This is the same for Bing and Yahoo. The entire first page of just about any driver download search will have nothing but scams. By scams I mean people trying to get you to download software that costs money, just so you can download and install FREE drivers for you hardware that you've already bought.

So, looking through these scams I realized that there are at least three different pieces of software everyone is trying to sell. The first one I ran into was Driver Detective. This seemed to be the most spammed software out there. Tons of fake sites with fake "Thanks" comments on them, but no true download for your driver, blanket the first page of search results. These sites don't actually have the driver, only a download link for the DriverDetective software. Whether or not the driver detective software works isn't even the questions. The tactics used to sell this software make it nearly impossible for even a very computer-literate person to find the driver they need.

It's days like this that make me appreciate some of the OEMs like Dell, which make it very easy for customers to find drivers. Undoubtedly the adsense to the right of this post will have links to driver software, but that is expected, those are ads. They clearly say so. They are required to disclose what they are selling.

If you run into this problem, here's probably the easiest way to find the correct driver for your system. Open up device manager. This is usually accomplished through the Windows Control Panel. Once there, find the problem device, with the exclamation point beside it, and right click on it. Choose "Properties". Go to the details and look for the VEN and DEV ids. These should each be four characters long. Pull up on your browser. Search for those ids. You should get the manufacturer and device from that. This will at least help narrow down what driver you need. Get the drivers from the manufacturers website. Don't even bother Googling it.

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ThinkGeek using viral marketing

Over the past two years, I've learned quite a bit about marketing. I've learned to be more of a skeptic in most things as well. There was a story today on Reddit entitled: "Thinkgeek: Officially our best-ever cease and desist letter ever".

At first I thought it was pretty funning. You can read all about it here:

After reading the entire thing, however, I now believe it was a viral marketing campaign. It's purely genius too. Make up a story like this, and then post it on tech news sites like Reddit, Slashdot, and Digg. This quickly made it to the front page of Reddit, and Thinkgeek probably received hundreds of thousands of unique visitors instantly.

Now, this could be totally legit, but even if that is the case, this is still an amazing marketing gimmick. This is how you get rich on the internet. You have to draw attention to your site, and then monetize that extra boost in traffic.


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Browser Extensions For Developers and Internet Marketers

I'm on the fence when it comes to my favorite browser. I've recently started using chrome much more, due to some bad performance issues in Firefox. Firefox on my 64-bit Windows 7 installed sits and eats memory. I've seen it use nearly 2gb of RAM. This was after it had been open on the computer for a few days, and a restart of the browser fixed the issue. However, I'm not sure why this leak is there. The last time I can remember truly liking Firefox completely was back in the version 1.5 days, and even then there was supposedly a huge memory leak. Back then I didn't notice a memory leak, but these days I do.

It could be that Firefox utilize memory different, and it may be the new way Windows 7 display memory usage. I still see sluggishness. Thus, my move to Chrome. There area a few different things that could have caused the slowness, such as the added extensions in Firefox. After installing about seven extensions in Chrome, however, I see no performance hit. So, I still suspect that there is an issue with the browser itself. Even with all of these woes, it is still better than using IE. I hate that browser. I don't necessarily hate using it, but it is difficult to write web sites that work well in it along with all other browser. It's the odd ball which never works the way I want.

For web development, Javascript is necessary for client-side scripting. However, Javascript is difficult to debug. Luckily, we have the Firebug extension for Firefox. This is the uber-extension for web developers. I've used it quite a lot, so much so that it has become a necessity. I probably couldn't write Javascript without it. There are also other features to this extension, like being able to examine the DOM and such. Internet Explorer has a similar tool set but it's slow and hard to utilize. I would dare say that there are some IE users who installed Firefox just so they can use Firebug. One setback here is that IE's Javascript engine has certain nuances that do not readily show up in Firebug. So, while you can debug a majority of javascript errors with Firebug, it will miss certain IE javascript issues.

The next must-have extension for web development is the Firefox Web Developer extension. It gives you a host of options to example page elements and CSS rules within the page itself. This plugin along with Firebug have saved me TONS of time, while working on websites.

