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  • #2187487

    Old enough to want to and fool enough to try

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    by Mark W. Kaelin ·

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    • #3242763

      Another geeky activity my Dad won’t understand

      by Mark W. Kaelin ·

      In reply to Old enough to want to and fool enough to try

      So it begins. Like the The Trivia Geek, I have been resisting the urge to blog. Consequently, I don’t really have a plan of action for what will be written in this, my first blog.

      I’ll guess I’ll start with a brief introduction: I’m a 43-year old editor for TechRepublic. I’ve been editing for various publications and Web sites for 20 years. My editing expertise has always revolved around the technical. My leisure time is often spent in the virtual worlds of computer games. My first computer was a Commodore 64 and I was once the proud owner of a PCJr. I’ll let that soak in for a bit while I get back to work.

      • #3236087

        Another geeky activity my Dad won

        by rpalin ·

        In reply to Another geeky activity my Dad won’t understand

        Ah…The Commodore 64. I can almost hear the 5 1/4 floppy grinding away now. The harmonic whir of “Flight simulator” as it crept it’s herky jerky way across polygon shaped landscape…Ah those were the days. I’m gonna bust out the cassette player and hook up the Timex Sinclair after I get done with this game of Intellevision.:-}

      • #3174224

        Another geeky activity my Dad won’t understand

        by billh ·

        In reply to Another geeky activity my Dad won’t understand

        Ok, here’s my first reply to a blog – so I guess we’re all stretching today….

        While I resisited the initial PC offerings, as  aDEC employee, I purchased a VT100 terminal with an embeded PDP-11 processor and and a tape drive (TU58?) to load the RT11 O/S.  15 minutes later that baby was booted and ready to respond to any command line whos proper syntax you could conjour.

        Things have really changed as I sit in front of one of my 5 PC’s running Windows XP Pro with such a variety of software that could challenge anyone (or take on just about any problem).

        Dont’ know if this is a one time deal for me, but it was fun while I typed…

        Bill

      • #3177563

        Another geeky activity my Dad won’t understand

        by trule ·

        In reply to Another geeky activity my Dad won’t understand

        Ah, the Timex Sinclair. My brother (now an electrical engineer) bought one. We had endless hours of fun playing with the thing – he even bought an external case with a real keyboard, bumped the ram up to a whopping 128k, and had the printer.

        The Timex is what told me I really wasn’t interested in Assembler. Too much trouble.

        ….and here I sit in my house with a 10 year old mac 8500, and 5 year old imac with 768 meg of ram, and a Mac Mini with hald a gig of ram.

        Well, then there’s the Mac Classic with 10 meg of ram I use when teaching piano.

        My, how times have changed – and it didn’t take that long, either!

    • #3190157

      I’m still lurking

      by Mark W. Kaelin ·

      In reply to Old enough to want to and fool enough to try

      I just received
      a friendly prod about the lack of activity in this blog. I’ve always been more
      comfortable lurking on online communities as opposed to actively participation,
      so regularly scheduled blogging is not likely to happen. However, I really
      should be participating more since I spend an inordinate amount of time creating
      content for TechRepublic anyway. Just between you and me, lurking in the
      TechRepublic community has paid off in article and/or download ideas many times
      in the past few years.

      That fact
      makes me wonder if I can get even more inspiration if I ask for ideas directly.
      I have recently been asked to develop content that will help you more efficiently
      use Microsoft Office. I’m secretly expanding that mission to include ideas for
      improving efficiency using any office suite (Star Office, Open Office, etc.)

      What
      frustrates you in an office suite? Is there some feature you wish someone would
      explain to you in depth?

    • #3188244

      Coined the term weblog, never made a dime.

      by Mark W. Kaelin ·

      In reply to Old enough to want to and fool enough to try

      One of my
      many RSS feeds lead me to this article on Wired Magazine:

      http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/13.07/posts.html?pg=6?tw=wn_tophead_5

      I’m not
      sure what I am supposed to glean from it. While it is sad that that a pioneer
      of the Internet like Jorn Barger is having trouble making ends meet, it seems
      that he has no one to blame but himself. He apparently wrote progressively more
      cryptic and incoherent blog entries over the years and that drove away readers?okay
      I’ll keep that in mind.

      But the
      article’s implication that Mr. Barger’s plight is a “sign of the
      times” seems a stretch.

    • #3193752

      The final beam out

      by Mark W. Kaelin ·

      In reply to Old enough to want to and fool enough to try

      While I’m not
      always sad to hear about the death of a cultural icon, in this case I
      am. James
      Doohan, better-known to Trekkers as Scotty, the ship’s chief engineer
      from the original Star Trek series, died this week. He was 85.

       Newslink

      Not many
      television/movie characters, not even in the formidable Star Trek franchise,
      can claim to have a common turn of phrase forever associated with them. Someday,
      when they figure out how to overcome the currently perceived laws of physics to
      make it possible, there will be a transporter machine that will whisk away travelers
      from planet to space and back again. I believe when we get to that point the
      common command to the operator will be “Beam me up Scotty.” I hope
      I’m alive to see that day.

       

      Goodbye
      Scotty ? thanks for making life just that much more pleasant for so many.

      • #3194940

        The final beam out

        by quantumetrics ·

        In reply to The final beam out

        A great many people in our profession were inspired, as kids, by Scotty. I was one of them …

    • #3194435

      Making movies in unconventional ways

      by Mark W. Kaelin ·

      In reply to Old enough to want to and fool enough to try

      I am a
      dyed-in-the-wool, card-carrying geek of long-standing and I am going to prove
      it to you. I play games on the PC, which is not all that geek by itself.
      However, one of my favorite genres of computer games is the massively multiplayer
      online role playing game, also known by the acronym MMORPG, which isn’t really
      more efficient or easier to pronounce.

      I’ve played
      and or beta tested games ranging from Everquest to Asheron’s Call to Dark Age
      of Camelot. Most recently I have been adventuring in the World of Warcraft with
      about 4 million other people around the world. Besides the normal RPG activity
      of fighting and leveling your character there is a small group of dedicated
      individuals who record a visual record of their exploits, edit that “footage”
      and make a movie out of it.

      Surprisingly,
      some of the movies are actually pretty good, exhibiting real talent. The twist
      is that the movies are not about the game; the game is just the conduit for the
      visual. I don’t think these movies will win Oscars in the near future, but
      there is something appealing about individuals using sophisticated animation
      that they can control as they play the game to make what are essentially
      independent short films.

      It is just
      another instance of creative individuals finding ways to express themselves
      using technology in a manner it was not originally designed for. I’ve included
      a few links to some of my favorite movies made in this manner. Keep in mind
      that the majority of the visuals were taken from actual game play. Sometimes the
      movements don’t quite fit with the scene, but you’ll get the general idea.

      World
      of Warcraft Rise of the Living Dead Episode I

      World
      of Warcraft Rise of the Living Dead Episode II

      World
      of Warcraft Lost Movie

    • #3050748

      30 new free SharePoint applications – are you interested?

      by Mark W. Kaelin ·

      In reply to Old enough to want to and fool enough to try

      I came
      across a news item first reported by Mary Jo Foley in her blog
      Microsoft Watch. She reported that Microsoft published 30 new and free SharePoint
      applications
      . I have edited several downloads
      over the past week or two that list 10 things
      you should know about the enterprise applications and servers Microsoft has in
      their software portfolio.

      The
      surprising thing, at least to me, perhaps not to Microsoft, is the popularity
      of these services ? especially SharePoint. According to my colleagues who
      attended the TechEd conference recently, SharePoint was actually being used for
      practical tasks by real people.

      The 30
      applications listed on the Microsoft page all seem like reasonable endeavors that
      someone somewhere wants to accomplish. The question is, will you use a free
      SharePoint application, one that you will have to modify and configure to fit
      your situation, or do you prefer to start from scratch and build it yourself? Or,
      perhaps a better question, what are you using SharePoint for ? I’d like to
      know?

      • #3053072

        30 new free SharePoint applications – are you interested?

        by funtoknow ·

        In reply to 30 new free SharePoint applications – are you interested?

        We utilize Sharepoint Services in our Intranet IIS Server. We have many shared subwebs for I.T. Helpdesk solutions, tips and tricks. Others contain Excel sheets that are updated by remote subisidiaries and others are used to take corporate wide surveys and list project “links” to other stored material in our network.

        It has proven to be an inexpensive solution to collaboration BEHIND our firewall which is further made accessible through the use of thin client access. I am not familiar with the internet accessible portal product although from my research, it is very similar.

      • #3052996

        30 new free SharePoint applications – are you interested?

        by spalmo ·

        In reply to 30 new free SharePoint applications – are you interested?

        I would like to definitely know what those free applications are. Currently I have created custom-lists for our needs but are planning to use CorasWorks Developer Suite to fill the gap of having great apps without any coding.

      • #3052934

        30 new free SharePoint applications – are you interested?

        by Mark W. Kaelin ·

        In reply to 30 new free SharePoint applications – are you interested?

        The list of new SharePoint applications is linked to in the orignial blog post, but here it is again for you.

      • #3049022

        30 new free SharePoint applications – are you interested?

        by hutchtech ·

        In reply to 30 new free SharePoint applications – are you interested?

        Thanks for the link! I’ll definitely be checking these templates out.
        While I’m certain nothing fits quite as well as a custom design job,
        having some pre-developed templates cannot hurt. I’ve always believed
        that SharePoint has been devalued because it wasn’t marketed well, not
        becuase it doesn’t have something to offer. I personally use it on a
        regular basis, and I know clients could really benefit from some of the
        web-based, centralized Internet/Intranet solutions MS offers on this
        application site.

        – Hutch

    • #3048253

      Unleash the blogs of war – A soldier

      by Mark W. Kaelin ·

      In reply to Old enough to want to and fool enough to try

      I caught
      the end of The Daily Show on Comedy Central last night and I heard John Hockenberry
      discussing Military Blogs (MilBlogs). I have to admit that I never thought
      about the potential for disseminating information on the Irag War through the
      blogging of military personnel actually there doing the fighting.

      I’ve
      included a link to Black Five’s blog,
      which includes links to many other MilBlogs. The graphic honesty that you can
      find in these blogs offers a different perspective on current events. This is
      one area where blogging reveals its true power ? to give voice to those who did
      not have it before. Take heed though ? these are stories from the front lines
      and some can be graphic and tragic. However, it is very interesting reading.

      What other
      areas could blogs offer such close to the action perspective I wonder? Perhaps
      President Bush should have a blog ? he could explain to me exactly what all the
      brush he is currently clearing has every done to him to deserve such treatment.

      • #3048991

        Unleash the blogs of war – A soldier

        by bartlmay ·

        In reply to Unleash the blogs of war – A soldier

        You have to be kidding me.  You want Bush to tell you why he is clearing brush from his ranch?  Tell me why you mow your yard?  Or are you one of the unfortunate that live in an apartment in the city and thus do not have a yard.  You poor soul.  If that is the case why do you vacuum your apartment.  I’ll leave my political viewpoints to the Forums/Blogs that deal with that.

        Personally I’d like to see blogs from the military personnel as long as the content is of the type that is allowed.  As in no troop movements and the information that is classified.  I’d like to hear from the front lines the good that is happening, both in Afghanistan and Iraq.  As opposed to the constant negativity that the Media wants to portray.

      • #3048942

        Unleash the blogs of war – A soldier

        by Mark W. Kaelin ·

        In reply to Unleash the blogs of war – A soldier

        Bartlmay,

        Thank you for your comments.

        However, I was kidding about the brush – humor is such a personal interpretation.

      • #3061026

        Unleash the blogs of war – A soldier

        by kf4pca ·

        In reply to Unleash the blogs of war – A soldier

         I would like to agree with the intell report of not telling our
        enemy’s where we are going next. However I also agree that a military
        blog is a great way to clear ones mind of a days events. they would get
        some interaction from the outside world (state side) I am a recenty
        retired and wish I could have gone with them over there. They fight the
        noble cause every day while we sit on our rear ends on the weekends and
        they get to go hunting for the guys who are launching the bullets at
        them.They (the enemy) are walking around watching our soldiers get
        plucked off and blown up and if this is a way for the soldiers to vent
        so let it be it. There life over there is one day at a time never
        knowing what the next day will bring. Been there done that wore out
        several tee-shirts and one size does not fit all.
                                                                                             
        kf4pca ( no it’s not code)

    • #3048932

      Just curious ? are USB cables made from petroleum?

      by Mark W. Kaelin ·

      In reply to Old enough to want to and fool enough to try

      Over the
      past weekend I finally broke down and bought a laser printer to replace the
      10-year-old behemoth laser printer I was using before. And, while the old Epson
      ActionLaser 1500 still worked, it needed a new toner cartridge which costs
      about $149. (Online is the only place you can find it these days.) Coincidently,
      or perhaps not coincidently, a new small laser printer was on sale at Best Buy
      for $149. So I got the Samsung ML-2010 ? it’s faster, has more memory and is about
      ? the size of the old Epson.

       

      So, what?s the
      problem? The Samsung is USB, not parallel like the Epson, which meant I had to
      buy a USB cable with the special square connector that printer manufacturers
      have standardized on. Fine, but it cost $30. It seems to me that USB cables
      were almost free not too long ago ? now they have LEDs and gold shielding and
      all kinds of other gimmicky accoutrements. Since when are USB cables sexy? Maybe
      I’m just showing my age (this is an old man’s rant worthy of my father), but
      should a cable cost 20% of the thing it is connected to?

       

      What
      do you think? Are USB manufactures getting a 200% markup? 300%? More?

      • #3048844

        Just curious ? are USB cables made from petroleum?

        by zlitocook ·

        In reply to Just curious ? are USB cables made from petroleum?

        If you buy the USB cable at the same time from the company you buy the printer from it will be the cheap USB that you like. If you buy it from a store look for the big stores like CompUSA or Office Depo they have a big selection and will have the plain lable USB cables.

         On a project I needed the best USB cable offered and I paid over $30 for it, it was a Monster cable with gold leads.

      • #3066950
        Avatar photo

        Just curious ? are USB cables made from petroleum?

        by Erik Eckel ·

        In reply to Just curious ? are USB cables made from petroleum?

        You should check out the cost for a DVI cable! I needed a DVI to connect my HD box to my TV. What would you pay for a simple data cable? $25? $30? The sales staff tried talking me into a $100 model. It’s crazy.

        Hello? You don’t need to spend one hundred dollars for audio/video cables. Save your money and buy lower cost versions. O’Reilly even includes that recommendation in hits Home Theater Hacks book (Hack #57).

        EE

      • #3055164

        Just curious ? are USB cables made from petroleum?

        by neuromancer ·

        In reply to Just curious ? are USB cables made from petroleum?

        Yep, USB cables are crazy expensive if you buy them retail. And Best
        Buy doesn’t seem to want to stock plain ones, they only carry the extra
        expensive Belkin stuff. Anyways if you don’t need it immediately, I
        order pretty much all audio, video, data, etc cables now through
        cablewholesale.com. USB cables are about $1.50 there I think (though
        there is a $10 minimum order IIRC). Great selection & prices, and
        they built their premium cables to Monster level specs or better for
        about 20% of the cost. I put together a brand new home theater system
        from scratch and ordered all my cables through them for my reciever,
        dvd, projector and got them for around $100 probably. The same cables
        from Monster (or comparable, from local stores) would have been
        probably over $500. Markup on cables is insane!

      • #3055126

        Just curious ? are USB cables made from petroleum?

        by gsg ·

        In reply to Just curious ? are USB cables made from petroleum?

        Try buying cables for pieces of equipment that a home user would not have.  I once had to pay $500 for a serial cable with special connectors.  All because a user thought that she should move the pc, stretch the cable to the breaking point, then proceed to trip over it and pull it out of the connector.  In the process, she busted the $2000 special SCSI card that was only manufactured in England and took 3 months to get.  Have you ever tried to superglue a SCSI card?  I was able to temporarily fix the cable with duct tape.

      • #3055107

        Just curious ? are USB cables made from petroleum?

        by johnmcgrew ·

        In reply to Just curious ? are USB cables made from petroleum?

        Your $30 USB cable subsidized your $149 printer.

        Competition for mainstream compontents such as entry-level PCs and printers is so fierce that there is very little margin for the retailer.  For them, these items are practically loss-leaders.  Best Buy probably lost money on that $149 printer you bought after you factor out shipping and inventory-carry costs.  Where do these retailers make their money?  $30 USB cables than you can usually find elsewhere for $5-10.

      • #3055050

        Just curious ? are USB cables made from petroleum?

        by crmus ·

        In reply to Just curious ? are USB cables made from petroleum?

        You’ll be surprised at the stuff you can buy at a “Dollar” store, 99c Stuff, Big Lots, these cables appear every so often from 4.99 to 7.99, and it works! If you are concerned with the quality get 3 or  5 packs at BJ’s, Costco or SAM’s clubs and stock up, have two or three in the house since USB devices are going to be here for a while.

      • #3054942

        Just curious ? are USB cables made from petroleum?

        by hschoenman ·

        In reply to Just curious ? are USB cables made from petroleum?

        The other thing that drives up the price is the length. USB cables come in a variety of length and the longer the more expensive. If your components are pretty much stationary anyway, buy the size that is one larger than the minimum you need. That will give some some extra play in the cable but you will not have coils of it just laying on the floor collecting dust and getting tangled with other cables.

        hschoenman@adelphia.net

        Pittsburgh, PA

    • #3055471

      Is blogging a competitive advantage?

      by Mark W. Kaelin ·

      In reply to Old enough to want to and fool enough to try

      I published
      a download
      today that I found interesting from a blogging perspective. It is a survey
      concerning the use of corporate blogs. The general question is whether
      corporate blogging is being adopted, what it is being used for and whether it
      is effective.

      After
      sifting through the numbers, the conclusion is that corporations, who have
      adopted an active stance on blogging, encouraging interaction between customers
      and employees at various levels, especially across traditional boundaries, are benefiting
      in ways they never contemplated.

      Is
      blogging part of your daily routine? Weekly routine? Would you or your company
      benefit from blogging and interaction with customers?

      • #3055661

        Is blogging a competitive advantage?

        by rexworld ·

        In reply to Is blogging a competitive advantage?

        I think it’s way too early to say whether blogs will turn out to be a competitive advantage in most industries.  In some industries it’s clearly good.  Software is the obvious one–I get tons of great information and ideas from corporate blogs sponsored at companies like Microsoft and Adobe. 

        But whether that translates to other industries (banking?  automobiles?) seems undecided at best.

    • #3058493

      Framing questions for inquiring minds

      by Mark W. Kaelin ·

      In reply to Old enough to want to and fool enough to try

      On September
      13, 2005, I published a download
      explaining how one could use JavaScript
      to force a user entering a Web site
      with a direct URL that bypassed the front door for example, to use the frameset
      as designated in the architecture. The JavaScript manipulated the incoming user’s
      experience to match what the developer intended.

      While that
      was all well and good, and if you are using frames I suggest you take a look at
      the download because it could prove useful, it did raise a question in my mind.
      How many Web sites are using frames these days? A quick check around the Web
      leads me to believe that there are still some sites using frames, but not near
      as many as there once were; a fact which I consider to be a good thing. The
      last time TechRepublic published an expose
      on frames was a series in 2003, and that was an update.

      As part of
      the download I created a discussion looking for information on how many members are
      involved with Web sites using frames. Check it out and let us know ? what is
      the best practice for what frames used to do these days? What navigation techniques
      are most popular now, for example? Satisfy an inquiring mind.

      Speaking of
      inquiry, I came across another oldie but goodie download
      as I pondered the frames question. It is titled: Download this Web-design client questionnaire form (we were a
      little bossy back in 2002, I guess). I’m curious ? what should we add to this
      download to bring it up to date? Make your suggestions in the comments to this
      blog entry, and I’ll compile the suggestions, add them to the download, and
      republish it (with appropriate credit) early next month, let’s say. (I have to
      put some sort of time limit on it)

    • #3056911

      Does home internet security actually exist?

      by Mark W. Kaelin ·

      In reply to Old enough to want to and fool enough to try

      Two recent
      events have conspired and inspired me to comment on the current state of home
      network security, at least in the Louisville, KY suburbs where I was born,
      raised and still reside.

       

      The first
      event was the installation of a wireless network in my own home. We have had a
      home network for years (yes, I am a computer geek) using twisted-pair Ethernet
      cables strung between rooms under carpets, in floorboards, and between walls.
      The recent addition of a laptop to the growing family of gadgets and PCs at
      home was the last straw ? no more wires. Setting up a wireless network at home
      is deceptively easy ? plug in the wireless router and turn it on and BINGO! ?
      you are surfing the Web. Of course, anyone within range could surf the Web
      through your router with you.

       

      Being a
      good little paranoid computer geek, I immediately went through the process of locking
      down
      my new wireless network: No broadcasting of the SSID, specifying
      approved MAC addresses, implementing the 128-bit WEP encryption protocol, etc.
      I know this setup is not foolproof, but it will adequately protect me from all
      but the most determined intruders.

       

      However,
      this modest level of security is not the norm; at least it appears that way
      when I can detect so many unsecured wireless networks in my area. This leads me
      to the second event ? publishing a chapter from The
      Symantec Guide to Home Internet Security
      . This book lays out the ins and
      outs of home internet security in plain English. But the principles it lays out
      seem to be falling on deaf ears.

       

      Conducting
      a little background research for the download on the FTC Web site
      I saw the grim statistics that show increasing Internet related fraud, identity
      theft, and other criminal activities. This leads me to wonder if the majority
      of wireless routers put into service on home networks are just turned on in the
      default mode. As IT professionals, I predict that the vast majority of the
      TechRepublic community has not made this mistake, but what about your
      neighbors? Do you detect many open wireless networks in your area? As members
      of the larger Internet community, shouldn’t we be concerned about this?

      • #3061541

        Does home internet security actually exist?

        by techierob ·

        In reply to Does home internet security actually exist?

        It really does depend on the area that you live in, but speaking on a generalistic basis (im trying to be broad and not offend anyone) most installations that I see are done are on the ‘default’ setting. Most Techs nowadays are quite good and will go that extra mile in enabling firewalls and updating windows as part of the service; but for the average home user installing an ISP off a cd – they wouldnt be aware – nor willing to dive into the security side of things. Even when we do go that extra mile to ensure that autmatic updates are configured; I have lost count of the amount of times I have been called out to repair installations due to the fact that they were disabled by the user as they proved ‘too annoying’

        In terms of security and usuability settings, we can only do so much in terms of protecting ourselves from the lurgies of the web. Nowadays it takes less than 15 minutes for an unprotected pc connected to the internet to contract some form of virus, trojan or worm.

        Us Techs are fortunate enough to be security concious and take pre-emptive measures against security threats and program flaws – but the average user will only rely on the media to be prompted into any sort of preventative action; and by that time it is usally too late.

        I think that problems like this will always be apparent as there is always the unknown factor in the equation – being how the user is going to work with the system once it has been installed. Personally I think that providers of DIY wireless home network solutions should provide more of an awareness to their installers about the vulerabilies that exist… 

      • #3063438

        Does home internet security actually exist?

        by hutchtech ·

        In reply to Does home internet security actually exist?

        I’ve taken the same steps you mentioned above to secure my own wireless
        network recently, and was disheartened to notice a wide-open signal
        straying into my home from a neighbor’s AP.  I haven’t yet taken
        time to track down which neighbor is openly supporting any drive-by
        spammers, ID thieves, or porn addicts, but I’ll be having that
        conversation soon.   And spending another evening dispensing free
        tech advice/service instead of spending it with my family.

        With great power comes great responsibility.  Oh, wait a minute,
        maybe Linksys et al should be taking a bigger chunk of that these days.

        – Hutch

      • #3071075

        Does home internet security actually exist?

        by jmgarvin ·

        In reply to Does home internet security actually exist?

        Why bother?  If they are too stupid/ignorant to actually lock their stuff down, they will never learn.

        I have a neighbor who must have bought a 500000000 watt transmitter for
        his wireless setup.   I couldn’t even see my access
        point!  So, being a stupid neighbor, he left the access point
        open.  It was all default settings.  So, I went into his
        access point, turned down his power until I could see mine, and then
        cranked it down a little more.

        I really thought about calling the FCC, but that guy wouldn’t
        learn.  I’ve mentioned numerous times that his machine has been
        hijacked (and it has) because of his total lack of security…he never
        learns…

      • #3046054

        Does home internet security actually exist?

        by conceptual ·

        In reply to Does home internet security actually exist?

        The average user thinks security is a destination. The average tech thinks its a journey. I think its a vehicle, a means of getting to where I want to go in one piece. Until we make people aware, without demanding the same level of skill for crossing the street as driving the interstate, we’re not going to make much progress. Most people think their access point is local when it’s actually an onramp to the superhighway, until the occasional truck crashes into their bedrooms.

         

    • #3071957

      Of recycled PCs and dinosaurs

      by Mark W. Kaelin ·

      In reply to Old enough to want to and fool enough to try

      I was
      reading through the responses in this discussion
      thread
      on TechRepublic about recycling personal computers and it struck a
      chord with me and my past exploits with aging computer equipment.

       

      One side
      effect of being a hard core computer gamer is that you are always looking to
      upgrade to faster, better, stronger components. No matter how far in front of the
      curve you buy your last PC (I’ve been getting mine from Alienware lately), there will come a point
      where you need a faster CPU, more
      powerful video card, better sound card, and/or bigger hard drive. And yet after
      all that, you end up buying a new PC anyway?I’m such a geek. Oh, well, everyone
      needs a hobby.

       

      The point
      is, after all that upgrading and replacing, you are left with at least one and
      perhaps two extra computers taking up space in the junk room. In the past I
      have given these old, but still fairly powerful, computers away to family and
      friends, but that distribution channel is all but saturated now. So I’m
      thinking that perhaps it is time to try something new.

       

      I am
      contemplating the possibilities of a media PC. I’ve seen the Windows
      version
      of a media operating system, but I have heard good things about a
      Linux media center application called freevo. It looks like it
      will do what I need it to do, but I was curious if anyone in the TechRepublic
      membership has tried it? Do you have any advice to share with a novice to the
      whole media PC phenomena?

      • #3071268

        Of recycled PCs and dinosaurs

        by apotheon ·

        In reply to Of recycled PCs and dinosaurs

        You might want to look into MythTV instead of Freevo. It’s a homebrew PVR Linux distribution that is huge among Linux users who want a mediacenter PC system. Despite its development version number (0.18.1), it seems to be quite stable and highly functional. I haven’t gotten around to turning a PC into a media center yet, but it’s something I’ve been looking into at some length, and MythTV just seems the obvious choice after a little investigation. It helps that I’ve seen a friend’s MythTV setup, and it’s really a beauty to behold.

        You’ll definitely want high-quality video/TV and sound cards for this, of course, that do not share RAM with the main system RAM.

        In any case, good luck with the endeavor.

      • #3071257

        Of recycled PCs and dinosaurs

        by smorty71 ·

        In reply to Of recycled PCs and dinosaurs

        I’ve built 3 media PCs (of various capabilities over the past couple of
        years). I basically took an XP box and added Meedio (a front-end app
        similar to Windows MCE), Win DVD6 (the Trimension feature makes DVDs
        look amazing) and SageTV (for DVR). By adding a Firefly remote from
        Snapstream, I am able to control everything with a single remote.

        I have my main HTPC in my home theater and I mainly use it to watch
        movies which I have ripped to the hard drives (.5 TB) and to listen to
        my MP3 collection. I gave up on DVR because I have 2 TiVos already.

        I have an ATI9600 video card connected to my 65″ Hitachi at a
        resolution of 1776×1000 (which provides a 16:9 desktop). I have a
        Chaintech AV-710 sound card (which has an optical out) connected to my
        Onkyo surround receiver.

        Overall, I am happy with the setup; however, I wish someone could just
        create a box that I could buy off the shelf that does all of the same
        things.

      • #3066027

        Of recycled PCs and dinosaurs

        by Mark W. Kaelin ·

        In reply to Of recycled PCs and dinosaurs

        Thanks for the MythTV suggestion – my brother heard about this app on a Podcast. I’ll definitely take a look at it.

      • #3066026

        Of recycled PCs and dinosaurs

        by Mark W. Kaelin ·

        In reply to Of recycled PCs and dinosaurs

        I’ve been wondering which video capture card to use – some cost more
        than I really wanted to spend, but some version of the
        ATI-All-In-Wonder was what I was planning to use.

    • #3066014

      So what’s the deal with ??

      by Mark W. Kaelin ·

      In reply to Old enough to want to and fool enough to try

      As part of
      my media PC for the home project (see previous blog post) I decided to install Linux
      on one of my test boxes here in my work cubicle. (I currently have three test boxes and a production PC in here with me ?
      Hmm toasty!)

      I have
      always been under the impression that installing Linux was a time-consuming and
      often frustrating task that involved gathering drivers from weird Web sites.
      You know, drivers that some guy reversed engineered and then wrote because he
      had that printer and wanted to install Linux to stick it to the man
      (Microsoft).

      It was with that mindset that I began my first Linux install on a
      late Friday afternoon. I was anticipating missing dinner.

      Boy was I
      wrong! I installed Suse Linux Enterprise Server 9 and was up and running in
      about an hour. I didn’t have to hunt for drivers or fiddle with configuration
      settings or any of the other horror scenarios that had been placed in my head
      in years past and that I so stubbornly held onto through the years. It was a
      simple process. If my test machine was a little faster in the CPU and disk
      drive departments, it would have been much less than an hour I’m sure.

      This
      experience leaves me with one burning question (well probably more, but only
      one right now) ? what’s the big deal? With my query comes the realization that
      the operating system is the least important determining factor when configuring
      a Media PC.

      The important factor is what applications you want to run. There
      are two very good Media PC apps for Linux that I know of, so I’m thinking that
      may be the way to go. But the key factor is not the OS, but which Media app is
      going to work the best for me.

      If you have
      some experience with LInux Media PC software, perhaps you could share some
      advice.

      • #3068934
        Avatar photo

        So what’s the deal with ??

        by Erik Eckel ·

        In reply to So what’s the deal with ??

        I’m currently running a Windows Media Center PC at home. I describe the experience in an August 29, 2005 blog post. With the one exception I describe, the system’s worked great. Being able to watch TV while drafting a late-night report, being able to search TV programs and the ability to record shows or series with a single click are all advancements in my mind, and for the most part I’ve been happy with the system. I think Microsoft’s done a great job of moving us closer to integrating PCs with home entertainment systems than we’ve ever been.

        I’ve heard of several successful Linux media center builds, though, too. I’m interested in learning more about your experience. Please keep us posted!

    • #3057982

      Do politics and games mix?

      by Mark W. Kaelin ·

      In reply to Old enough to want to and fool enough to try

      I came
      across a brief mention of this new GamePolitics
      Web site in an article on Gamespot
      today and I found it very interesting. The politics of games, especially with
      reference to the age-old vices of violence and sex, has often been a contentious
      place. This Jack Thompson clown who has been in the news lately is just the
      latest charlatan huckster to inflict himself onto the scene.

       

      Perhaps a place,
      even if it is virtual, where intelligent conversation about games and their
      social and political impact can possibly take place is a positive step. I’ve
      been playing video games since the late 70s, and there has always been a
      certain amount of controversy surrounding my favorite hobby, but the small size
      of the gaming population in those early days meant that the debates went
      largely unnoticed by the general public. Gaming was still a “geek”
      activity.

       

      But now
      gaming is big business with billions of dollars being exchanged?politicians can’t
      help but get involved. I have always thought that all the hype over violence corrupting
      the youth, whether it was the Three Stooges, Bugs Bunny, Rock and Roll, or
      Grand Theft Auto, was really just a red herring for what is essentially the
      normal generational conflicts. Some things never change.

      • #3083169

        Do politics and games mix?

        by dc guy ·

        In reply to Do politics and games mix?

        The evidence keeps mounting in support of the correlation between children being exposed to fantasy violence at an early age, especially the participatory kind like videogames, and having a higher probability of growing up to be violent. It’s easy to understand where people get their panic from on this issue. Unfortunately it’s another case of statistics being manipulated in order to manipulate the people they’re fed to. “Correlation implies causation” is one of the oldest fallacies, yet it’s still one of the most commonly accepted.

        What else is going on in the households of those kids who play violent videogames? I can deduce with no further study that second-graders who stay up late enough to watch South Park are not being well parented, so if they grow up to be snots like Cartman or feebs like Mr. Mackey it’s probably not South Park’s fault. I’m sure that playing Grand Theft Auto has as much effect on how a kid grows up as listening to Judas Priest had a generation ago, and they got hauled into court for causing a suicide. (And won.)

    • #3046170

      I am not paranoid and who a said I was?

      by Mark W. Kaelin ·

      In reply to Old enough to want to and fool enough to try

      I’m a
      self-proclaimed and proud technology geek. I love gadgets and gizmos and
      electronic doohickeys as much as anyone, and probably more than is healthy or
      wise. However, I do sometimes worry that some technologies are becoming
      ubiquitous parts of the electronic landscape before the impact of that
      technology has been fully vetted and consensus public opinion has formed.

       

      RFID tags
      are one example. The tags themselves are not the problem. I understand how
      these devices can be used to decrease logistical problems traditionally
      associated with the manufacture, transport, and delivery of goods. Increased
      efficiency means less waste and more profit ? a win-win scenario in that
      respect.

       

      However,
      this recent article
      from News.com got me thinking again about the potential for exploitation and
      general mischief when it comes to RFID chips. In a few years, RFID chips will
      be embedded in almost every consumer product you touch. They’ll be in your
      driver’s license, passport, medical insurance card, credit card, gas card; your
      shopping basket at the grocery will have a tag to tell you a certain brand of
      peanut butter is on sale.

       

      That’s a
      lot of personal information flying around in the ether ? are we ready for that?
      Are there safeguards in place to keep evil-doers from scanning that information
      and using it in unintended ways and against my knowledge? I’m not sure that
      there are ? not that I’m paranoid or anything.

       

      Are you
      worried about this or should I just relax? After all, if there are terabytes of
      data flowing around, who is going to notice little old me and my penchant for
      bourbon and eggplant?

       

      • #3119119

        I am not paranoid and who a said I was?

        by lefty.crupps ·

        In reply to I am not paranoid and who a said I was?

        yes, you should be paranoid.

      • #3117708

        I am not paranoid and who a said I was?

        by jmgarvin ·

        In reply to I am not paranoid and who a said I was?

        Be afraid, be very afraid.  From the looks of things we won’t see any real encryption on RFID in the near future, the chip will basically be a passive chip and respond to anyone trying to pull data from it..

        I think RFID needs to cool off for a while before we buy into it lock stock and barrel.  Most states haven’t even gotten the mag card readers (which is about a 20 year old technology for driver’s licenses)…why should we move to a NEW and unsecured technology?

      • #3119416

        I am not paranoid and who a said I was?

        by stargazerr ·

        In reply to I am not paranoid and who a said I was?

        Oooohh….this is scary …

        Every technology has its security breaches … but using RFID in
        passports would be like placing your ID in the hands of the thief !!!!

    • #3136742

      Time for Linux evangelists to put up or shut up

      by Mark W. Kaelin ·

      In reply to Old enough to want to and fool enough to try

      Soapbox graphic

      Recently, I
      wrote a series of article/downloads
      explaining some of the steps I personally take to secure and prepare a new
      Windows-based PC for the Internet and daily use. There was nothing
      earth-shattering contained in the articles ? nothing that would send shockwaves
      through the IT universe. However, they were, and are, a nice compilation of
      some common things to do to a Windows PC.

      As part of
      the article/download experience, I asked for input from the TechRepublic
      community on some of the other things IT professionals, in their infinite
      wisdom, might do to prepare either their own personal PCs or the enterprise PCs
      they maintain. There are several well-thought out and informative suggestions
      in the discussion
      thread
      attached to the articles and I appreciate the response.

      But now to
      the heart of the matter; several of the posters gave the usual “why don’t
      you install Linux and life will be so wonderful” response. I’m getting
      really tired of these comments. An operating system is just an operating
      system?it is a tool, nothing more. Using one OS instead of another doesn’t help
      save the planet, it doesn’t earn you brownie points with anyone that matters,
      and it won’t make your petition into a better afterlife any more or less
      palatable. No one should choose one OS over another because in doing so you can
      “stick it to the man.”

      Well, my
      Linux evangelists it is time to practice what you preach. Instead of a flippant
      remark that helps no one, I challenge the Linux users in the TechRepublic
      community to take a true leap of faith and actually help the community
      understand and possibly even use Linux. I’ve installed Linux now and again and
      I know there must be at least 10 common things that most, if not all,
      installations require.

      I am making
      a sanctioned and official writing assignment and making it available to any
      TechRepublic member who is up to the challenge.

      I want you
      to write a full-fledged, well-thought out, spell-checked article/download on one,
      or all if you wish, of these three subjects:

      • 10
        things you should do to a new Linux PC before connecting to the Internet
      • 10
        things you should to every new Linux PC
      • 10
        things you should know about every Linux installation

      If you can
      write a good 800+ word article/download on any or all of the topics above,
      TechRepublic will publish it and pay you $200 for your effort. You can use any
      of the previous 10 things
      article/downloads
      that we have published over the last few months as a
      guide to style and tone. I’ll treat your submission like any submission I
      receive from a contributor. I’ll edit it, possibly ask for rewrites or
      additional explanations, make suggestions, etc. Screenshots, diagrams, and other
      imagery is always welcome.

      Since we
      can’t publish 10 articles with the same title, this is going to be on a first
      come, first basis. If you want to tackle one of the assignments, add a comment
      to this blog post and reserve it. Once you accept the assignment, you’ll have
      until 11/16 to send in your submission. And if you have additional ideas on
      topics we should cover in the Linux universe, add a comment and perhaps we can
      make an assignment out of that too. Have questions or need clarification; post
      a comment and I’ll answer it.

      Send your article/download submissions to the Content Inbox or send me a private message and we’ll make other arrangements.

      Want to keep up with who’s “On
      the Soapbox” each week? Use this link to automatically
      subscribe
      to the Blog Roundup Newsletter and have it delivered directly to
      your Inbox every Wednesday.

      • #3120268

        Time for Linux evangelists to put up or shut up

        by ipkernel ·

        In reply to Time for Linux evangelists to put up or shut up

        I accept! Please reserve the topic “Ten things you should do to every new Linux PC” for me.

      • #3120267

        Time for Linux evangelists to put up or shut up

        by robert.escue ·

        In reply to Time for Linux evangelists to put up or shut up

        I wouldn’t bank on too many Linux zealots stepping up to the plate for this. There whole point is to bad mouth any OS that is not Linux and any individual who “doesn’t see the light”. As a Solaris administrator I find that posting anything Sun related automatically draws what I call the “Linux Lunatic Fringe” to correct me in the error of my ways for not choosing a “superior” OS. I have made similar challenges on OSNews and they have went unanswered, it is more important to flame and troll than it is to be correct.

        Your article was interesting and a nice refresher for those of us who don’t work on Windows machines on a regular basis.

      • #3120239

        Time for Linux evangelists to put up or shut up

        by lefty.crupps ·

        In reply to Time for Linux evangelists to put up or shut up

        I’ll take the “About every linux installation” one; I just hope that I am qualified!

        lefty.crupps

      • #3119177

        Time for Linux evangelists to put up or shut up

        by kirkhalyk ·

        In reply to Time for Linux evangelists to put up or shut up

        I’d like to tackle the “10 things you should do to a new Linux PC before connecting to the Internet”

        Should be fun…

      • #3119114

        Time for Linux evangelists to put up or shut up

        by Mark W. Kaelin ·

        In reply to Time for Linux evangelists to put up or shut up

        Okay, that’s one person for each of the three topics I listed. But don’t stop there!

        I will gladly publish Linux-based articles on other topics. How about:

        • How to set up a VPN on a Linux PC so you can work from home
        • How to set up a video camera and a client application so I can attend a meeting on a Linux PC
        • How to set up a Linux-based media PC – what hardware, software, how to configure

        Anyone want to tackle these subjects and earn $200 just in time for the holidays?