SEO is important to not only marketers but web site developers as well. Getting a site online is one thing. Getting it to show up in search results is another. A couple of excellent extensions for examining the search engine optimization of a site are the Firefox SearchStatus extension and the Chrome SEO extension for Chrome. The Chrome SEO extension is great for getting a brief synapsis of your site's backlinks, pagerank, and indexed pages at various search engines. Neither of these offer a lot of advice for SEO, but they do show some stats to get your started.

These are only a few of the extensions available for Firefox and Chrome. There are many others. They are a good reason to switch from IE. PLEASE DO!

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Streamlining e-commerce

E-commerce has been around for a while now. Ever since the early day of the internet, people have been making purchases online. It has become much better over the years, no doubt. At the same time, it has become a very complicated beast.

I recently started a class on e-commerce. We are actually in our first week of class still, but one of the first discussions has centered around a diagram that lays out the steps involved in a typical e-commerce setting. Looking at it has led me to realize that e-commerce is much more complicated than it should be.

I have a prediction for the next decade or so. There are some forms of e-commerce which have already emerged as forerunners of a new type of system. People don't want to go through a 12 step process to make a purchase online. We make purchases online because they are convenient. I would much rather go shop, when I'm trying to decide what I want to buy. However, if I know what I want to buy, I would much rather purchase it online.

Online purchases are more convenient, offer more selection, and are less expensive due to the more globally competitive marketplace. It's not as timely in regard to actually receiving the product. One has to wait for the product to arrive through shipping. Today, shipping has been streamlined to the point where it's almost not a good argument. I would much rather wait for a product to ship to me than fight the crowds at the stores.

Think about a trip to your local Wal-mart. They have fifty checkout lanes but only five are open. They could handle a massive amount of people, yet you almost certainly have to wait in line every time. This is, of course, unless you are like me and only go at 3am. At 3am there is only one lane open, lane 17 next to the cigarettes.

The point is, no matter how many customers there are in the store through the day, there are always lines at ever cash register. These lines keep people in the stores. It makes them spend more. The longer you are in Wal-mart. The longer they have to convince you to buy something else. They do this, not through pushy salespeople, but through subtle subliminal advertising techniques that deal with your senses of sight, smell, and hearing. They've found that the best way to get someone to spend more money, is to make them stay in the store longer, and at the end of the visit, they put you in tight quarters with many "must-have" items. They also put things like candy and tabloids there for you to grab while you wait.

This technique is being tested within e-commerce itself. Let's dig into this more and discuss how people make money online.

Making money online is dependent upon one thing...Traffic. Traffic is THE major factor in making money online. If one has traffic, the rest is pretty easy actually. Some people will tell you that you have to have targeted traffic or a certain type of traffic, but that is non-sense. The only real requirement is TRAFFIC. With traffic, you can find a simple way to make money.

That's what these sites are thinking when they make the checkout process so difficult, and this theory probably holds a lot of weight. It most likely does create more income for the sites. If they customers spend more time browsing your site, they are more likely to buy more stuff. Here's one thing to consider though. How annoyed with your site does the average customer become after a given amount of time.

Apple has done one thing completely right over the past decade. Some people think that Apple is great because it made such a great media device when it created the iPod. You may feel that the iPhone is simply the best phone ever made. All of these are mere opinion. All of these are things you would hear fanboys of Apple spout.

I disagree that the iPod is not an amazing product in the personal media device category. It's merely a mediocre product. The really amazing product in this situation is the iTunes store. Now, along with the AppStore and the BookStore, Apple has created a digital marketplace that is superb. These stores don't offer the typical e-commerce atmosphere. They make the buying process a one-click process. THIS is why the iTunes and AppStore is better than most others. They meld their hardware products such as the iPod, iPhone, iMac, Macbook, and Mac Mini to their stores of digital products.

Their version of e-commerce takes a 12 step process and turns it into a three step process. Those steps are browse, buy, and use. They have found that the faster a users gets through the buy step, the faster they can get back to the browse step.

In the future, we will see a lot more marketplaces like this. Others have already appeared, such as the Playstation Network.