      • #3119007

        Time for Linux evangelists to put up or shut up

        by apotheon ·

        In reply to Time for Linux evangelists to put up or shut up

        Well, people sure did jump on that one in a hurry.

        The first set of three potential 10-lists was pretty good. I’m not so keen on the second set. I’ll outline some issues.

        • Setting up a VPN client, no matter what OS you’re using, isn’t something that is generically describable. You can explain how to set up a specific type of VPN client if you know how the server side is set up, but just generally “how to set up a VPN” client is an impossible question to answer in the manner requested. It’s akin to saying you want someone to describe “how to drive to work”. It changes, based on where you work, how you want to get back and forth, where you live in relation to work, what the speed limit is, what time you have to be at work, what kind of car you have, and so on. By the same token, setting up a Linux VPN client depends on such ephemera as what sort of Internet connection have at home, what (if any) firewall/router you have, what your home networking setup is, whether you need to use the VPN while on the road (and what sort of connections you’ll enjoy on the road), whether your place of employment uses proprietary OTP systems, what work’s security policies are for your VPN-capable computer, and so on, and so forth. All of these variables apply as well to Windows, MacOS X, classic MacOS, BeOS, *BSD, and other clients as well.

        Okay, so I guess it was just the VPN item that bothered me. The others potentially suffer from some similar problems, because they’re application-based questions without specifying the applications to be used, but not anywhere near the same scale.

      • #3118933

        Time for Linux evangelists to put up or shut up

        by dutter9 ·

        In reply to Time for Linux evangelists to put up or shut up

        There’s a number of really good Linux people around, they just don’t make the waves like the more “passionate” fans of the OS do. The real trick would be to ask for and get the top 10 tips on setting up and securing FreeBSD instead!

      • #3118883

        Time for Linux evangelists to put up or shut up

        by jmgarvin ·

        In reply to Time for Linux evangelists to put up or shut up

        Ok, I’ll bite.  I’ll write a top 10 for “10
        things you should do to every new Linux PC”   I would 
        guess 800 words would be quit easy.  Hell, I could probably get
        the full $600  doing all 3 😉 

        Hell, I’ll even tell you how to setup wireless, do nmap scans, setup a proxy…oh wait…check my blog I already did!!

      • #3118388

        Time for Linux evangelists to put up or shut up

        by Mark W. Kaelin ·

        In reply to Time for Linux evangelists to put up or shut up

        Apotheon,

        Thank you for the comment.

        The Linux VPN question is a bit of sticky wicket. However,
        we have published several downloads/articles on VPN configuration in Windows,
        so I thought perhaps someone could write up something for “the other
        side.”

        Connecting to a network via VPN is a common user experience
        these days; there must be some way to do it under Linux, even if it has to be
        written from the perspective of a specific client application.

      • #3118386

        Time for Linux evangelists to put up or shut up

        by Mark W. Kaelin ·

        In reply to Time for Linux evangelists to put up or shut up

        Consider the 10 tips for setting up and securing FreeBSD asked for – anyone want to tackle that? The same $200 applies.

      • #3117780

        Time for Linux evangelists to put up or shut up

        by apotheon ·

        In reply to Time for Linux evangelists to put up or shut up

        The problem isn’t that there isn’t a way to set up a VPN client
        using Linux: it’s that there are a lot of ways to do it, and which way
        you do it isn’t a matter of client choice. You have to set up the
        client to connect to the server, and the server side is where the
        choice of VPN solution is made.

        Of course, the most common way to set up a virtual private network
        with Linux systems is to simply install SSH, which has two steps only:
        1. install OpenSSH; 2. type “ssh username@hostname”

        I suppose I could write an SSH setup and use tutorial, but that’s
        slightly different from a list of necessary means of setting up a VPN
        in general, which depends mostly on the server.

        EDIT: One other thing. If I were to submit such an article, where would it go? I just re-parsed your Soapbox column, and didn’t see any mention of a submission page or email address.

      • #3117733

        Time for Linux evangelists to put up or shut up

        by jmgarvin ·

        In reply to Time for Linux evangelists to put up or shut up

        Excellent point.  Where do we send these things once we’ve created them?

      • #3119504

        Time for Linux evangelists to put up or shut up

        by Mark W. Kaelin ·

        In reply to Time for Linux evangelists to put up or shut up

        I added this information to the original post.
        You can always send me a private message if you like.

        We have also set up a
        Content Inbox where we collect all our requests for submissions, photo
        galleries, scripts, etc.

        I really appreciate the positive tone of the responses so far – I look forward
        to reading and publishing the articles/downloads.

      • #3119339

        Time for Linux evangelists to put up or shut up

        by lefty.crupps ·

        In reply to Time for Linux evangelists to put up or shut up

        Is there an upper limit on the length of these articles?  Also,
        legally can I include a screenshot of Windows Explorer? (it might be
        faked as I would like to somewhat simplify a difficult concept:
        multiple drives and partitions in WinExplorer vs the mounted tree in
        *nix systems)

        Anyone have ideas on these two concerns o myne?

      • #3119305

        Time for Linux evangelists to put up or shut up

        by Mark W. Kaelin ·

        In reply to Time for Linux evangelists to put up or shut up

        We use screenshots of Windows Explorer and just about everything else –
        no problem – screenshots to clarify a complicated point are a great
        idea.

        I didn’t envision anyone writing articles/downloads of more than 1200
        words, but if you have more to say then by all means expound away.
        However, I might suggest you consider trimming excess verbiage where
        possbile – concise is always better, especially if you expect people to
        read it on the screen.

      • #3120022

        Time for Linux evangelists to put up or shut up

        by broper ·

        In reply to Time for Linux evangelists to put up or shut up

        Oh brother. I can see it coming…

        Which Linux (distribution)?

        Using which toolset?

        For which type of install (server, desktop, live-cd)?

        Top-10 lists are better for unified out-of-the box environments like XP or Server 2003. It cuts against the grain of *nix.

        But good luck, anyway.

      • #3119963

        Time for Linux evangelists to put up or shut up

        by Mark W. Kaelin ·

        In reply to Time for Linux evangelists to put up or shut up

        Those are certainly legitimate concerns, and I did think about it before I posted.

        1. Pick a distribution. If one is significantly different than another, we’ll publish more than one article.
        2. Same as 1.
        3. I would prefer desktop since that was what the Windows XP downloads/articles were dealing with, but any type will work.

        The whole process is pretty flexible.

      • #3122282

        Time for Linux evangelists to put up or shut up

        by charliespencer ·

        In reply to Time for Linux evangelists to put up or shut up

        I see you’ve released the first article resulting from this soapbox.  Would it be allowable to disclose who wrote it?

      • #3122245

        Time for Linux evangelists to put up or shut up

        by Mark W. Kaelin ·

        In reply to Time for Linux evangelists to put up or shut up

        The first article/download was written by Jeffrey G. Thomas. You can
        see his name in the article version, but you have to download the PDF
        to see it in that format. I’ll start adding author names to the
        download descriptions for easier viewing.

        PS – I fixed a problem with the download version – ghost in the machine again!

      • #3044077

        Time for Linux evangelists to put up or shut up

        by ipkernel ·

        In reply to Time for Linux evangelists to put up or shut up

        Will all submissions receive a response of some type, i.e., yes, we will use your article or sorry, it’s not what we were looking for? What is the usual time frame for a response?

      • #3127623

        Time for Linux evangelists to put up or shut up

        by Mark W. Kaelin ·

        In reply to Time for Linux evangelists to put up or shut up

        My intention is – if you send me an 800 word article, I will, as long as it is coherent and on topic, publish it.

        ipkernel, your submission has been recieved – look for it soon.

    • #3127111

      Can you spot the problem?

      by Mark W. Kaelin ·

      In reply to Old enough to want to and fool enough to try

      Like many
      large organizations that use a large amount of personal computers,
      CNET/TechRepublic has a IT helpdesk support system. I don’t use it very often,
      or at least I try not to use it, because I should be able to solve my own
      problems. I mean, I do spend a good part of my time writing and/or editing
      content that purportedly tells an audience how to troubleshoot computer
      problems.

      However, I
      recently had a problem that I could not figure out. Well, I did figure it out
      eventually, but I didn’t have my epiphany until after asking for help from our
      tech support. I’ll present the problem here; see if you can figure it out.

      When
      creating PDFs for TechRepublic, I often have to add screenshot images and some
      other graphical elements in a Microsoft Word document. Once the Word doc is
      set, I translate it into a PDF. The problem was that I could not insert an
      image into any Word document. I would follow the usual menu commands: Insert |
      Picture | File and at that point I would get a VBA error. You know, the dialog
      that asks whether you want to debug the problem or end the dialog. I could not
      think of a single reason why a VBA error would occur. With the help of tech
      support we tried repairing Office and then re-installing Office, and there was
      no change.


      Figured it
      out yet?

      If you have
      then you are quicker on the draw then I am. It turns out I had inadvertently
      used the keyword Insert in a Word macro I created. I have a vague recollection
      that you are not supposed to use certain words when naming your macros, but it
      is not one of those things I normally think about when I am creating a little
      routine on the fly. Apparently, the fact that I created a macro named
      InsertPicture was enough to interfere with any Word command that involved an
      Insert of any kind. I find that very peculiar and frustrating.

      Have you
      run into this situation before? Perhaps, because I use Word macros as an editor
      so much, it is only a problem with people like me. If I come across a set of
      keystrokes that I have to enter over and over again, I will make a quick macro
      using the Word record feature. Is that typical or atypical behavior?

      • #3096193

        Can you spot the problem?

        by coveycraig1 ·

        In reply to Can you spot the problem?

        That used to be a bigger problem with other word processing applications (such as Wordstar, etc.) and with dedicated word processors such as CPT/RPM Data Systems’ popular machine back in the early 80’s.  With a one-button on/off record, lots of secretaries used macros constantly.  There were lists of prescribed keywords but the software and/or equipment was programmed to tell users when they tried to use a word which was verboten.

        Now, unfortunately, it seems the majority of users never bother to learn the capabilities of the systems they use every day and couldn’t even explain what a macro was.

      • #3096044

        Can you spot the problem?

        by vanessaj ·

        In reply to Can you spot the problem?

        Ohhh man!!!  That’s the solution.  I’ve been racking my brain for weeks over that one.  I never thought it would be the NAME of the macros that have caused the issues.  Well, at least it got me to sign up for a Visual Basic class, so some good came out of it.  Thank you so much, Mark, for posting!

      • #3095973

        Can you spot the problem?

        by robsv ·

        In reply to Can you spot the problem?

        Sounds pretty normal to me — of course, I’m the guy who gave a callable file (in DOS) the name of “cls.” Took a while to figure out why the screen went black.

    • #3198399

      I’ll take care of it – thanks

      by Mark W. Kaelin ·

      In reply to Old enough to want to and fool enough to try

      I’m not one
      to get terribly frustrated and throw temper tantrums, but there are some things
      that really push my buttons. One thing that really annoys me is software that
      takes control out of my hands.

      I use
      Microsoft Money 2005 to keep track of my checking, savings, credit cards, and
      investment accounts. We aren’t talking a large Rockefeller trust fund here, but
      I like to keep on top of my finances — it’s my accountant training. MS Money
      came with a computer purchase and it works okay, but I discovered one thing
      last weekend that makes me want to rip it out of my PC and erase it from
      existence.

      USBank
      raised the credit limit on my credit card and Money won’t let me change that
      number manually. I have to configure Money to talk with USBank
      so that kind of information can be exchanged. However, I have specifically
      decided that I do not want any software on my PC contacting any servers on the
      Internet unless I am sitting there clicking the links myself. I do not trust
      Microsoft or USBank to:

      a)       Accurately transfer information back
      and forth and reconcile differences in the various transactions, or

      b)      Not use such information to try to
      sell me life insurance or money market accounts or other such crap I don’t need
      or want.

      Therefore,
      I have not and will not configure for that level of behind my back interaction.
      But, taking that stand means that I cannot make a simple change to the account
      information Money stores. To me, that is just not acceptable. I decide what
      information I want to keep, I decide when to enter it, I decide what is
      accurate, and I decide what is best. I don’t want to be coddled by my banking
      software as if I’m some financial misfit. When it comes to my finances, I’m an
      anal retentive accountant — thank you very much.

      So I’m
      wondering it there is an open source option to Money and Quicken that I can try;
      preferably one that doesn’t try to do the “we can connect to your bank and
      exchange personal information at will without your knowledge” feature. Any
      suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

      • #3198337

        I’ll take care of it – thanks

        by bschaettle ·

        In reply to I’ll take care of it – thanks

        You may be able to get around this by adding a “new” credit card account that just happens to have the same card number as your existing one.  When you create the new account, the software will probably let you enter a credit limit as part of the setup routine.  Then you should be able to tell it to transfer the balance from the “old” card to the “new” credit card.  A royal pain, but probably a small price to pay to keep them from spying on you. 

      • #3083186

        I’ll take care of it – thanks

        by dc guy ·

        In reply to I’ll take care of it – thanks

        I’ve been an angry, frustrated user of Quicken for about ten years. My wife insisted on getting it but so far it’s been nothing but a pain. If I had it to do over I would keep the Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet I was using, port it over to Excel, and add more columns and sheets. If you’re an accountant and an adept touch-typist, I don’t believe there’s anything  you need to do with family finances that you can’t accomplish with almost as little work and with far less pain with a good spreadsheet program.

        Every year at tax time I tell myself between curses that I’m going to export the whole blasted file to Excel. One of these years I’m really going to do it.

        I have a degree in accounting too. And I got mine back in the days before they had computers, so we learned to do everything with spreadsheets.

      • #3082629

        I’ll take care of it – thanks

        by Ramon Padilla Jr. ·

        In reply to I’ll take care of it – thanks

        Ask and you shall receive 🙂

        http://www.gnucash.org/  but you have to run it on Linux. Hugely popular.

        or try Jmoney http://jmoney.sourceforge.net/  runs on windows, less mature.

        also Jcash  http://sourceforge.net/projects/jcash/  Will run on Windows, less mature as well.

        Hope you had a great holiday!

        Ramon

      • #3094473

        I’ll take care of it – thanks

        by Mark W. Kaelin ·

        In reply to I’ll take care of it – thanks

        I had a nice little spreadsheet setup for tracking my accounts at one time too – I was tired of transferring it from Lotus 123 to Quattro Pro to Excel. Every transfer meant having to redo formulas and links etc. I thought, “Money does all that – it’ll be easier.”

        And in some ways it is easier, but the situation I describe above gets on my nerves so much I’m not sure that “ease” is worth it. Recreating that spreadsheet might actually be a fun project.

    • #3096246

      The perils of last minute Christmas shopping

      by Mark W. Kaelin ·

      In reply to Old enough to want to and fool enough to try





      The perils of last minute Christmas shopping

    • #3096103

      Last minute can be a problem

      by Mark W. Kaelin ·

      In reply to Old enough to want to and fool enough to try

      I’m a last
      minute Christmas shopper ? I admit it freely. I like to soak up the energy of
      all those people running around scrambling for gifts. But it does have its
      perils.

      For my
      10-year old niece this year, I decided to get her Zoo Tycoon 2 for the
      PC. She is starting to get interested in her uncle’s favorite hobby, so I
      thought I’d encourage it. Besides, she really enjoyed Zoo Tycoon 1 and she is
      really good at managing the various aspects of a zoo in the game ? managing a
      multitude of events and interrelated transactions is a skill that will be very
      important as she grows up no matter what she chooses as a profession. Read Everything
      Bad Is Good for You: How Today’s Popular Culture Is Actually Making Us Smarter

      for further explanation of that idea.

      Anyway, in
      the excitement I purchased the expansion pack not the original box. I didn’t
      realize this until Christmas Eve when it was too late to do anything about it.
      Being clever, I thought I’d download it from Direct2Drive on Christmas morning.
      Buying it that way meant that my niece’s fun would only be delayed a few
      minutes. Wrong!

      Microsoft
      doesn’t license its software online yet. I contemplated downloading an illegal
      copy in protest, but thought better of it. The next day I went and purchased
      the original and installed it for her. Of course, that wasn’t the end of it.

      Zoo Tycoon
      2 is 3D and requires a 3D graphics card, which my brother’s 2-year old Sony VAIO
      did not have. I know because when I advised him what to buy back then, after he
      assured me several times that no games would ever be played on this new PC, I
      said he could save some money with integrated graphics. Luckily, the daze of
      last minute Christmas shopping had worn off and I came prepared with an old
      GeForce 3 video card I had in my stash of spare parts.

      Once I got
      the card installed and then the games, everything was fine and my niece was
      happy. And once again I was a hero.

      The moral
      of the story ? shop earlier, pay attention to what you are buying, and never
      "save" money with integrated video. And never believe it when someone
      says no games will be played on their PCs ? that’s a delusion.

    • #3097197

      Linux 101 – Revisited

      by Mark W. Kaelin ·

      In reply to Old enough to want to and fool enough to try

      Just wanted to send out a note to all of the TechRepublic members interested in all things Linux. We’ve set up a Linux 101 Wiki page and I encourage you to check out and add to it when and where you can.

      The link is http://wiki.techrepublic.com/twiki/bin/view/Linux101/WebHome or click here.

      I have seeded the page with two of our more recent Linux 101 download/articles and will add some others soon, but if you have something to add to it, please be our guest. 

    • #3097192

      Code challenge

      by Mark W. Kaelin ·

      In reply to Old enough to want to and fool enough to try

      A TechRepublic member recently sent me a private message regarding a recent download. The question:

      Subject: cataloging mp3
      Message: Hi Mark,
      Great article, had a question after reading it, how does your script handle .mp3 files that have various artists in the artist field? There’s another field called featured artist that has the artisit’s name if the track came from a compilation cd. Does this code read this or do we need to modify accordingly?
      Best Regards, Maria

      In order to accomodate the featured artist field, the code would have to be modified. Rather than contact the author and ask for the modification, I thought perhaps someone in the TechRepublic community would like to take a crack at it. The code modification should work in a comment to this blog entry.

      Anyone care to give it a shot?

      • #3253358

        Code challenge

        by jaqui ·

        In reply to Code challenge

        Well since I don’t have an mp3 with the tag in it, I can’t check.
        but if the header tag was given correctly in your posting, then this should work.
        if the format of the tag is different, then the featured artist in the
        listing below would need to be altered to fit the format of the tag.

        naturally, the blog script is interpreting the table code for the output of the script.

        the differences are:
        line 4) added entire line :

        $featured_artist = $id3->getTag(‘featured artist’) : “n/a”; //Featured Artist, if tag format is correct
        line 47) added entire line : < td >< b >Featured Artist< /b >< /td >
        line 54) added entire line : < td >” . $d[‘featured artist’] . “< /td >


        read($dir."/".$file);
        $filename = $id3->getTag('file'); // file name
        $artist = $id3->getTag('artists') ? $id3->getTag('artists') : "n/a"; // artist name
        $featured_artist = $id3->getTag('featured artist') : "n/a"; //Featured Artist, if tag format is correct
        $title = $id3->getTag('name') ? $id3->getTag('name') : "n/a"; // track title
        $genre = $id3->getTag('genre') ? $id3->getTag('genre') : "n/a"; // genre
        $year = $id3->getTag('year') ? $id3->getTag('year') : "n/a"; // year of release
        $data[] = array('file' => $filename, 'artist' => $artist, 'featured artists' => $featured_artist, 'title' => $title, 'genre' => $genre, 'year' => $year);
        }
        }
        }
        }
        // close handle
        closedir($dh);
        }

        // import MP3 class
        include("MP3/Id.php");

        // create new MP3_ID() class
        $id3 = &new MP3_Id();

        // define MP3 directory
        $dir = "/usr/local/share";

        // start scanning for MP3s
        // store extracted MP3 metadata in $data
        searchMp3($dir);
        ?>

        ";
        echo "";
        echo "";
        echo "";
        echo "";...
        echo "";
        echo "";
        echo "";
        }
        ?>

        File name Title Artist Featured Artist Genre Year
        " . $d['file'] . " " . $d['title'] . " " . $d['artist'] . " " . $d['featured artist'] . " " . $d['genre'] . " " . $d['year'] . "

    • #3094176

      I know it’s an E, but I can’t really see it

      by Mark W. Kaelin ·

      In reply to Old enough to want to and fool enough to try

      It’s hell
      getting old. Being part of the baby boomer generation used to mean I was in
      every marketer’s crosshairs, now the only marketers excited about people my age
      come from pharmaceutical, life insurance, and medical device companies. I watch
      the Grammy and Country Music Awards and realize I don’t know who most of those
      artists are, much less listen to their music. More importantly, most of the
      music that I hear, usually by accident, is bland, uninspired, over produced
      throw-away garbage, which is exactly what my father said about the Beatles. I
      find myself agreeing with Andy Rooney way too often. Like I said ? hell!

      Why the
      rant? Well, there is a pretty good reason ? eyesight. Or, to be more specific,
      eyesight as it relates to computer monitors. CNET Networks has just installed
      some very nice Sony 19-inch LCD monitors at our workstations here at
      TechRepublic. I generally like LCD monitors ? I like the extra screen real
      estate that comes with the increased native resolutions (1280 X 1024). However,
      the increased resolutions and changes to screen refresh rates means I have to
      make some adjustments to the default configuration to accommodate my eyesight,
      or lack thereof.

      You see, I
      have old eyes and have to wear eyeglasses to see the text on the screen or anything
      else for that matter. And because I spend nearly eight hours a day looking at
      that screen, being able to see it without giving myself a migraine headache is
      very important. On the possibility that at least a few TechRepublic members are
      in the same “aging geek” group as me, (I know there are least a few
      out there), I thought I’d mention a little utility I used to adjust my new
      monitor.

      There are
      few of these little programs floating around on the Web, but the one I used is
      called CheckeMon.
      I downloaded it from the BenchmarkHQ Web site I found using a Google search for
      “monitor adjustment utility.” Of course, it is also available from
      the programmer’s site.
      This little program is a terrific example of the gems you can find on the Web
      when you employ a targeted search. Amateur and part-time programmers often make
      the most useful tools.

      The
      application is very straight-forward and intuitive. Just start it up and make
      adjustments to your monitor as necessary. The most common adjustments I make
      for new monitors are:

      • Vertical
        alignment
      • Horizontal
        alignment
      • Geometric
        alignment (trapezoid, skewing, etc)
      • Color
      • Brightness
      • Contrast,
        and
      • Gamma

      I created a
      TechRepublic
      image gallery
      to show what some of the various screens look like, which
      should go along way to explaining what each adjustment does and why it will
      help an “old” man like me see his computer screen better.

      Do you have
      a little-known, non-professionally produced, but still useful utility or
      application that makes your life easier? Share it and give those coders their
      props ? as IT pros we should strive to recognize their contribution toward the
      quality of our lives.

      • #3094142

        I know it’s an E, but I can’t really see it

        by dc guy ·

        In reply to I know it’s an E, but I can’t really see it

        I’m a War Baby, on the cusp between the Boomers and the Depression Babies. There were too few of us to be a “generation” of our own so we had pick one. My opinions on music, war, civil rights, and many other issues made the Boomers an easy choice.

        My eyes are a few years ahead of yours in degeneration, so I’ve already had to deal with this. My solution was trifocals. I very carefully positioned, sized, and focused the middle lens to cover my computer screen. My optician was dumbfounded, it seemed like such a great idea but no one else had ever asked for it; the “standard” trifocal configuration makes the bottom lenses much narrower and lower. It turns out to also be ideal for the instruments on my car’s dashboard, or even for reading something at arm’s length.

        It required some matching reconfigurations, however. We had to raise the TV a few inches to get it into the “distance” lenses. (My wife is the same age and still has perfect eyesight, so she is patiently bemused by all of this.) Fortunately I don’t like recliners or I’d need a second pair of glasses for watching TV through the bottom part of the lenses–or put the TV on the ceiling.

        As for today’s music, I love it. I’ve recently attended concerts by Rob Thomas, Velvet Revolver, Maroon Five, Shakira, Filter, and Joan Osborne. There’s a lot of great stuff out there, you just have to find it.

        But then I can’t stand Andy Rooney. I’m a big fan of Jon Stewart and South Park.

      • #3258281

        I know it’s an E, but I can’t really see it

        by Mark W. Kaelin ·

        In reply to I know it’s an E, but I can’t really see it

        Trifocals? Who knew eyeglasses could get so complicated. I just moved to bifocals myself last month.

        I know there is some good music out there, it’s just that most of what I like, and much of what you mentioned, don’t win awards. It bugs me a little.

        Perhaps this is playing a game of “brush with famous people,” but I actually went to high school with Joan Osborne. We had a few classes together and had a common home room for a year. I remember her as petite, quiet and very smart, with a great smile. It’s hard to believe that the girl I knew back then can make your heart melt with a power blues ballad now.

      • #3109210

        I know it’s an E, but I can’t really see it

        by dc guy ·

        In reply to I know it’s an E, but I can’t really see it

        As your eyes become less elastic their range of focus continues to narrow and you need more lenses to make up the difference. So far three seems to be the maximum but they’re predicting that more people will live past 100 so who knows.

        I’m just happy that there are still people out there making music I like so I don’t get stuck in a nostalgia time warp like those who cover their ears and think the world ended when Benny Goodman or Beethoven died. The fact that the demographic group that determines what’s popular and wins awards doesn’t share my taste in music isn’t much of a surprise considering what else they like. What is a surprise is that rock and roll has survived for three generations so we all can still at least tap our feet together. It started out as an ethnic/regional unifier and is now a generational unifier.

      • #3108808

        I know it’s an E, but I can’t really see it

        by twlaaas ·

        In reply to I know it’s an E, but I can’t really see it

        This website CheckeMon that is mentioned contains a large amount of Advertisements and Spyware and I suggest you run a cleaner even after visiting this webpage. I suggest you set your browser to prompt you for first party cookies and to block third third party cookies.

      • #3108703

        I know it’s an E, but I can’t really see it

        by marty-7 ·

        In reply to I know it’s an E, but I can’t really see it

        It looked like an interesting program, but after the program’s site you referenced set off my Symantec Antivirus twice before I could download it, I’ve decided I can live without it.  Very disappointing recommendation from TR.

      • #3134823

        I know it’s an E, but I can’t really see it

        by rrrobins ·

        In reply to I know it’s an E, but I can’t really see it

        I didn’t try the provided download site based on the negative comments but I did go to the programmer’s web site and found nothing suspicious there. The application works as advertised and is similar to ones I have used before. Aside from looking for dead pixels though it seems more useful for CRTs than for LCDs.

      • #3134815

        I know it

        by trajmag ·

        In reply to I know it’s an E, but I can’t really see it

        Progressive Lens

        I also am a War Baby and found that my first pair of Bifocals (some years ago) solved the whole deal. Have them made progressive so there aren’t any lines. You will automatically find the correct spot without any fuss. I did find I had to adjust the position of my monitor to keep from having the “tilt head” but that was easy.

        Now I have contacts that make my eyes equal to what they should be at this age and I use reading glasses (cheap!) to setup on the monitor. You can easily find a power that will work for almost anything.

        Yeah, it’s a bummer to get old. If anyone finds a way to hold up the years, please send me an e-mail!

      • #3134814

        I know it’s an E, but I can’t really see it

        by irifox ·

        In reply to I know it’s an E, but I can’t really see it

        my virus scan detected a VIRUS when started download CheckeMon

      • #3134786

        I know it’s an E, but I can’t really see it

        by Mark W. Kaelin ·

        In reply to I know it’s an E, but I can’t really see it

        Hmm. Thanks for the heads about the spyware. I didn’t get any warnings when I visited there. I’ll run my spyware applications to see if I picked anything up from there and report back.

      • #3134785

        I know it’s an E, but I can’t really see it

        by desertpete9 ·

        In reply to I know it’s an E, but I can’t really see it

        Well, I hit my three-score-and-ten last Sunday, but I’ve been using special glasses for computer screens for a couple of decades. When I started, I using bifocals, and I got a crick in my neck from tipping my head back so I could read the screen. Then, duh, I figured out that if I got a special pair of computer glasses–ones with my normal reading prescription set to focus slightly farther than they would for reading–it might work. And it did! Also helped reading the tablature when learning new songs on my banjo. Only downside is when you get up from the computer and walk around. Solution: look over the tops or relax your eyes and get that cup of coffee looking through blurry lenses. Not really a problem.

        Peter

      • #3134703

        I know it’s an E, but I can’t really see it

        by dc guy ·

        In reply to I know it’s an E, but I can’t really see it

        I tried progressive lenses but I sent them back after just trying them on in the optician’s shop. In the middle monitor-focus part of the lens they only gave me a very narrow (side-to-side narrow) range of view that was in focus. Everything to the right or left was an unresolvable blur. To read text on a monitor I had to swivel my head from side to side. I asked the optician why he didn’t warn me about that since even if he wasn’t thinking of computer users it must be just as bad for a dashboard. He said nobody had ever complained before.

        Why bother with the hassle of contacts if you still have to wear glasses for half of the day anyway? I probably spend more time working on my computer at the office, playing on my computer at home, and reading books and the daily paper, than I do using my distance vision. (Perhaps that’s how my eyes got this way. ^_^ ) Not to mention at this age I can’t even read the speedometer with my distance lenses.

      • #3134687

        I know it

        by Mark W. Kaelin ·

        In reply to I know it’s an E, but I can’t really see it

        I’m not sure about the reported spyware warnings some of you have experienced. I visited the site many times and I just ran AdAware and Spybot Search and Destroy and my workstation was remarkably clean.

        The warnings may be false postives associated with mundane cookies. I can’t find any spyware to worry about. If you find something specific, let me know.

      • #3108133

        I know it’s an E, but I can’t really see it

        by chriscol9 ·

        In reply to I know it’s an E, but I can’t really see it

        How will this work for g(r)eeks?

        I’m thinking it sounds like a good idea to post on a genealogy listserv I belong to.  But only reading your article left me wondering more about how the app actually works.  Would people actually need to change settings? What would older people who aren’t techies need to know?

        On progressive lenses….

        I insist that the center-line, for mid-distance, be set directly in line with the pupil of my eye.  Opticians typically want the distance vision to be there–and when I point out that I drive for 20 minutes a day and view a computer screen for 8 hours–they reconsider.  I’ve been very happy with the lenses.

         

    • #3092039

      How rapid is rapid development?

      by Mark W. Kaelin ·

      In reply to Old enough to want to and fool enough to try

      As an
      editor on TechRepublic I get the benefit of a rather eclectic mix of content.
      Whether it’s downloads or articles or blogs or discussions or TechQA, it falls within my purview. Recently, several
      pieces of content came together in such a way as to get me thinking ? which is
      always a dangerous and unpredictable thing to have happen.

      First,
      I gave a presentation to several colleagues describing some of the features of
      Microsoft’s Visual Studio 2005. Keep in mind this was not from the
      perspective of a developer, but from an editor who must develop content
      regarding this venerable IDE. So, while I am by no stretch of the imagination a
      programmer, I do know enough about it to note that it is much easier to create
      applications now, in a visual environment, than it was to create applications
      years ago when I had to type FORTRAN code onto paper cards. (Some images
      of VS 2005
      )

      In
      general, I believe this ease of use is a good thing. It makes application
      development less "magical" for business side folks and brings all the
      various stakeholders of an application’s development closer to speaking the
      same language.

      However,
      a recent download / article
      by Robert
      Bogue
      pointed out one of the downsides of this easier development ? young
      developers learning bad habits that haunt them later. Robert believes that
      organizations are teaching their software developers that parts of the process,
      like documentation for example, are accidental and are therefore not essential
      to the success of the project? I can see how an IDE like VS 2005, with all of
      its pre-programmed controls and widgets could make a developer complacent. For
      any profession, the discipline of acting as a professional cannot be sacrificed
      for the sake of convenience or making money. (Think about Arthur Andersen for a
      second)

      Apparently,
      the issue is one weighing heavy on many developers’s psyche ? at least that is
      how it seems when I look at the discussion thread Robert’s article generated. What are your
      thoughts on the matter ? do these helpful IDE’s like
      Visual Studio and Eclipse actually make for less-skilled developers or are
      complaints of poor documentation and programming shortcuts merely holdovers
      from a bygone era? How rapid is rapid development ? is there time for solid
      code?

      • #3133729

        How rapid is rapid development?

        by jaqui ·

        In reply to How rapid is rapid development?

        Will it suprise you that I say that there is time for solid code?

        I would go so far as to say that new developers should be prohibited
        from using rad tools for at least 10 years of professional work. R.A.D.
        tools do not teach developers anything but how to design a gui. There
        is far more benefit in not using a rad tool for anything but gui design
        from the skill aspect of the developers than there is in having the
        developers able to communicate with management from the tools way of
        working.

        Better understanding of the code will lead to better software. No
        develpers worth their salt will ever release code as buggy and bloated
        as rad tools generate.

      • #3133724

        How rapid is rapid development?

        by ahin4114 ·

        In reply to How rapid is rapid development?

        Good post, I think like anybody who was raised on a command line I despair of some of the code I read that’s been generated by a GUI editor.  That’s not to say that they aren’t getting much better, but as people try and solve more and more complicated problems automatically, the code is destined to get worse.  I think some of the problem lies with management, there seems increasingly to be a trend of giving junior programmers more complicated and important tasks to do in the belief that it “can’t be that difficult”.  Microsoft hasn’t helped the issue by targeting sales material at management teams telling them that their software does so many things automatically now.

        I don’t think that the tools make bad coders however, developers still have a choice on how they want to develop code, and it’s only by trying to get them to make the right choice that code quality is going to improve.

      • #3133719

        How rapid is rapid development?

        by grantwparks ·

        In reply to How rapid is rapid development?

        I don’t have a strong opinion about “generated” code, however, the examples and tutorials provided for .NET (MSDN) in particular, consistently show some of the worst coding I’ve ever seen.  And unfortunately, many developers have grown up with nothing but MS as their context and are missing a solid understanding of “programming”.

      • #3133689

        How rapid is rapid development?

        by apotheon ·

        In reply to How rapid is rapid development?

        Any RAD tool can be a crutch for a bad programmer. Programmers should not start out using RAD tools — if they’re going to do RAD as an introduction to programming, they should start out using RAD languages and frameworks with almost bare-metal tools (think “ruby in vim”, for instance). This allows for rapid application development without hiding the language from the developer. Nascent programmers need to be exposed to their own code constantly to be able to develop good programming habits.

        Ultimately, I find that the most wizardly code hackers usually stick to the simplest tools, but combine simple tools in some surprising, and surprisingly efficient, ways. They’ll use IDEs that provide RAD capability only very rarely, and always with very good reason. Like dealing with WYSIWYG web design tools (such as Dreamweaver), with drag-and-drop RAD tools you have to go back and hack the code to clean it up afterward anyway, if you want to turn out good code. While this might make for an interesting way to teach debugging and refactoring to a n00b, it’s not a very efficient way to develop an application, and ends up udercutting the purpose of rapid application development anyway.

        That’s not to say that such tools are evil. There’s a huge population of developers who work best with tools like Eclipse, and if that’s what it takes to be productive, then that’s what they should use. Just don’t throw some clueless end-user into a huge IDE with drag-and-drop objects and tell them they’re learning to program. There’s a big difference between learning how to use an application like VS or Eclipse and learning to write C# or Java code.

      • #3133674

        How rapid is rapid development?

        by mdv3441 ·

        In reply to How rapid is rapid development?

        I like RAD tools and IDE’s especially for Windows applications.  What I have found is with Visual Studio 200X (VS) the programming syntax has regressed somewhat.  I did quite a bit of Assembler programming and moved through several “Business Languages” and last using Classic Visual Basic.  Using VS has become almost as verbose as COBOL when satisfying the compiler.  Maybe I’m too impatient in my old age and WEB programming should far simpler.

        Mike

      • #3133668

        How rapid is rapid development?

        by secureplay ·

        In reply to How rapid is rapid development?

        Its interesting, the essential question that the article raised was about product quality (not code quality) and documentation and eveybody focuses on coding, coding, coding.

        No tool is going to force programmers to document their work – training and business processes are.

        I think this actually gets to the real question of why so many software projects fail. The focus is on “codiing it” rather than knowing what it is you are doing and providing – “describing it”.

        On the other hand, it would be nice if modern programmers knew a bit more about the machines they are using – it is depresssing to talk to college graduates in CS with no understanding of hardware, microproccessor design… heck, even operating systems.

         

        Steve

        blog: http://www.playnoevil.com/

      • #3133656

        How rapid is rapid development?

        by arg_51 ·

        In reply to How rapid is rapid development?

        The big problem with programmers is that they program to solve the question: How is it done? and not,  Why is it done?
        RAD only solves the visual part of any project. Helps in solving the How to Do It but never the Why is it done? Only through knowing the process better than the users software can be really useful.

         

      • #3133632

        How rapid is rapid development?

        by snoopdoug ·

        In reply to How rapid is rapid development?

        I disagree vehemently that the problem lies with the developer. The problem is sytemic, starting with clueless managers who squeeze schedules, dismiss “thinking” and demand “doing”, won’t let developers talk to customers, do not provide a nearby subject matter expert, and have never coded themselves.

        RAD tools do not of themselves make a bad developer. They are a tool, not a methodology. If your team does not do any code reviews, it matters little which dev tools you use, you will get what you ask for–uncommented code and goofy algorithms. If you do not allow time in the schedule for proper testing, you will get what you ask for–buggy code.

        We blather on and on about how critical it is to identify problems early in the dev cycle, yet how often do we hit a snag and management tells us to just “code around it and we’ll fix it later”. Or you pick up some other devs code and cannot fathom why there are so many “magic numbers” in there when the coding standard does not allow them. It’s because management told everyone to skip the code reviews for a while and “just write code”.

        Developers are not stupid. If you do not provide feedback–positive or negative–there is no incentive to change.

        doug in Seattle

      • #3133561

        How rapid is rapid development?

        by wayne m. ·

        In reply to How rapid is rapid development?

        There appear to be several competing thoughts going on in this discussion.  I would like to address three issues, the meaning of Rapid Application Development, the meaning of Agile Development, and the IDE, Wizard, Framework issue.

        Rapid Application Development was an approach based on the principal of plan to throw the first one away (reference: “The Mythical Man-Month” by Albert Brooks).  The concept was to quickly produce a prototype consisting of little more than the user interface, evaluate the prototype, and throw it away and start from scratch.  As a result of the last assumption, code quality was never a concern.  There was also a flaw inherent in the approach; anything can be done in a shell user interface, the penalties in doing it, however, only become apparent when the underlying details are also implemented.

        Agile Development has been tarred due to bad experiences with Rapid Application Development.  Agile Development uses an extreme (pun intended) focus on code quality that other approaches fall well short of.  Agile Development focusses on getting a working system to the user rapidly, not just getting a user interface mock-up rapidly.

        IDEs, Wizards, Frameworks tend to get used interchangeably.  I am a strong proponent of Integrated Development Environments: editors that organize and link together multiple files; links between editors, compilers, linkers, and error messages; links between editors and debuggers; links between editors and version control systems; etc.  I also like hiding of the make file; with built-in refactoring tools, my last complaint against hiding the make file has disappeared.  It is now possible to rename a file without having to manually update the make file.  Graphical editors for GUIs, however, still have a major capability missing; aligning elements on the screen (author admits he has been out of programming and GUI development for some time).  A simple snap-to capability to align items and provide common box sizes would be helpful and not force the developer to hand edit Microsoft resource files or manually build hidden HTML tables.

        Frameworks, however, are another matter.  I find frameworks tend to be overly complex and this complexity leads to the development of most wizards.  I find that most frameworks do not transition well from academic thought into real implementations.  The rule sets and guidelines are not well understood, and rather than explain them, a “wizard” is written to do the work for the developer.  The problem, however, is that the wizard is rarely complete enough to maintain the framework in an ongoing environment, so the developer must sort through the resulting code to make sense of it.  Without a thorough understanding of the framework, code tends to be randomly placed where ever, leading to more complex and less maintainable code.

        My over all score card: Rapid Application Development – Thumbs Down; Agile Development – Thumbs Up; IDEs – Thumbs Up; Wizards and Frameworks – Thumbs Down.

         

      • #3133547

        How rapid is rapid development?

        by m.jonathan.murphy ·

        In reply to How rapid is rapid development?