This is the new way to sell things on the web.


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Another look at Google Chrome

I've never published a "first look at Google Chrome", but I have been excited about it before. By Google Chrome, I'm referring to Google's webkit-based browser, not the Chrome OS.

When it was announced that Google was releasing it's own browser, I wasn't extremely excited. Then once it was available, I downloaded it to see how well it performed. I was amazed. The javascript executing was blazing fast. I'd never seen a web application respond so well. So, I suddenly became very excited about it and wanted to adopt it as my main browser.

This was soon shot down by the fact that I rely too heavily on certain extensions in Firefox, namely Gmail Notifier, Firebug, ForecastFox, and Adblock Plus. So, I had to keep using Firefox and hoped that one day Firefox would be able to handle javascript as good as Chrome.

Well the opposite has happened. Chrome now has extensions. I'm a little worried that it will be bloated and start performing slowly like Firefox. Firefox was once a lean mean browser. Now it is a bloated mess. It has started crashing without warming in Windows 7. I was once a Firefox advocate and I still like the browser, but it has been going downhill for the past year or two. Let's hope that Chrome doesn't follow down this path.

Firefox shouldn't even be that bloated. Sure, the extensions probably add to memory usage and Firefox reserves memory if it's available, but should a browser really be using half a gig of RAM? Seriously?

Chrome doesn't use less memory but it sure responds better. Adding extensions doesn't seem to lower performance either. I've added a GMail notifier, Google Wave Notifier, Forecastfox weather, Firebug Lite, and a couple other extensions and there is no noticeable change what-so-ever.

Now that these extensions are available for Chrome, I think it's time for me to take the next step. Chrome will be my main browser as soon as the extensions are available for the Mac and Linux versions. It's already going to be my main browser in Windows.

So, if you took a look at Chrome when it first came out, this may be a good time to look at it again. There are a few added features that may change your mind about it as well.

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Why Internet Laws are Detrimental to Americans

Recently the FTC has created new guidelines/restrictions for the internet. These laws especially effect bloggers who review products. Any review of products requires a disclosure of the blogger's relationship with the product brand, if such a relationship exists. So, if you are a blogger and you review a product, if you received money or something from the product manufacturer, you now MUST disclose that information.

Now, on the outside, this appears to be a good thing. It should lower the amount of dishonesty on the internet, right? The answer is "yes and no". It will limit Americans from doing this. Americans make up about 5% of the Earth's population. Did you know that there are more people in China that speak English than there are people in the United States total? My point is, this regulation, along with many others, promotes outsourcing.

It is becoming increasingly difficult for an American to stay afloat in this world. I know, many of the non-Americans out there will say "but you guys have had it good for so long." I agree, we have. We've had it so good because we used to rely on freedom more. Our country could once pride itself on being free. We still have a lot of freedom, don't get me wrong. The fact that I'm still able to write a blog post like this reflects that I still have freedoms. They are just much more limited now when compared to even 50 years ago.

I may sound like a broken record but corporations run this country. We are losing our country.

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Wikipedia: A credible source?

Most people who have attended college in the last few years know that colleges don't like Wiki used as a source to papers. Their reasoning is sound, because Wikipedia is, after all, community-based. Anyone can make changes to a wiki article.

However, I tend to agree with the open source way of thinking. More eyes on the issue makes it less likely that someone can take advantage of it. Let me explain.

Security is actually a big selling point of open source software. Anyone can look at the source code. This means that anyone could easily see where the software could be exploited. At first, it sounds like open source would be bad for security. All those prying eyes will find all kinds of ways to exploit the software right? Actually the answer is no. Those prying eyes help keep everyone in check. You see, if you contribute to a piece of open source software and you add some malicious code, someone will spot it, correct it, and report you.

The same concept goes for Wikipedia, in my book. If an article makes a false statement, someone will normally find it and correct it. With potentially millions of people editing each article, it becomes increasingly difficult for the article to be biased.

Universities may not accept Wikipedia as a creditable source, but it's still an excellent choice for finding information. In fact, it's probably more accurate than most of the citations the schools will accept.