        Earlier comments said it.

        If you dont know what it is that you are building – then you will just haphazardly build something in an IDE rather that haphazardly build it in VI or whatever your flavor.

        I for one dont actually find VS that “easy” – more like a jetplane cockpit with some useful project templates that get me around having to navigate the popups and sliding whatchamahoozits. Unless you are willing to sink even more $$$ into the Team Building options then it doesnt really help anybody probably 🙂

        Most applications are more than the work of one guy with Visual Studio. The process and cooperation to understand the actual problem and then the discipline, organization, and skill to solve the problem mainly live outside an IDE – unless you can plug in an Windows Vista extension in your frontal lobes.

        The intersting claim is that this helps build better code. So beyond well-crafted routines that execute and interface – what is so good about the code? Is it an asset? Did it get you further in the project? Or did you just get a work unit done without really understanding the impact (or detriment) that your VS wizard’ed output just contributed to the project under dev?

      • #3133533

        How rapid is rapid development?

        by dc guy ·

        In reply to How rapid is rapid development?

        Steve is right, failure to document is not a new problem. We had just as bad a shortage of documentation back in the days of punched cards and 128K-memory mainframes as you kids have today. It’s a management problem, one of several that would not be tolerated in any other engineering discipline and defines what we do as a medieval craft, not “software engineering.”

        Steve, projects may occasionally come in late and over budget because of bad coding practices or reluctance to document, but they rarely fail for those reasons. The most ruinous project failures are caused by defects in requirements. Failure to perform even quick, rudimentary requirements inspections is arguably the biggest problem in American software project management today. The other major contender is failure to perform risk analyses and kill off those hopeless projects before they get started.

        Those are the other two glaring differences between us and real engineers.

      • #3254534

        How rapid is rapid development?

        by joeaaa22 ·

        In reply to How rapid is rapid development?

        There’s another issue with IDE’s and these mega-development
        environments that I believe is counterproductive for developers. 
        The tools are getting so big and sophisticated that you need to spend
        more time and energy learning the tool than actually developing
        anything with it.

        Back a million years ago I was a mainframe COBOL programmer.  The product we used was a tool called ROSCO.  It was similar to ISPF,
        for those who know that environment.  It was a basic editor from
        which you could compile and run jobs and examine the output from
        them. 

        Code -> Compile -> Test -> Repeat until it works

        Today we have tools like Eclipse and Sun Studio and the now in limbo
        Borland C++ Builder.  You need a weeks worth of training classes
        just to get started with these products.  And even then you’d
        spend more time dealing with the tool than dealing with the code.

        If I were to get back into programming I think I’d prefer using vi(m)
        and the command line than any of the tools now available. 
        Faster?  No.  Better?  Maybe.  Focus on code? 
        Definitely.

      • #3254474

        How rapid is rapid development?

        by lovin_90 ·

        In reply to How rapid is rapid development?

        RAD tools are better.  You can NOT blame poor methodologies and practises on a tool.  If you don’t make your writers add comments, then that is your fault and NOT the package’s fault.

        To say that you should work 10 years before using a RAD package is insane.  That is like me telling you that you must spend 10 years doing assembly and learning the intracacies of computers before you can use C.  Then spend another 10 before RAD.  If I haul dirt, I don’t need to know how a dumptruck works, the internal workings of combustible engines, or the physics behind hydraulics.  I just need to know how to get to the site and how to dump the dirt.

        The same is true of RAD.  It enables you to know less of the specifics, and do more work.  Yes, you need people that know assembly or C inside and out, but you also need to produce a product.  Computers are here to make our lives both easier and more productive.  To ignore that is silly.  You might as well not use email if you don’t know TCP/IP, right?

        Bad habits are not the fault of the software, but the person and organizations using it.

      • #3254002

        How rapid is rapid development?

        by jaqui ·

        In reply to How rapid is rapid development?

        Well I’m not knocking ides as tools, I am knocking the concept that a programmer doesn’t have to understand the underlying functionality of a computer [ which is what RAD has fostered ]

        lovin 90 says that driving a dump truck you don’t need to know how everything works, it’s obvious that he’s never looked at getting a license to drive a vehicle with air brakes and hydraulics, since part of the tests included FIXING hydraulics and air brake systems.

        using RAD tools without understanding the underlying technology of a computer means you are generating code that doesn’t function even at 10% effectiveness.

        Bloated code from RAD caused by not knowing the underlying concepts is what causes a lot of bugs, security exploits and the constant need for more system resources. if RAD tools were able to optimise the code they generated then lovin 90 would be right, since they can’t, no developer should be allowed to touch a rad tool until they have proven they understand how to code for minimal footprint… [ ie: entire application embedded on a 32 kb chip ]

      • #3080813

        How rapid is rapid development?

        by apotheon ·

        In reply to How rapid is rapid development?

        While I’m nowhere near the hardass Jaqui is (I don’t think everything needs to be able to run on an 8MB RAM machine, necessarily), he dances around a very important point. As such, I’ve got to disagree with lovin_90 on the applicability of his dumptruck analogy.

        As understanding a dumptruck is to moving dirt, an IDE wizard is not to code. The code is the point when you’re developing an application. You don’t have to understand how the dumptruck works because the dirt is the point, not the dumptruck. To fit your dumptruck analogy, you’d have to be talking about the programmer understanding how the IDE wizard works under the skin.

        You’re right, lovin_90: I don’t have to understand everything about the tool to be able to use it. You’re wrong, lovin_90: I do have to know something about what I’m doing with the tool. Get the difference?

      • #3252539

        How rapid is rapid development?

        by staticonthewire ·

        In reply to How rapid is rapid development?

        Rad/Agile/Framework tools, and IDEs like VS are wonderful. So are modern languages like C# which can (with clear limitations) be seen as partially self-documenting.

        Of COURSE they hide and obfuscate some aspects of development – that’s one of their strongest selling points. Of COURSE this results in a degree of slippage in some aspects of the craft. But this isn’t anything new, is it. I clearly recall assembly programmers fulminating about the certain doom that was coming to us all because of the sloppiness inherent in C…

        But good programmers will rise to their own level of perfection, and once you get a tool like VS into the hand of a good programmer, you have something special. Forcing top talent to use archaic antiques out of some unfounded belief that they’ll be better is as likely to result in success as hitching greyhounds to a dogsled. It isn’t what they were made for, you’ll make them and yourself unhappy, and you won’t get anywhere.

        This discussion reminds me of the war on drugs, in the sense that certain axiomatic assumptions are being accepted and acted on without question, and the solutions based on those unspoken assumptions are disastrous – “force” n00bs to program for ten years before they can touch RAD tools – heh – just try it and see how long your interns stick around… my favorites are the complaints that the tool is “too deep” and takes a long time to learn, give me my notepad! Wow. I would have mugged for a copy of the current VS, even 5 years ago. In 1980? I would have killed.

        “Documentation is good” is one of those unquestioned axioms I was talking about. But it SHOULD be questioned – documentation sucks. Documentation is an execrable response to the limitations of our tools and processes: since our tools are stupidly complex and incomprehensibly arcane, we will create tons of reference material that no one will ever, ever read… what we need isn’t a return to the good old days when we carved binary in stone with our teeth, we need EVEN MORE sophistication, and even more layers of automation between the trigger and the finger – self documenting languages and frameworks and a merging of design tools with code generation.

        Many people here are saying that the fault isn’t with the tool, it’s with the process – if people understanding something – well gosh darn it, then they’ll understand it! Well duh… at that point, who needs documentation? Unless we’re doing it for the children – won’t somebody think of the children? We’ll document our systems FOR POSTERITY. Good idea, hm? Especially since most sytems have the lifespan of a gnat.

        Certainly, process is key. But there have always been scheming and ignorant managers, clueless n00bs, put-upon master craftsmen. Somehow we muddled through, and somehow we will in the future.

        Insisting that people be prepared to finish a task before they start it isn’t going to work either – unless all the problems you choose to solve have already been solved, you can’t KNOW what you need to know, can you? So insisting of complete specifications and the like is as hopeless as that plan to force n00bs to sweep the building foyer for ten years before they’re permitted to touch a keyboard.

        I’m sick of alarmism, and I’m sick of “we wuz men, back in the good ol’ days”. As a general rule, the sophistication and completeness of the applications being created nowadays is orders of magnitude better than all the old assembler and COBOL and C code. Why is everyone surprised when they find that our cutting edge tools are on the cutting edge, that they are grappling with unsolved problems, that they are experimental and require tinkering on the part of their users? And who in hell would really want it to be any different?

        Stop fighting the last war. Stop complaining that the kids are dumb bunnies. Of COURSE they are – they’re kids. But give them enough rope to hang themselves, and believe it or not, only half of them will. The balance will go on to solve problems we old cats only dreamt of.

        I recall my first acquisition of VS (which wasn’t of course called VS back in the day). As a learning experience and a test platform I converted a newspaper linage system I had spent years writing by hand into a project under the new IDE. I discovered more errors – hung pointers, dereferenced variables, entire blocks of waste – in a five minute test compile than I had been able to winkle out with my eyes in five years.

        You will never get my VS away from me – oh, maybe at gunpoint… but come on all you moaners – where’s your perspective?

      • #3091307

        How rapid is rapid development?

        by bschaettle ·

        In reply to How rapid is rapid development?

        So…tell us Mark: what methodology was followed in the development of TR? 

      • #3103150

        How rapid is rapid development?

        by mejpsimard ·

        In reply to How rapid is rapid development?

        All of you are missing the problem by a longshot.  The problem is not in the software industry, but in the north american culture as a whole.  Everything out there is getting shocked into rapid this, rapid that.  It stardet with Ford mass producing it’s cars, went on to Mc Donalds with it foods (if you call their products food), and now its up to software to slave down to mass production.  There is little of anything out there that is mass produced and remains of good quality, just look at your own furniture… will it last as long as the furniture of your forefathers.  But complain all you want, society requires it from the software industry by insisting on instant gratification will little cost.  What ever your line of work is in,  you’ll never do it fast enough.  Live with it!

    • #3253500

      Is Microsoft’s Office Live dead on arrival?

      by Mark W. Kaelin ·

      In reply to Old enough to want to and fool enough to try

      The concept
      surrounding Microsoft’s Office Live intrigues me. A complete set of
      applications, designed to manage a business, complete with e-mail,
      collaboration tools, contact management, sales management, lists of inventory,
      and a Web site editor. It all seems like a wonderful utopia. Of course, using
      this suite to actually run a business means storing your sensitive customer,
      vendor, and sales information on someone else’s server. A server you can only
      access through the notorious insecurity of a Web browser over the just as
      notoriously insecure Internet using infamously insecure Active X controls.

      Being the
      inquisitive editors we are, the TechRepublic content development team has
      signed up for a beta account in Office Live. I’m going to poke around the
      landscape and see what I can see and do what I can do to assess the viability
      of this online management system experiment. I have to admit I approach the
      whole concept with a bit of cynicism.

      The idea of
      storing sensitive information about my business on a server that I do not have
      physical control over makes me very nervous. What kind of physical security do
      they have for the Office Live servers? And even if they are physically secure,
      how certain can we be that they are secure from hacking? How quickly will
      Microsoft turn over our sensitive information to the government if they ask for
      it? How will I know? What if Mt. Rainer erupts and wipes out Washington State,
      is there an offsite backup?

      Is anyone
      actually going to do this? Do you trust Microsoft with this information? Do you
      trust anyone with this information outside your company? Should you? It is one
      thing for some squirrelly editors to put information on Office Live; it is completely
      different when that information represents your entire business enterprise.

      • #3253460

        Is Microsoft’s Office Live dead on arrival?

        by john.pennington ·

        In reply to Is Microsoft’s Office Live dead on arrival?

        I agree that the risk seems inappropriate given the reward. Only the risk seems certain.

      • #3252788

        Is Microsoft’s Office Live dead on arrival?

        by apotheon ·

        In reply to Is Microsoft’s Office Live dead on arrival?

        I’d like to see Google produce a competing web application suite that stores all data the local client machine. I won’t trust my documents on Microsoft’s servers (just as I won’t trust my data on Google servers, and thus wouldn’t use Google desktop searches and the like).

      • #3101859

        Is Microsoft’s Office Live dead on arrival?

        by staticonthewire ·

        In reply to Is Microsoft’s Office Live dead on arrival?

        In addition to the possible threat to the security of your data, shouldn’t you be concerned that you’re placing your trust in a set of office productivity tools that don’t belong even marginally to you, and that are not under your control? If Microsoft decides to raise their usage fees a thousand percent from one month to the next, is there a damned thing you could do about it, considering that you’ve allowed your business data and business tools to be walled away in a proprietary format and located on someone else’s real estate?

        If you want to create a local backup of all your data, does MOL allow you do so? Is the suite configurable so that a local copy could be made of every document you generate? That might be an answer to some of the problem. Does MOL allow you to manage your files on their servers? Can you create folders and sub-folders, move things aroung, zip them all up in a single archive and mail them to someone? Delete them? Does MOL have options to export your biz dox to open document formats if you want to? Can you open the documents you store on their servers with non-MS tools?

        Ceding control of your mission critical data to a software company with its own business agenda that could conceivably be at odds with your own seems pretty hare-brained to me. Allowing your company to become dependent on a tool suite of which you have no local copy seems equally nutty. Why don’t you just give MS the keys to the front door and let them install a row of CICS terminals for you next weekend, and take away those pesky PCs?

        That way it’ll be obvious to everyone who’s in control – they got the programs, they got the data… now let’s all bend over and take a deep, deep breath… that’s it…

      • #3102789

        Is Microsoft’s Office Live dead on arrival?

        by yinbig ·

        In reply to Is Microsoft’s Office Live dead on arrival?

        Plain and simple:

        It’s the choice of the Company if they want to use MOL.
        Use it OR
        Don’t use it

        We can go on about security this / backup that.  At the end of the day somebody
        will use it.  I’m guessing the one man band business.

        But I guess you all have your own set of utility plants in your homes /
        offices, otherwise how do you get Power / Water / Gas???
        Wait – do you trust this company?  What if they hike there prices
        1000%?  What if the power grid blew up?

        Utility Computing – get used to it.

      • #3103413

        Is Microsoft’s Office Live dead on arrival?

        by john.healey ·

        In reply to Is Microsoft’s Office Live dead on arrival?

        It’s true that we put our trust in the utility companies for power and communications, but they don’t know anything about your business except what you have to tell them in order to do business with them. If you use utility computing to run your business then you have revealed everything….

      • #3103391

        Is Microsoft’s Office Live dead on arrival?

        by nickaaa19 ·

        In reply to Is Microsoft’s Office Live dead on arrival?

        It’s plain and simple about economics. When it comes down to it, you have to trust someone – whether its your service provider or you computer hard drive. As we become more mobile, it makes sense to me to be able to have access to my information anytime, anyplace. I suspect that an organization like Microsoft or Google would have better luck protecting my data than I given their resources.

      • #3103206

        Is Microsoft’s Office Live dead on arrival?

        by blackfalconsoftware9 ·

        In reply to Is Microsoft’s Office Live dead on arrival?

        You have answered your own question.  Putting sensitive data on anyone else’s server over the Internet is simply asking for trouble as no business is run efficiently enough to maintain such data under all circumstances including the unforseeable…

         

         

         

      • #3103151

        Is Microsoft’s Office Live dead on arrival?

        by dacar ·

        In reply to Is Microsoft’s Office Live dead on arrival?

        Is Microsoft on CIA payroll?

      • #3102136

        Is Microsoft’s Office Live dead on arrival?

        by stevecubberly9 ·

        In reply to Is Microsoft’s Office Live dead on arrival?

        for small businesses, it is impractical to own and manage application servers.

        with the millions of small businesses out there, the US economy would be well-served by a solid, hosted application provider so that the businesses can go about their business instead of managing servers and apps.

        i have been looking for hosted services and the only one that sounds mature and promising is foldera.com.

        the price is right for small businesses and the functionality sounds complete.

        any other suggestions?

      • #3273348

        Is Microsoft’s Office Live dead on arrival?

        by apotheon ·

        In reply to Is Microsoft’s Office Live dead on arrival?

        What? Impractical to own/manage an application server? How do you figure? I’ve worked for a company of about twenty people with an application server, and I (living alone) have an application server all to myself at home. How can it possibly be “impractical” to own/manage an application server for a small company?

      • #3272682

        Is Microsoft’s Office Live dead on arrival?

        by sbrooks ·

        In reply to Is Microsoft’s Office Live dead on arrival?

        There have been a few instances in recent years where government
        security services have walked into businesses and walked out with their
        entire servers due to one or two dodgy posts/blogs/news services (you
        all know who I mean) regardless of the fact that everbody else who has
        data stored on that server also loses access. While your data may not
        be suspect, having it on the same server as suspect data may mean
        losing access at any moment, at least until backups can be put in place.

        Personally I would never trust anyone with my personal data except my
        own business. We are a two person operation, we have a secure encrypted
        VPN server of our own, it’s not a big deal these days. If I could use
        the MS Suite to access the data on my own server that might be
        different, but I wouldn’t use it to access my data on MS servers.

        Steve

    • #3272889

      Does cool translate into success?

      by Mark W. Kaelin ·

      In reply to Old enough to want to and fool enough to try

      Looking
      over my past blog entries I think you can safely make the assumption that I am
      an accomplished skeptic. I am suspicious of all hype, especially when it comes
      to marketing hype. I am a firm believer that the best ideas of the past have
      come from grassroots innovations that grow into phenomena because real people
      find real value in the idea. The Word Wide Web, Linux, Yahoo!, – the garage
      innovation rules the world in my mind.

      Right now I
      am feeling particularly skeptical of the hype surrounding video
      streaming
      to small personal devices like cell phones and iPods. I was browsing through the local Best Buy, as I
      often do on Sunday afternoons, and I saw a multitude of cell phones with video
      capabilities, not to mention iPods with video. I love
      the technology that makes video like this possible ? I love gadgets just like
      any geek in good standing.

      However, personally,
      I have absolutely no desire to watch video on my cell phone. But I also don’t
      watch much television these days ? I’ve never seen Desperate Housewives or
      Survivor for example ? and I can’t think of any television program that I want
      to see so bad that I would be willing to watch it on a postage-stamp-sized
      screen. And I would never want to watch a movie that way ? I need big screens
      and surround sound. There are already features on my cell phone I never use;
      adding video would just be a waste.

      But perhaps
      that is just my feeling. Perhaps there is a market for personal device video. I
      just remain skeptical. So I am asking for your perspective. Educate me. Do you
      ride mass transit to the office and does video on your personal device sounds
      like heaven to you? Or are you skeptical like me?

      • #3272802

        Does cool translate into success?

        by jasonhiner ·

        In reply to Does cool translate into success?

        Mark — I completely agree. I have no desire to watch TV shows or movies on a phone or iPod screen. I guess if I traveled by plane or public transit more often I might feel different (as you alluded to). However, I wouldn’t mind being able to use these small screens for short home video clips that I could share with friends and family. That could be cool.

      • #3266451

        Does cool translate into success?

        by dave ·

        In reply to Does cool translate into success?

        I agree with you 100%.  Do we just go ahead and ‘do these things’ because ‘we can’??

        Dave

    • #3086601

      Will it ever stop?

      by Mark W. Kaelin ·

      In reply to Old enough to want to and fool enough to try

      Last week I
      received a call from my niece asking for my help and advice on a computer
      problem she and her fiance were having. Being the family computer geek, a
      distinction I suspect many of the TechRepublic membership knows all too well, I
      was happy to help.

      However, as
      they described the problem it became apparent that this was not going to be a
      “go to the control panel” issue that could be resolved over the
      phone. They had been hit with a malware bomb — and a
      pretty nasty one too. The hard drive is pretty much hosed. I have been trying
      to avoid a complete wipe of the drive because it is a cut-rate HP computer that
      did not come with a Windows CD. The Windows installation files are, of course,
      on the hard drive which is completely useless at this point. Selling a PC
      without a working CD with a clean copy of Windows should be outlawed. If I wipe
      the drive, they won’t have a copy of Windows, just a license number. I tried
      the restore procedure but it failed because too much damage had already been
      done to the files.

      This is the
      second family relative to have a major problem like this so I guess part of the
      blame is mine since I apparently failed to emphasize the importance of keeping
      virus software, firewall, and Windows up to date and patched. I forget that all
      of that maintenance is second nature to me, but a foreign language to them.
      With luck and some gentle prodding from her nice uncle, this incident should prevent
      a future incident, at least with this member of the family. It is the rest of
      the family that I worry about.

      How many
      catastrophic events have you had to clean up after for your family? Have you
      tried to educate everyone about patches and updates? For me the problems really
      hit the fan when broadband is introduced.

      • #3266518

        Will it ever stop?

        by arie.kaizer ·

        In reply to Will it ever stop?

        Making an image (e.g. with the good old Drive Image of Ghost) at regular intervals in time must become part of maintaining my computer. Moreover computer shops include an initial image in a hidden partition.

        Yes, the restore function is great, but cannot handle real damage. 

      • #3266512

        Will it ever stop?

        by van morris ·

        In reply to Will it ever stop?

        Yes, you’re right about keeping virus software, firewall, and Windows up to date and patched. However, I think the best protection is to prevent the malware infiltration in the first place.

        Currently, I use (and recommend) a security tool called SafeSystem for that purpose. This program protects my system regardless the kind of (known or unknown) virus, spyware or malware is trying to get into it. In fact, it simply doesn’t allow any program to be installed or copied to my system while I’m surfing the Web, reading my emails or working with my computer.

        Sincerely, this gives me a lot of piece of mind because my system is always protected no matter if my anti-virus and anti-spyware are updated or not. Don’t forget that perhaps they are updated but they just don’t recognize the virus or spyware which is trying to get into my system.

        I found SafeSystem at: http://www.gemiscorp.com/english/safesystem/info.html
        Also, you can see a good PR about this program at: http://www.prweb.com/releases/2006/1/prweb339444.htm

        IMPORTANT: I want to clarify that I don’t have any direct or indirect relation with the company that owns the product I’m suggesting

      • #3268234

        Will it ever stop?

        by arie.kaizer ·

        In reply to Will it ever stop?

        Standard maintenance must include making an image (e.g. with good old Drive Image or Ghost) at regular time intervals. Yes, the Windows restore is OK, but it cannot cope with very large problems.
        Also PC suppliers often deliver the initial image on a hidden partition.

      • #3268210

        Will it ever stop?

        by jeff.s.johnson_gov ·

        In reply to Will it ever stop?

        One tip that makes it much harder to contract malware is to run as a
        normal user rather than an administrator. What stuff you do pickup will
        be able to wipe out all your personal data, but not corrupt the OS
        (barring taking advantage of a privilege elevation exploit).

        You can either log in as a user and use RunAs to get admin authority
        when needed (safest method), or else log on as an admin and use ‘SAFER’, a
        WIndows XP API and policy feature that lets you reduce your
        rights when running a specific application(s) – such as all
        Internet-facing applications (media player, web browser, etc).

        This article describes a tool that lets you drop your rights on a one-time basis:
        http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/en-us/dncode/html/secure11152004.asp

        This article describes how to configure your PC’s software restriction
        policy so that specific applications are always run with reduced rights:
        http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/en-us/dncode/html/secure01182005.asp

        There’s lots of info about running as a non-administrator and still getting work done here:
        http://nonadmin.editme.com/

      • #3268133

        Will it ever stop?

        by keithau001 ·

        In reply to Will it ever stop?

        I completely agree with the need for antivirus antispyware and firewalls,  I was maintaining a small office network recently and they had out of date antivirus software on their computer.  The manager asked if i found any viruses, all i was doing was removing spyware, and cleaning up the registry.. I could not do virus scans / cleanups with their program.  After their 3rd crash in as many months (fortunately i could use the restore but only by using the three finger salute) I decided to wash my hands of them until they decided to follow my advise and get a decent antivirus program.

        I also cannot believe that a computer can be sold without the OS disk included, I guess a warning here would be to copy all the cabbed files to a CD and that may eliminate the problem.  Still It definately should be illegal to sell a computer with an OS on it but without a disk.

      • #3267245

        Will it ever stop?

        by haas ·

        In reply to Will it ever stop?

        Being the geek of the family is not a fun position to be in. I get phone calls sometimes at 11 pm to help mother-in-law or sisten in law. But you can’t win because you are not going to say no to a family member. So recently my mother-in-law got her high speed internet access. She had no clue about the dangers of having a connection that is available 24/7.

        I think it should be the responsibility of Comacast (or any provider) to inform users/cutomers about what they (users) should do before getting on-line. Comcast actually offers free McAffee anti-virus, firewall, and malware (privacy manager) protection, but the installers never mention anything to the users and in my opininon they should install them while installing the cable modem.

        Anyhow, a couple of months after my mother-in-law got her comcast service, she gave me a call telling me that her computer is awfully slow and it takes forever for any application to launch, hmmmmm anybody saying viruse(s) is having a party. When I got to look at her computer and after discovering she didn’t have any protection at all, I knew I was in for a while. After installing all necessary tools, I run a complete scan (online scans as well) of her system, it was completely infested. All kind of trojans, viruses, and spyware in the world were infesting her system. I found over a 1000 of all bad stuff.

        So to prevent this from happening again, I decided to get her a router and configured her system to get updates automatically, and installed McAffee package (offered my Comcast) and I didn’t hear from her for awhile now.

        Thanks
        Haas

         

      • #3267128

        Will it ever stop?

        by Mark W. Kaelin ·

        In reply to Will it ever stop?

        Thank you for the comments.

        The idea of logging into your PC and not using the administrator account to do normal everyday activities is a good one, it is what I do myself. However, novice PC users don’t know about this. They just turn their new PC on and begin to surf the Internet.

        Education of the novice is something the geek community needs to participate in more vigorously.

    • #3074225

      The times, they are a changing

      by Mark W. Kaelin ·

      In reply to Old enough to want to and fool enough to try

      This week,
      the Chairman and CEO of CNET Networks, Shelby Bonnie, stopped by the office to
      talk about the current state of media and what it means for our company. He
      made a very compelling presentation explaining how media, in all its many forms,
      has changed in recent years. The main point is that as a media company, CNET,
      and any other media company for that matter, is not in
      control of the distribution method anymore ??? the consumer is the controlling
      factor. The consumer is deciding when they want content, how they will receive
      it, and whether it is worthy of recommendation to the broader community.

      Later that
      day, Kudlow & Co. on CNBC did an entire hour on
      the subject, which means Wall Street is thinking about this too. (Although, some of the so-called experts on Kudlow
      were still living in the 1980s apparently.)

      I haven’t
      joined the Tivo generation yet, but I do understand
      its appeal. The idea that I can choose when to watch television and that I can
      watch television I want to watch, is very appealing. (Say that three times
      fast.) I have also become an advocate for digital music. In fact, I want my
      next car stereo to have a USB port on it so I can plug in my iPod shuffle or other portable media player into it. The CD
      has had its day — it’s time for a new delivery mechanism.

      It is going
      to be a very interesting future. The pace of change, something I have embraced
      in youth, seems to accelerate every year. Even a geeky gadget-guy like me is
      having trouble keeping up. I wonder if there will be a "back to
      basics" backlash. Or will the pace of change continue to accelerate? What
      do you think?

    • #3265035

      Shave the way to a cure for cancer

      by Mark W. Kaelin ·

      In reply to Old enough to want to and fool enough to try

      Last week,
      I posted a gallery of before and after pictures of TechRepublic
      staffer Paul Sisler who bravely sacrificed his precious locks of golden hair
      for a good cause. St. Baldrick’s Foundation raises
      funds and awareness for childhood cancer research with events that feature the
      shaving of volunteers’ heads.

      I can’t see
      myself getting my head shaved for any reason, even one as noble as finding a
      cure for cancer, so I wanted to spread the word about Paul’s fund raising
      exploits. I encourage you to take a look at the gallery
      and ask yourself if you would shave your head to raise money. If you are like
      me, you might want to contribute some money in lieu of hair.

      • #3263711

        Shave the way to a cure for cancer

        by bfilmfan ·

        In reply to Shave the way to a cure for cancer

        Encourage Paul to keep the bald look. It’s a lot better look than with hair for him. All he needs is a lolipop and he can be Kojak.

    • #3262926

      What can an IT pro learn from World of Warcraft?

      by Mark W. Kaelin ·

      In reply to Old enough to want to and fool enough to try

      As you may
      or may not know, one of my major hobbies is playing computer games. I’ve had a
      designated game computer of some kind or another (often more than one) in my
      home since 1981. Wow, I just realized that’s over 25 years.

      Anyway, the
      game I’ve been playing most often lately is World of Warcraft,
      which is the one of the most popular MMORPGs right
      now. That popularity probably means many of you are also playing WoW.

      (Just
      before I posted this entry, I noticed this discussion, which confirms my belief that I’m not alone in
      my gaming experience. I wonder if we have enough to start a super-guild on one
      of the new servers. We’d be so 1337)

      I started
      playing during the beta testing phase, so I’ve been running around in that
      universe for quite a long time. In general, I still enjoy playing; I’m more of
      a PVE guy, but I dabble in PVP from time to time.

      The one
      thing that irks me though is the continuing lack of stability the various
      servers experience on an almost weekly basis. Maintaining the login servers,
      the game servers, several databases, and whatever else is required to keep six
      million players in the game happy and questing must be a real nightmare. I’m
      willing to bet the administrators of those systems have some real pearls of wisdom
      to share about how to handle that many simultaneous connections.

      I’m going
      to try to get an interview with a Blizzard representative to see if I can glean
      some pertinent information that I can report to the TechRepublic membership.

      Assuming I
      can get them to talk to me, what do you think I should ask? I know a good
      portion of TechRepublic is playing World of Warcraft
      or some other MMORPG like EverQuest 2 or Star Wars
      Galaxies. I mean there is a high geek quotient here. As an IT professional,
      what would you like to know about how the game is served? How many servers? How
      many CoLOs? What hardware? Give me some suggestions
      in the comments to this blog and I’ll try to get some
      answers.

      • #3084082

        What can an IT pro learn from World of Warcraft?

        by jmgarvin ·

        In reply to What can an IT pro learn from World of Warcraft?

        If you could get an idea of how they do their server clustering (hardware and software), that would be AWESOME!  I’m also curious how much bandwidth 6 million customers eat on a daily basis.  Can you also ask why they delete posts in the suggestion forum about a Linux client?  Can you also ask WHY they aren’t considering a Linux client?  I mean, the game runs in Cedega and all, but they ported it to Mac…Mac’s RUN OSX WHICH IS F’ING BSD…ok…I’m better now… 😉

        What server are you on?  I’m up for starting a TR guild 😉  I’ve got a couple characters hanging out on:

        Lothar (PvE fullish, but not bad), Cenarian Circle (PvE/RP and over populated), Frostwolf (PvP and over populated), and Thorium Brotherhood (PvE/RP medium-full).    

         

      • #3106873

        What can an IT pro learn from World of Warcraft?

        by Mark W. Kaelin ·

        In reply to What can an IT pro learn from World of Warcraft?

        I’m on Killrogg right now, which is full up (one of the original servers).

        If there is enough interest, I wouldn’t mind starting up on a new server, especially if we have a large group of players that want to play together.

        Anyone interested in starting a World of Warcraft TechRepublic guild on a new server? What would we call ourselves?

      • #3106748

        What can an IT pro learn from World of Warcraft?

        by jmgarvin ·

        In reply to What can an IT pro learn from World of Warcraft?

        I’m up for that.  We can pick a new server and go from there.  I’m open!

        I think we should call ourselves simply: TR

      • #3106578
        Avatar photo

        What can an IT pro learn from World of Warcraft?

        by Bill Detwiler ·

        In reply to What can an IT pro learn from World of Warcraft?

        Like Mark, I’m a longtime and avid gamer–my wife can’t
        understand why I haven’t grown up yet . But I’m late to the MMORPG genre.
        Mark can attest to my previous claim of “I’ll never pay for on online game
        when free online games are available”. WoW made me change me tune.

        I had a few RL (real life) friends who just started playing
        WoW and wanted me to join them. I figured I would give it a try and if I didn’t
        like the experience, I would quit after the first 30-days–WoW comes with a
        free 30-day subscription. It’s been 3 months and I’m still enjoying the game immensely.
        I play a few hours each week.

        I have an Alliance Warlock (currently lvl 45) and Paladin (currently
        lvl 1–he’s a new character serving as my SW auctioneer) on Stonemaul (PVP–full
        but I have only had to wait once). I would love to start a TechRepublic Horde guild
        on a new realm. PVP or PVE doesn’t matter, although I’m not big on the
        strict RP realms–I might want to ask an occasional out-of-character question.
        I like the constant pressure of the PVP realms, but it can be annoying if you’re
        questing solo and get ganked by much-higher-level characters. Luckily, this
        doesn’t seem to be an issue on Stonemaul. I’ve been attacked a few times, but
        often enemy characters will pass each other in a courteous yet cautious manner.

        So, count me in!

      • #3106459

        What can an IT pro learn from World of Warcraft?

        by charliespencer ·

        In reply to What can an IT pro learn from World of Warcraft?

        What’s ‘1337’?

      • #3106457

        What can an IT pro learn from World of Warcraft?

        by jmgarvin ·

        In reply to What can an IT pro learn from World of Warcraft?

        l33t == elite.  It is what is called l33t speak.  The really “cool” h@><0r5 use it.

      • #3106440

        What can an IT pro learn from World of Warcraft?

        by Mark W. Kaelin ·

        In reply to What can an IT pro learn from World of Warcraft?

        The 1337 or 133t was a tongue in cheek – I may have some geeky tendencies, but not enough to learn that gaming dialect.

      • #3105299

        What can an IT pro learn from World of Warcraft?

        by Mark W. Kaelin ·

        In reply to What can an IT pro learn from World of Warcraft?

        If you want to join TR members and staffers playing World of Warcraft, check us out on the Duskwood server playing for the Horde side.

        Here is the discussion thread:

        http://techrepublic.com.com/5208-6230-0.html?PromoFeature=discussion&PromoByPassed=1&forumID=8&threadID=192863

      • #3286357

        What can an IT pro learn from World of Warcraft?

        by Mark W. Kaelin ·

        In reply to What can an IT pro learn from World of Warcraft?

        Well, I asked the PR department at Blizzard for an interview with someone on their IT staff to ask what they have learned about handling a large cluster of servers and millions of simultaneous connections. Not too surprisingly, they turned me down, saying:

        We want to thank you for considering us for this interview subject, but we have
        to respectfully decline. We tend to keep the focus of our public communication
        on the games themselves. Having worked regularly with our community team, we
        understand that the public has a great interest in the perspective of our
        technical teams, but this is just not the type of information that we?re able to
        discuss freely, due to competitive and other concerns. I hope you understand,
        and I want to say thank you again for considering us for this
        opportunity.
        Oh well, I still like playing the game. I wonder if some other game company would talk about their infrastructure?

      • #3153642

        What can an IT pro learn from World of Warcraft?

        by johnpall9 ·

        In reply to What can an IT pro learn from World of Warcraft?

        Insert comment text here The IT World can learn that WAR is Violence & should be Avoided at all costs.?

    • #3106431

      Extensible Application Markup Language

      by Mark W. Kaelin ·

      In reply to Old enough to want to and fool enough to try

      Last week I
      attended two Microsoft presentations here in Louisville. The MSDN presentation
      for developers in the afternoon was very interesting. William Steele, who works
      the Midwest (many of you have probably seen him), showed a very interesting
      demo.

      He created
      a simple real estate app in C# (would have worked in VB too) that showed the
      address and pictures of properties, with the data coming from a SQL Server
      Express database. While that may not be seem too fancy, the demo was showing off
      the power of XAML, which stands for Extensible Application Markup Language.
      With just a little bit of code, he was able to make what essentially became a
      flash-like animation that flipped the images into a larger view upon each
      mouseover.

      Again, that
      may not seem impressive, but he then converted that C# app into a Web-app that
      a browser could display. At that point it became obvious to me and most of the
      room that this was going to be positioned as a challenge to Macromedia and its
      Flash products. I won’t guess how successful it will be, but the demo did make
      it clear that just about anybody could make a Flash-like animation with XAML
      and some free tools Microsoft has available.

      XAML is
      what the Vista interface is based on, which also struck me as an indication of
      Vistas versatility in terms of UI. I wonder, if someone was so inclined, you
      could put a different interface on Vista then one that will come out of the
      box? Could you shrink the interface down to a minimal set of buttons, essentially
      hiding features you don’t want users to interact with? Could you create a Vista
      client on an Apple computer sporting Intel chips, only using a facsimile of the
      Mac OS X? Not sure why you’d want to, but is it possible?

      It might be
      something to keep your eyes on as Vista eventually gets closer to reality.

      • #3286482

        Extensible Application Markup Language

        by apotheon ·

        In reply to Extensible Application Markup Language

        re: the Vista interface questions

        Is there any point in waiting, when you’ve been able to do the equivalent with Linux for about six years or so?

      • #3286398

        Extensible Application Markup Language

        by Mark W. Kaelin ·

        In reply to Extensible Application Markup Language

        Well, as true as that may be, it hasn’t been true for Windows – at least not in the manner I saw at this presentation. Microsoft may come late to each party but they make a splash when they get there.

    • #3105800

      I am surprised – but should I be

      by Mark W. Kaelin ·

      In reply to Old enough to want to and fool enough to try

      We’ve gotten such a large response to what I thought was a rhetorical question that I’m a little surprised. I asked in passing if anyone was interested in starting a TR Guild on World of Warcraft and the number of players want to play continues to grow.

      What I was really looking for was potential questions I should ask the Blizzard IT Staff if I were granted an interview. But, citing competitive concerns, I was politely turned away by the PR staff. It’s too bad because I’m sure that group has some words of wisdom and insight to share when it comes to large server clusters and simultaneous connections.

      I wonder if Earth and Beyond or Asheron’s Call 2 (both closed now) would talk to me.

      • #3287274

        I am surprised – but should I be

        by jmgarvin ·

        In reply to I am surprised – but should I be

        I’m very happy with the response!  I can’t wait to see everyone online!

        I’d love to see an interview (with my previously posted questions) with
        either of those guys.  If you could swing Star Wars Galaxies that
        would be nice too 😉

        Good luck!

    • #3286814

      Should moral convictions get in the way of sound business?

      by Mark W. Kaelin ·

      In reply to Old enough to want to and fool enough to try

      Part of my
      job as an editor on TechRepublic is to read what seems like a hundred
      newsletter every week. (Like I have the time.) One of
      the more interesting is from the SoftwareCEO. Here is
      the link, but it may require you to log in to see it.

      In a
      nutshell, the original poster states:

      Whenever we hire a new person I go
      through a standard speech about how we are selling a tool, and we cannot make judgments
      about the organization that we are talking to that either has purchased or is
      considering purchase of our tool. Until recently that seemed to be adequate.

      However we recently had a situation
      where a contract employee refused to work on an assignment because they did not
      agree with the political standing of the organization that they would be
      working with. As a contractor they have that right…and I also have the right
      to not pay them for that work.

      But that raises a dilemma…it no
      longer appears that my "little talk" is adequate. I really need some
      type of statement that each employee and contractor is required to read and
      agree to stating that an individual cannot refuse to work with an organization
      simply because they do not agree with their moral, religious, philosophical or
      political stand. I’m not even sure what to call this type of statement (as you
      can tell from my title to this thread). This statement would also need to say
      that non-compliance would be grounds for disciplinary action or termination.

      I thought
      this was an interesting question. Should the moral and philosophical beliefs of
      your employees or contractors be taken into consideration when it comes to a
      company’s primary purpose of making money? Is a policy needed to address this?
      Has this ever been an issue at your organization?

      In an era
      where regimes and organizations are marked as terrorist and where certain
      religious organizations pursue stringent policies of intolerance, should management
      be cognizant of potential conflicts.

      In my
      father’s time such consideration would be laughable – if you wanted to keep
      your job you did as you were told – but as he keeps reminding me, times have
      changed.

      What do you think?

      • #3286725

        Should moral convictions get in the way of sound business?

        by peter spande ·

        In reply to Should moral convictions get in the way of sound business?