I mean think about it. They will accept a citation from or but won't accept a citation of Wiki? If anything CNN and Fox are much more biased. So, while I understand that Wikipedia isn't a concrete source, neither are other websites that are accepted. In fact, most sources are biased. Unless the source tells only the fact, there is probably an opinion mixed in there somewhere. That's what journalists do. That's what scientists do. What are the differences between Wikipedia and Encarta? One is maintained by millions of people who review each other's work. The other is a proprietary medium which is closed source and only a few people can review the contents. I prefer wiki.

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Warning: simplexml_load_file() [function.simplexml-load-file]: URL file-access is disabled in the server configuration

If you've seen that error message you've probably happened upon a security feature that your shared web hosting provider has enabled. There are a few work-arounds for this error but most require you to have certain privileges on the server that you probably don't have. Quite frankly, if you are getting these errors you probably don't have the ability to change these settings yourself.

Rather than try to get the provider to change these settings (let's face it, they have this enabled for a reason and surely someone else has already tried to get this changed, right?) one can easily get around this with Curl. In most cases, curl will be enabled on the server. So here is the quick and dirty way to get around it:

Create a PHP file and name it anything you want. For the sake of this article we'll refer to it as curl_functions.php. In this file put the following functions:

function setupMyCurl() {
   $myCurl = curl_init(); 
   $temp = curl_setopt($myCurl, CURLOPT_RETURNTRANSFER, 1);
define("myCurl", setupMyCurl());
function curl_get_contents($url) {
   $temp = curl_setopt(myCurl, CURLOPT_URL, $url);

Include or require this file. Then, all you have to do is use the curl_get_contents($url) in your code to pull in the xml to a string. Then use the simplexml_load_string() instead of simplexml_load_file(). This will give you the same results but works around the url fopen feature. If you don't have curl enabled on your host, GET ANOTHER HOST. 🙂

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How do I Block and Unblock Internet Sites?

Apparently this is a question many people want asked so I'll touch on what I use to block/unblock internet sites from my home network. This method will not require one to purchase any additional software or anything. It is designed specifically to be the low cost effective solution.

First of all, your home router controls all of the traffic going to an from your home computers. Some people don't have routers. The modem, whether it be a DSL, Cable, or dialup modem, handles their routing. These instructions will work for those people as well, but anytime I mention the router, please understand that if there is no router, the modem will be doing all the work.

The router software for various models of routers are different, so it is nearly impossible to have a step-by-step howto for each of them here. Instead, it's suffice to say that most routers have a block/unblock function. Most even let you time these blocks/unblocks. So one can set up rules as to when certain sites can be viewed.

Refer to your router's manual for these instructions. It is usually rather easy.

There is a further step that can either be used in conjunction with the router blocks or by itself entirely. This method involves signing up for a free service call OpenDNS.

OpenDNS is a free service that I've used for a little over a year. It gives you a great DNS service, plus allows you to do various other interesting things like protect your home network. Basically, all one has to do is sign up for the account and change their DNS settings in the router to the IPs provided by OpenDNS. All future DNS request will go to OpenDNS.

I should probably first explain what DNS is to begin with. DNS stands for Domain Name Server/Service. When you type into your web browser, your computer has no idea what is. It's oblivious. First it has to query the DNS server. Usually the IP of the DNS server is provided by your ISP. In many cases, the ISP provided DNS server lags behind a bit. You computer asks the DNS server where it can find The DNS server then responds with the IP address for Your browser then knows where to fetch the information.

The DNS server configuration can be changed in your router. You will override the ISP defaults and put in the OpenDNS server IPs instead.

OpenDNS updates much faster than typical ISP DNS servers. When you buy a domain name and direct it to your hosting provider, it can take up to 72 hours for the DNS information to propagate across the internet. OpenDNS usually propagates within minutes.

Some of the protection OpenDNS offers is right up there or better than many parental block software. There are automatic settings to make it easy to block pornography or harmful sites. One can also specify sites to block. Anytime a local user tries to access a blocked website, they are told that it is restricted. This is great free service, and I hope this will help you block those unwanted websites, and if you have any questions drop a comment.

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