        Is it a cop out to say “it depends?”  

        This is a free country.  If you don’t agree with the work your company is doing, you have the right to leave the company.  As a contractor, you have more freedom to select the work you do. People have every right to make that ethical decision but they also must deal with the consequences of that decision.  An outcome of that decision may be lost work.  As a contractor, they may also be giving up future work assignments wouldn’t present the same kind of issues for them.   

        Similarly, there is a real need for people to be “whistle blowers” when the work a company is doing is illegal.  This goes beyond personal belief.  Towing the company line is not an adequate defense.  Enron, WorldCom, and others have made this clear.  Again, there are real consequences to these actions as well and it clearly isn’t always clear what is illegal when you are in the middle of the issue.  

      • #3104339

        Should moral convictions get in the way of sound business?

        by jaqui ·

        In reply to Should moral convictions get in the way of sound business?

        I have to agree with George on this one.

        The employee / subcontractor has the choice of working for you or not, if your company engages in business practices they find objectionable, they can leave the company.

        It boils down to a small forgotten fact by most people.. that when you apply for a position and go for an interview, you are also sizing up the company to see if they fit you well enough for you to work there. I know I’ve turned down good paying job offers, because the company making the offer rubbed me the wrong way, and I couldn’t work in their environment.

      • #3104299

        Should moral convictions get in the way of sound business?

        by wayne m. ·

        In reply to Should moral convictions get in the way of sound business?

        Concur With Peter

        Actually, the question is not really “Should Moral Convictions Get in the Way …”, but rather, “What to do When Morale Convications Get in the Way …”.  One cannot anticipate all employee concerns about the work place, one can just fairly address the issues as they arise.

        If the problem described above has only occurred once, I would advise against creating a new policy.  The current practice has been working, and there is no indication that it will not continue to work.  Address the issue with the particular individual (Publishing Gal has a recent blog on this issue).

        Though I am not aware of moral issues causing staff to question assignments, other issues arise.  One of the more common is the length of commute to a client site.  There is no set response, but the determination is based on several factors, including length of employment and current work backlogs.  The decision is not always in the employees favor, but we try to do what we can based on the circumstances at the time.

        If someone does not want to do something, you are unlikely to get a favorable result by mandating compliance.  The best you are likely to get is half-hearted compliance.  Remember even the US military makes allowances for conscientious objectors.  Don’t try to create a one size fits all policy, but deal with each occurrence as it arises.

         

      • #3104256

        Should moral convictions get in the way of sound business?

        by btljooz ·

        In reply to Should moral convictions get in the way of sound business?

        I’m going to answer a question WITH a question…or a couple of them: 

        #1. Without sound morality how can business be ‘sound’?

        #2. As a consummer would YOU do business with a company with questionable morals, etc.? 

        Yes, there IS a flip side to EVERY coin!  THINK about it 😉

      • #3150277

        Should moral convictions get in the way of sound business?

        by justin james ·

        In reply to Should moral convictions get in the way of sound business?

        I had a really, REALLY long comment written. Then I dropped my conenction while posting, and because TR’s comments don’t return when I click “Back”, they are gone. Sorry. 🙁

        J.Ja

      • #3151183

        Should moral convictions get in the way of sound business?

        by staticonthewire ·

        In reply to Should moral convictions get in the way of sound business?

        Business choices are always easier when we exclude ethics, aren’t they? And nine times out of ten, it’s fair and prudent to do so, because ETHICS AREN’T STATIC, they aren’t laws of nature, they’re matters of opinion. Often they’re STRONGLY HELD matters of opinion, but still, they’re nothing more than personal choices. To allow the whims of individuals to drive your business decisions is tantamount to a guarantee of failure.

        On the other hand, you can’t constrain employees to violate their own moral principles and expect good results. They’ll drag their feet, they’ll sabotage, they’ll undermine. Perhaps expanding your questioning when interviewing prospective employees would help in the future – ASK THEM how they might respond. Chances are they’ll tell you something close to the truth.

        As for the current employee with the moral dilemma – if you can’t reassign them, let them go. Unless they were hired specifically for the project they are now refusing to work on, give them the standard company severance and a handshake and part company. If they’re deliberately sabotaging, give ’em the boot – have security escort them out and spread the word so this bonehead doesn’t get the opportunity to poison any other wells.

        Of course if we’re talking about a socially enshrined ethical choice (one that has been enacted as law), then it’s no longer a simple matter of opinion, is it. Your best business decision is to stick to the letter.

      • #3151156

        Should moral convictions get in the way of sound business?

        by dr. tarr ·

        In reply to Should moral convictions get in the way of sound business?

        Being a fellow with rather strongly held personal convictions, as well as having an independent contractor?s shingle, I first read this post and thought Wow!  That looks suspiciously familiar.?  I don?t work in the software development business and so decided that the article probably wasn?t about me personally, but I feel compelled to respond.

        If an employee feels so strongly about an organization that they are unwilling to work on their project, perhaps you should take a look at the project.  If the company management doesn?t find the client?s actions objectionable and wants to do business with them, you have a vehicle to resolve the issue:  the employment contract.  Among other things, contracts usually require that you do the work assigned, give the compensation for accomplishing the task, and detail the penalties for non compliance, to which both parties agree.  If there is an issue, read the contract and do what it says.  That is one of the reasons for having the contract in the first place.

        There are people and entities that I will not do business with.  Some of these are for sound business reasons, but more are because of a core of strongly held personal beliefs.  After all, we are judged by the company we keep, and there are some whose company I do not wished to be associated with.  Your contract employee probably has a similar mindset.  As a contractor we have that flexibility, and that is why some of us work as contractors rather than as employees

        If you can?t come up with a workable solution, then you and the contractor should part company.  That?s what I did, and I believe that it is the right ethical choice as well as a sound business decision.  I didn?t force an ugly confrontation, we parted on good terms, and in the end it actually helped me.

        Immediately after leaving I was offered a couple of small projects by local small business whose owner?s share my convictions.  Don?t get me wrong, I didn?t try to get sympathy work, and I didn?t run around badmouthing anyone.  I spent twenty years of my life defending American?s right to be wrong, and people and organizations have the same right to feel the same way about me but the story did get around.  It turns out that the owner of the business I left spread the word that I wouldn?t work on projects because of the politics of a customer.  I don?t know if he meant it as a compliment , but what I was told was that he was so amazed that there were still people who have conviction?s that he enhanced my reputation as someone who was ethical and trustworthy.

        I would be very careful about generating a policy document, to the point of getting a lawyer involved.  In our litigious society someone will find a way to use it against you, and force you to do something that is one hundred eighty degrees out of alignment with what you were trying to accomplish.  A boss once told me that regulations are created for people without common sense, and then forced on the rest of us so that those folks won?t feel singled out.  I understand that there is a need for rules and guidelines, but the fewer you can get away with the better off you are.

      • #3151087

        Should moral convictions get in the way of sound business?

        by mr l ·

        In reply to Should moral convictions get in the way of sound business?

        I would never sign such an agreement, and there is no way I would work for an organization that expected me too…and that’s the freedom we enjoy.  You of course have the right, if privately held, to insist on these terms of employment, but I think you’ll be surprised at how many people refuse to work for you if you do.
      • #3151086

        Should moral convictions get in the way of sound business?

        by oresky ·

        In reply to Should moral convictions get in the way of sound business?

        What business is this CEO in that he has to give a “this company is no place for morals” talk to every employee?  Spammer? Porn Website? Phishing? Mafia? Law firm?

        Seriously, what type of business is based on “we force employees to work on projects they find morally wrong”?  Is that really a sustainable relationship model?

      • #3151046

        Should moral convictions get in the way of sound business?

        by gsquared ·

        In reply to Should moral convictions get in the way of sound business?

        I would personally rather be unemployed than unethical.  Ethical violations ruin your whole future, make life not worth living, destroy relationships, etc.  If I found the company I work for was doing something I considered unethical, I’d start by challenging/question it, on the assumption that what I’m seeing isn’t the whole story.  If, after I got the whole story, or I found that the “whole story” was being hidden from me, I would do what I could to correct the situation.  If that won’t work, I’d leave.

        I’ve only had one employer who was doing stuff I considered unethical.  It was legal, but it was deliberate deception of customers and employees.  No false advertising by legal definitions, just legal, deliberately misleading advertising.  I made it clear to management that I couldn’t tolerate such, and, not being in a position to effect change, I left and got work elsewhere.

        The company I currently work for, I know the owners personally and I am glad of the fact that they have high ethical standards and hold the company to them.

      • #3150943

        Should moral convictions get in the way of sound business?

        by paul.cook ·

        In reply to Should moral convictions get in the way of sound business?

        Hmmm. If I was asked to do a job for a organization which I didn’t agree with politically or morally, I would probably say no, because I don’t want to help them forward their cause.

        However, what about contractor who is a devout Christian pro-lifer and asked to work an assignment for Planned Parenthood. If s/he said no under religious grounds could s/he be legally reprimanded/let go/not offered more assignments?

        Political, moral and philosphical bents are not protected. Religious bents are.

        I’d be checking with Legal and HR before I did anything about a religious stance. The original poster said that the issue was a political one. Not protected. No more assignments for that contractor.

         

         

         

      • #3150860

        Should moral convictions get in the way of sound business?

        by .sjh. ·

        In reply to Should moral convictions get in the way of sound business?

        Would you hire someone with no moral values?  I  think
        that the Software CEO would want to hire people that had moral values against
        stealing, cheating, sex in the work place,  etc. A person with high moral values makes a
        good employee.  So what I read is. The software
        CEO has different moral values in certain areas than the contractor has. 

        Certain moral positions, i.e. abortion, homosexuality, pornography
         etc. have been politicized. This keeps the
        person who has no problem with these things from having to face them as a moral
        issue.  As for me, if I asked someone to
        do something and they refused on moral 
        grounds, I would  have to assess
        my own position on the issue.  If the
        employee or contractor in this case, had performed well in the past, I would
        assign them duties that they did not object to. 

        I would like to know who the contractor is. This is a person
        that I can do business  with.

        And if I knew who the software CEO was.  I would not want to do business with them.

        After all, if I had a problem with their software, I just
        might have a problem getting satisfaction. 
        After all, business comes before morals.

      • #3150709

        Should moral convictions get in the way of sound business?

        by Mark W. Kaelin ·

        In reply to Should moral convictions get in the way of sound business?

        I understand the comments about moral conviction and the right to make choices and the equal need to accept the consequences of those choices. But I read something different in the story told by the poster on SoftwareCEO.

        The software his company created was designed to help non-profit organizations track donations and keep financial records. As a contractor for his company, you would be required to sell, with equal enthusiasm, to a non-profit group that worships Satan and/or one like Pat Robertson’s 700 Club. You can pick your own extreme ? PETA and a non-profit group that likes to eat raw meat while wearing fur.

        The question for the CEO, was should he have a policy that each contractor would have to acknowledge and accept that stated that they would be required to do this? The software itself does not discriminate the moral or political stance of its user; it just tracks donations and keeps financial records. Furthermore, the CEO has apparently decided that, in the name of revenue, his company will not make a distinction between or among customers based on those grounds.

        Now, as a contractor you can choose not to work under those conditions, but wouldn’t it be better for all concerned if those conditions were stated clearly at the start of the potential relationship?

    • #3285223

      Warcraft Wiki

      by Mark W. Kaelin ·

      In reply to Old enough to want to and fool enough to try

      I just wanted to reiterate that the World of Warcraft TechRepublic
      guild, designated Technologia, has a Wiki page:

      http://wiki.techrepublic.com/twiki/bin/view/TRWOWGuild/WebHome

      This is a
      public Wiki so we can do what we want with it. Besides the roster we can add
      FAQs, Class Guides, links to other sites, etc. I mention this because I want to
      emphasize that this is not part of the TechRepublic site so the only way it
      will get content is through the efforts of Technologia.

      • #3271364

        Warcraft Wiki

        by jmgarvin ·

        In reply to Warcraft Wiki

        I’ve added some links to guide on the wiki.

        At some point, I’ll add my own guides and such for Druids and Palis….

      • #3148663

        Warcraft Wiki

        by Mark W. Kaelin ·

        In reply to Warcraft Wiki

        Thanks JM – check out the WoW TR Wiki if you want some advice for your classs or chosen profession.

    • #3149104

      Something strange happened on the way to Office 2003

      by Mark W. Kaelin ·

      In reply to Old enough to want to and fool enough to try

      I have
      recently had the pleasure (obligation) to help two family members’ purchase and
      setup new personal computers. Besides the usual clean up of all the extraneous
      software that ships with a new PC these days (no thank you AOL, MSN, EarthLink,
      etc.), I was asked if I can install Word, Excel, Outlook or a combination of
      those.

      My response
      was what were you using before and where are the disks, we’ll just install it
      again. Both times the answer has been along the lines of, “I don’t have them” or worse
      yet, “I don’t know what I was using – it was Word I think.” Rather
      than go through the hassle of explaining that Microsoft Office 2003 actually
      costs a significant amount of money I decided to download and install Open
      Office.

      This is a
      change for me, because I have been using MS Office in some form since there was
      an Office 1995. I have avoided Open Office for my novice family members out of
      the fear that change is more trouble then making them spend $200 or more for a
      Microsoft version of an Office Suite. But the more I looked at it, the less wary I
      became. For most every-day uses, Open Office works just as well as anything
      else.

      I am
      beginning to think that I will not spend money on the next version of Microsoft
      Office. There just doesn’t seem to be a reason I should spend money on it. I
      know many TechRepublic members have already come to that inclusion, but I
      wonder how long before institutional buyers reach the same conclusion. Is that
      the sound of a cash cow drying up?

      • #3149033

        Something strange happened on the way to Office 2003

        by dawgit ·

        In reply to Something strange happened on the way to Office 2003

        Welcome to the club.!.  but watch out for George Ou comming at you with valuable un-reason.

      • #3150250

        Something strange happened on the way to Office 2003

        by joaomfferreira ·

        In reply to Something strange happened on the way to Office 2003

        You must be joking.

        The only time I needed the Open Office “Word” was to build 36 tables for an Photographic exposition, by creating a series of legends – for the author, theme, date, etc – because that sotware was installed in my friends machine.

        Imagine my surprise when each page printed (with 3 tables per page) would show me the tables starting in different heights. The ideia is to cut 12 pages at once, suposing they are alike.

        Needless to say, I went to my place – meanwhile I asked my friend to insert the data in Open Office “Excel” – got my portable with Office, did the files transfer (xls data and doc template), merged in Office and printed the same file without any difference (in heights) between the pages.

        So if you write love letters, you can use Open Office. If you need something more professional, ask you neighboor if you can borrow his computer for a while.

      • #3150174

        Something strange happened on the way to Office 2003

        by Mark W. Kaelin ·

        In reply to Something strange happened on the way to Office 2003

        No joke. The family members in question do not need most of the sophisticated features available in either suite. While the formatting problems you describe sound annoying, I’m sure they could have been overcome with some tweaking.

        Anyone else have examples of compatibility problems? Were you able to correct them in Open Office or did you have to switch back to MS Office?

      • #3149994

        Something strange happened on the way to Office 2003

        by don christner ·

        In reply to Something strange happened on the way to Office 2003

        At my office, one of the owners is Microsoft only. However, at home I can’t afford MS Office and use OpenOffice. I have never come across a problem in Word or Excel when working at home with Open Office. Granted, there could be some wierd function or macro stuff that I haven’t tried (or needed!). So, for me, Open Office is great. You can open Office files or even start a new file and save as if it were an Office file.

        Now, if you want to talk database, I wouldn’t try to use Open Office instead of Access. I would bet that for 90% of Office users, Open Office would be no problem.

        Don

      • #3149966

        Something strange happened on the way to Office 2003

        by bluecollargeek ·

        In reply to Something strange happened on the way to Office 2003

        I really don’t care which one they use as I don’t make anything on the sale of the software, I get paid for working on the system (install and maintain).

        Whenever I get the MS Office question, I give the computer’s owner a quick Pricegrabber search of the MS Office products (so they realize what it will cost) and offer to install OpenOffice.  I tell them if they don’t like OpenOffice or feel OpenOffice is missing features they need, I will gladly come back at no additional charge and will uninstall OpenOffice and will install their purchased copy of MS Office.

        Just this year alone, I have installed several hundred copies of OpenOffice and to date, only two users REALLY needed the MS products.  I gladly helped them find the best price on the MS products and installed them for them.  Everyone else has been perfectly satisfied with OpenOffice.

        The computer owners appreciate saving a couple hundred dollars and call me again when they need help.  Repeat business – got to love it.

         

    • #3150134

      IE7 – so help me, I think I like it

      by Mark W. Kaelin ·

      In reply to Old enough to want to and fool enough to try

      I was wary
      of installing the beta version of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 7 on my
      personal laptop, but with the release of Beta 2 I decided to take the plunge
      and see if this new browser has more to offer then what is currently available.
      I made an image gallery of my initial experience.

      To my
      surprise, the installation was relatively painless and to my amazement, I
      haven’t found a Web page yet that will not render. Granted it has only been a
      day or so, but I have visited my list usual Web sites and I have no complaints.

      In general,
      I like the overall look and feel of IE7 and I can see myself adopting it as my
      primary browser when it is released. I know that will upset some of you and I
      can already hear the cries of security vulnerabilities and impending doom. But,
      for the most part, I am not all that worried about my browser security. I don’t
      surf the Web indiscriminately so the chances for me to stumble across the
      nefarious random Web site are rather limited.

      Besides, I
      don’t really like Firefox. I’m not sure why, but Firefox just didn’t seem to
      match my eye. I would close windows when I meant to expand or minimize them;
      things like that. That’s not to say that Firefox has something wrong with it; I
      just can’t get comfortable using it. It is strictly a personal preference.

      Anyway,
      check out the image gallery and let me know what you think of IE7,
      especially in comparison to Firefox and Opera. I know many of you are
      passionate about your browser choice, so I expect to get some flak, but
      remember I have absolutely no passion for my browser. If you want to sway me
      toward your browser of choice, stick to the facts.

      • #3149988

        IE7 – so help me, I think I like it

        by wmlundine ·

        In reply to IE7 – so help me, I think I like it

        For me IE7 beta was a bust because TR Newsletters would crash it 100% of the time.

      • #3149985

        IE7 – so help me, I think I like it

        by drf1499 ·

        In reply to IE7 – so help me, I think I like it

        Insert comment text here

        I’ve also installed IE 7 Beta 2 on my PC & have had no problems with any of my usual websites.  I tried Firefox but then I could not access any of the Games on the MSN Zone since the Zone would not recognize Firefox.  I’ve always liked IE – bugs & all!!

      • #3149982

        IE7 – so help me, I think I like it

        by steven warren ·

        In reply to IE7 – so help me, I think I like it

        Check out the IE Tab extension in Firefox. It allows you to view IE specific sites. Check out my blog post on this topic.

      • #3151014

        IE7 – so help me, I think I like it

        by j p charland ·

        In reply to IE7 – so help me, I think I like it

        What about us “prehistoric” users who are still running on W2K?  Will IE7 be compatible when it goes into distribution or must I stick to Firefox (not that I really mind to be perfectly honest)

      • #3150816

        IE7 – so help me, I think I like it

        by jaysmith2 ·

        In reply to IE7 – so help me, I think I like it

        I started using the beta version when it was released, and I have to admit, I love it.  I have always had a love-hate relationship with IE, but this version is truly a an improvement over the previous releases. I have had no problems to date, and I get a lot of Japanese websites here in Japan…no problems with them either…now only if I could read Japanese…  JaySmith2@cox.net

         

      • #3150677

        IE7 – so help me, I think I like it

        by mmsatbgr ·

        In reply to IE7 – so help me, I think I like it

        I installed IE7 beta 2 without a hitch and really loved the new browser.  That said, I lost html sending and receiving in Outlook 2003. I searched and searched, but couldn’t find a security setting that would help or a workaround for it, so I uninstalled it.  If I find a way to fix that problem, I will definately reinstall IE7!

      • #3148295

        IE7 – so help me, I think I like it

        by murali bala ·

        In reply to IE7 – so help me, I think I like it

        I have been using IE 7 for sometime now. It’s been a great exp. I used to use firefox before i downloaded IE7…

        Murali Bala

         

    • #3150916

      Technologia – Areas to adventure

      by Mark W. Kaelin ·

      In reply to Old enough to want to and fool enough to try

      The Technologia Guild is going strong in the World of Warcraft and several of us have characters entering their 20s. That means we need new areas to explore and that it is time to consider instance dungeons.

      For Horde, my favorite spots at 20 are Hilsbrad Foothills (Tauren Mill), Thousand Needles, and Ashevale.

      I think we have enough people at the right level to give Wailing Caverns a try. It is an instance that takes about two hours to run through, maybe three the first time. We can try to set up a day and time for that, assuming there is interest.

      • #3149554

        Technologia – Areas to adventure

        by jmgarvin ·

        In reply to Technologia – Areas to adventure

        I’ve already run WC, but I’ll do it again.  Perhaps we should setup a guild “raid” time?  We should also post this in the guild….

        As for the new area: Ashenvale is probably a good place to go as 1k Needles is a HUGE PITA…. 😉

    • #3163035

      Not all technical all the time

      by Mark W. Kaelin ·

      In reply to Old enough to want to and fool enough to try

      Some of you may have put two and two together, but it may have slipped right past some others; living in Louisville, KY means living with the thrill and anticipation of the most exciting two minutes in sports, almost year round. The Kentucky Derby is Saturday and there is much to prepare for.

      I’m not all about technology all the time ? I dabble in other hobbies that are steeped in earthy traditions. Horse racing is one of my favorites. I’ll be out of the office tomorrow so I can attend my 10th straight Oaks Day at Churchill Downs. For non-Louisville residents, Oaks Day refers to another horse race held on the first Friday in May every year ? the day before the Kentucky Derby. Louisvillians have adopted this day as their day at the races as opposed to Derby Day which is really for out-of-towners.

      I have my tickets, my ballpoint pen, my program, my racing tips, my binoculars, my camera, a wad of money, and my hat with Pegasus pins from the last 25 Derby festivals ? I’m ready. Last year I won about $80, which is about as good as you can expect, but I hope to do even better. My pick for the Kentucky Oaks is Wait a While ? wish me luck.

      For the Kentucky Derby, my pick is Point Determined.

    • #3161677

      At the office on a Sunday

      by Mark W. Kaelin ·

      In reply to Old enough to want to and fool enough to try

      Normally on a Sunday afternoon, I would be joining my friends in the World of Warcraft. But today I had to come to the office to prepare a newsletter for publication. I had started the weekly project late last week and only had about 30 minutes worth of work to do.

      On a typical weekend I would have used the VPN, but Insightbb, my ISP, decided this weekend, Ky Derby weekend, would be a good time to deploy new hardware. Of course, the whole system crashed and I have been without an online connection from home since late Friday evening when they kicked me off without warning.

      The whole process has been a real cluster-flop. The only response you can get from them, assuming you make it through and can wait the hour and a half on hold to actually talk to someone is “We’re working on it. They are running some scripts to fix it ? it should work soon. Almost 72 hours later and no service ? those must be some big scripts.

      I wonder how much DSL costs in my area?

    • #3152486

      Am I that dependent on this Internet thing?

      by Mark W. Kaelin ·

      In reply to Old enough to want to and fool enough to try

      I have been
      without Internet access at home for the past four days and it has been
      miserable. While I am more than mildly upset with Insightbb.com, my service
      provider, for their inadequate and incompetent server migration, that is not
      really why I am miserable. I have become dependent on my Internet connection.

      Up until
      this point, I had not realized how dependent I actually was. I use the Internet
      to pay bills, keep in contact with friends and clients, manage my retirement
      funds and stock portfolio, get bank statements in PDF form, keep up with
      science and technology news, pick DVDs I want to rent, download music for my
      iPod, VPN to the office, and play games. And this is just what I can think of
      at the current moment.

      I am
      feeling vulnerable — I don’t like the feeling of not being in control. I
      realize, intellectually, I am not really in control of much of anything, but I
      usually feel like I am; a delusion from which I retain some small sliver of
      sanity. But this continuing saga of ineptitude by the folks at Insightbb has
      brought me back to the cold reality that I need Internet access and that I am
      crippled, at least perceptively and metaphorically speaking, without it.

      The current
      situation will pass I’m sure — despite their failings, the people at Insightbb
      do want to provide me service — but it has raised a question in my mind; a
      question that I think many TechRepublic members have contemplated:

      • Should I have a backup system
        for my personal connection to the Internet?

      I’m
      thinking this could take the form of a Treo or other
      handheld device that acts as a phone and Internet browsing appliance. That
      would give me two ways to get to my bank’s Web site wouldn’t it? I did find one
      solution to my lack of connection problem in the form of a laptop with wireless
      and the free connection provided by Panera Bread restaurants. But I was
      concerned about the security of such a setup.

      So help me
      out here — do you have a backup service for your personal use? What is it? Is
      it worth the extra cost? Or should I just start weaning myself from my Internet
      dependence and join the Luddites?

      • #3152415

        Am I that dependent on this Internet thing?

        by justin james ·

        In reply to Am I that dependent on this Internet thing?

        None of the things that you are missing out on seem terribly crucial to living a happy, fulfilling life. Frequently, I spend entire weekends “Internet-less” or even “computer-less” on purpose. There is more to life than ordering DVDs, checking my bank statement, looking at my portfolio, etc. Those things can wait. I have a life to be living. Yes, there are some friends and family that I use a computer as my primary means of contact with, but all of those people have telephones and mailboxes. I am not a Luddite by any means, but I do my best to not let my world revolve around the computer or the Internet. It is bad enough that I spend 8+ hours per day on the computer at work. By the time I get home, my body is rebelling against the thought of sitting in a chair staring at a monitor. I am sure all of the companies that you pay your bills online will let you call them and make a payment over the phone or send one in via mail. Bill payment is the only thing on that list that I see as time sensitive, and even that has non-computerized options. Remember, a large portion of US households have no Internet access; most of the people I spend time with do not even own computers. They are able to live happy, fulfilling lives. Spending time on the computer has never made me happy, it has simply provided me with a distraction from boredom. I now try to spend as much of my time talking with other people in person, walking, working around the house, playing with the cat, taking long drives, etc. I do not miss the “computer and Internet, 24×7” of years gone by, not one bit.

        J.Ja

      • #3152350

        Am I that dependent on this Internet thing?

        by Mark W. Kaelin ·

        In reply to Am I that dependent on this Internet thing?

        Justin – I think you are right about not needing the Internet for a happy life and that is what I always told myself. But I am thinking now that the Internet has become an integral part of my every day activity to a point where four days without has an impact.

        I had not realized how big a role the Internet plays in my life; I have become accustomed, attuned, and in some ways dependent on it for everything from mudane surfing to the very real financial need to reach E-Trade to sell a tanking stock. All my bills come by e-mail, which means I really don’t know what I may owe or when I need to pay the bill. I’m sure nothing pressing has come in four days, but I am uncomfortable with the idea that I can’t click a few buttons with my mouse and find out for sure.

        Am I the only one that feels this way?

    • #3153090

      Is this really the best we can do?

      by Mark W. Kaelin ·

      In reply to Old enough to want to and fool enough to try

      I signed my
      elderly father (83) up for one of the 43 separate Medicare Prescription drug
      plans available in the Louisville area. That’s right 43 — how the heck is an
      83-year old man, a man who cannot even switch between the TV and the VCR so he
      can watch Laurel & Hardy movies, a man that would still have a rotary phone
      if we hadn’t bought him a touch tone phone — how can this man decide which
      plan is best for him.

      For that
      matter, how could I? The Medicare sight is a mess — obviously created by a
      bloated bureaucracy, the site is full of obscure references to more obscure
      laws, most of which refer to indecipherable regulations. This is supposed to
      help elderly people make a decision — absolutely ridiculous.

      During a
      conversation with Bill Detwiler this morning, he correctly pointed out the
      problem with the whole set up. Everything is designed to help the insurance
      companies get enrollees — all the gibberish is designed to cover their rear
      ends from liability, not to help Medicare beneficiaries.

      For the Web
      site to be truly effective for the Medicare beneficiaries (as it claims to be),
      it should ask only one question: Please
      list your prescription drugs.
      With that information, the Web site would
      produce the least expensive plan for your prescriptions.

      If this
      were a customer-oriented site produced by a corporation or business that was
      truly dependent on the satisfaction of its beneficiaries, it would be
      completely different. The technology is available, but the bureaucratic will is
      not. Medicare, the insurance companies, the federal government should be
      ashamed of themselves and we, as a society with an increasingly older
      population, should be embarrassed. We can and should do better.

      • #3153026

        Is this really the best we can do?

        by Michael Kassner ·

        In reply to Is this really the best we can do?

        Amen! And not to mention that the prescription drug list would not be necessary were it not for pharamceutical companies pushing their “wares” on physicians who then push them on their elderly patients.

      • #3153020

        Is this really the best we can do?

        by wayne m. ·

        In reply to Is this really the best we can do?

        Unfortunately, the correct question would have to be, “Please list your current and future prescription drugs.”   Providing coverage for a uniform set of prescription drugs would simplify the application process as well as the administration process for insurance companies.

         

      • #3146761

        Is this really the best we can do?

        by lastchip ·

        In reply to Is this really the best we can do?

        Just keep in mind, it’s the same here in the UK.

        Anything to do with insurance, involves reams of smallprint designed specifically to avoid paying out.

        I stay away from it as far as I possibly can!

        Obviously, the legal requirements I have to abide by – car insurance for example, but the rest, they can poke it!

      • #3146471

        Is this really the best we can do?

        by too old for it ·

        In reply to Is this really the best we can do?

        There are likely millions of current, potential, future and wannabe “new media” specialists who could have done a better job of the Meidcare site.

        And in DC there are a couple of holdover GS-15’s who still use a two-button ball mouse to run thier old Pentium 2’s who are thinking “Yeah, but we have the frippin’ job and paycheck.”

         

        `nuff said?

      • #3157006

        Is this really the best we can do?

        by designpolice ·

        In reply to Is this really the best we can do?

        {yep, Cartman – the ultimate irascible 8 year old – probably could have done a better job.}

        I somehow can’t stop thinking that this is illegal.  For one, we can look at the 504/accessibility laws.  Laws for elder care as well as general health care need to be seriously reviewed and revised needless to say.  My first thought at knowing this was to cry, and then I just became enraged.  I have been through this with my elders also.  This bloated bureaucracy as one commenter put it, is in a real design pickle and technology won’t help wrong-headed thinking!

        I think the populous should sue them!  A nifty little class-action action may get them moving more willingly in the right direction.

         

      • #3155753

        Is this really the best we can do?

        by johnfarnham9 ·

        In reply to Is this really the best we can do?

        This is not going to lessen your fury, but political bloggers were
        commenting on this mess before the start of the year. Healthy Policy,
        Obsidian Wings, Ezra Klein and more were warning the whole Medicare
        Part 6 was a kludge designed to frustrate claimants by making the
        system unworkable. Ezra in particular is a policy wonk ( he posts at
        The  American Prospect and his own blog  ) who has been
        running posts critical of the U.S. medical services delivery system (
        not ). Me. ? I’m a Canuck !   http://opit.wordpress.com/

    • #3160353

      Are you ready skeedaddy?

      by Mark W. Kaelin ·

      In reply to Old enough to want to and fool enough to try

      I like Jim
      Cramer and I regularly watch his Mad Money television program. I also
      occasionally listen to his much calmer radio show Real Money via a pod cast. In
      general, I think he knows more about stocks then just about anyone and I have
      made some money in the market following his advice over the past year or so.
      However, he has take a recent stand that I’m not sure is correct.

      He is down
      on Microsoft, Dell and Intel on the assumption that the personal computer
      market will continue to be sluggish for the next year or so. His take on Intel
      may be correct because AMD has certainly achieved significant advances in
      market share at the expense of the once untouchable giant. And Dell is getting
      competition from discount Asian manufacturers, which forces their margins down
      to painful levels, so he may be right to take a bearish stand there. However, I
      am not sure about Microsoft.

      Microsoft’s
      stock price took a nose dive after announcing the delay in Vista and following
      that up with a poorly performing quarter, but I wonder if that is just a lull
      before a corporate buying spree? In a recent article in PC Magazine they should
      a graph and report by Jon Peddie Research that showed
      the percentage of PCs in active use that are fully Vista compatible. Their
      conclusion was that only 51% of PCs in active use will be able to run Vista.

      So we get
      the usual question: Will corporations buy new machines to run Vista or will
      they sit tight and stick with Windows XP? It is the same question we asked eight
      months before Windows XP and Windows 2000 and Windows 95. It is the perpetual
      question. Each time the answer has been yes they will buy new PCs — only it
      won’t really happen in the form of a spree. Corporations spread capital
      expenditures out over the two years or so following the release of a new
      Windows operating system.

      The
      difference this time, and the thing that worries Microsoft and the Wall Street
      brokers, is whether that cycle will repeat itself this time. Windows Vista is
      going to have to have a compelling story I think. So far, I have seen some nice
      visual enhancements and some nice features that make Vista a viable operating
      system. I don’t think Vista will fall flat like Windows ME. However, from a
      corporate purchase decision standpoint, I have yet to see what Vista brings to
      the table beyond Windows XP that will make corporations buy it.

      Perhaps I’m
      missing something. Over the next year, TechRepublic will examine Vista sideways
      and backwards to provide the membership with a comprehensive critique of Vista,
      perhaps then I will see a reason to buy Vista. If reasons surface, I think
      Microsoft will sell lots of Vista licenses, earn lots of money, and continue to
      be the dominate player in software. If they don’t, it could mark a turning
      point in the history of the personal computer.

      What do you
      think? Have you found a compelling reason to buy Vista? Are you buying
      Microsoft stock or looking to dump it. Personally, I sold my Microsoft stock in
      January 2006.

      • #3146137

        Are you ready skeedaddy?

        by steve.marshall ·

        In reply to Are you ready skeedaddy?

        It’s my (humble) opinion and (limited) experience that the only reason that many corporations went the XP/2000 route is due to the forced roll out of Active Directory (AD) (whether a technology upgrade was overdue or not…). Seeing as this implementation required a significant infrastructure upgrade in many cases and taking the opportunity to get the desktops on a common compatible platform most organisations upgrading to AD also implemented XP, many IT management have included a desktop refresh as part of their AD strategy.

        Think back to the glory days of windows 95 and 98, if you had either of these OS’s on your network when windows 2000 was released did everyone rush out and plan a migration strategy ? Certainly not, it was only the Y2K hype that whiped out most of the 95 boxes and it appeared the 98 boxes dissapeared through natural progression.

        Whenever an IT department approaches the business and says “We want some money to…” the business will always ask “How will it benefit us and what does it do our current system cannot ?” and probably closer to their heart “How can it make us money ?” or “How much is this going to cost ?”. It was quite easy to justify the Y2K scenario, even possible to justify XP with Active Directory (With the drop of NT4 support) but how many organisations would still be using NT4 backend if Microsoft hadn’t retracted support for it ? Many I would guess, indeed, I would wager many still are (Although i’m sure they would have at least been talking about upgrading).

        A great deal of organisations have only recently finished (or even just started) a HUGE investment in getting their networks in a Windows server 2000/2003 and AD environment… what on earth is Vista able to offer to justify a further investment by the business ?

        In summary it has taken a fairly major occurance to prompt industry to adopt a new base desktop standard in an aggressive fashion (as apposed to just waiting until a desktop comes end of life and requires replacing, ergo, gets the latest OS by default)… Unless Microsoft are arranging for something to encourage us all to move over I think Vista will vanish in the woodland much like Windows ME, being replaced by the next latest and greatest release at the time Microsoft decide to drop support on another back end product…. Or we discover that Windows XP contributes to global warming or similar widely impacting issue…

        Just my 2 penith worth…

    • #3159478

      The wonders of technology

      by Mark W. Kaelin ·

      In reply to Old enough to want to and fool enough to try

      As a born,
      bred, and raised Louisvillian, it is quite natural
      that I have an affinity for and a familiarity with horse racing. Having an
      historical racetrack and the world’s greatest horse race run in your town each
      year does have an impact on your psyche. I can be found in the paddock or at
      the finish line several times a meet at Churchill Downs during both the Spring and Fall sessions.

      It is also
      that background which makes the events of this past weekend particularly
      troubling. As many of you probably saw, Barbaro, the
      Kentucky Derby winner this year, broke down early in the Preakness
      Stakes race. He was trying to win the second leg of the prestigious and elusive
      Triple Crown of horse racing. As someone who has been watching and attending
      horse races for much of his life, I knew immediately that the injury was life
      threatening. It is horrible to see such a beautiful and graceful athlete like a
      horse injured in that way. It sickens the stomach in a way that I cannot
      properly describe.

      Fortunately,
      through the wonders of technology and veterinary science, Barbaro
      has a fighting chance to make it through his injury and live a fairly normal
      life on a horse farm somewhere. It won’t be easy, but at least he has a chance.
      Several years ago there would be not attempt made to save his life at all —
      it would not have even been contemplated.

      While so
      much of our technological advances these days result in unnecessary luxuries
      like camera phones and cars that give us directions because we can’t look at a
      map, it is good to know and to remember that technology can be used for
      practical endeavors too. Perhaps we should spend more time being excited about
      the ability to fix broken bones, replace hips, and save lives then we are about
      cell phones that can gives us a play-by-play of our favorite baseball team.

      • #3159451

        The wonders of technology

        by leee ·

        In reply to The wonders of technology

        Does Barbaro have an email address where we can send him get well soon wishes?

    • #3166471

      Outlook 2007 ? an evolution but is there revenue?

      by Mark W. Kaelin ·

      In reply to Old enough to want to and fool enough to try

      There was real feeding frenzy last week when Microsoft released their latest beta versions of Vista and Office 2007. Just about the entire editorial staff spent the day downloading the files and taking screenshots of each and every screen that dared show itself as we poked and prodded our new plaything.

      Over the next several months, and probably for years after it is released, TechRepublic will spend time, energy and editorial staff brain cells explaining, exploring and conquering this latest incarnation of Microsoft juggernauts. But for now, my general impression of Office 2007 boils down to one simple idea: it’s pretty much the same as Office 2003.

      That is not to say there are improvements. Outlook 2007 has added some much needed features revolving around RSS feeds and task management (I’m a big fan of task lists). And the GUI for all the Office 2007 products is much more intuitive — I am able to find just about every obscure feature I want without having to consult a Dummies Book, which is a step in the right direction. Microsoft must have placed an emphasis on user interface personnel for this latest development round.

      However, in the end, when you look at any Office Suite, they all pretty much do the same thing. I know Microsoft is looking to generate some big revenue numbers next year as organizations and individuals migrate to Office 2007, but I’m not sure that is going to happen. The only way I can see that happening is if business enterprises decide to purchase new PC workstations in mass, each having a license for Vista and Office 2007. I am not convinced that is going to happen in great numbers next year.

      I could be wrong, but I do not see a driving force behind such a major capital expenditure. There is no specter of the millennium bug or major change in storage technologies to drive this switch. Am I missing something?

    • #3164439

      Joining the TiVo revolution ? sort of

      by Mark W. Kaelin ·

      In reply to Old enough to want to and fool enough to try

      I had been contemplating and researching it for about a year, but I finally made the fateful decision to join the High-Definition, TiVo revolution in television. I purchased a 37 inch LCD this past weekend and I’ll be getting the HD receiver setup from my cable company tomorrow. In addition to the HD, my cable company includes a DVR, which is not exactly the same as TiVo, but it is similar for someone who doesn’t know any better like me.

      I’ve been told that this is going to change the way I watch television, and it may in fact do that, but I don’t really watch much television now. Therefore, the question for me is will I end up watching more television if I can chose when to watch? Or will I just not watch anyway. I keep trying to think of one regularly scheduled program that I wish I could watch but can’t. I’ve heard about Lost and I’ve rented 24 on DVD, both of which I refuse to watch week-to-week — the last show I did that with was the X-Files. DVR is supposed to release me from that weekly commitment, but now I find I don’t really want to commit even the DVR storage for those shows.

      I do like watching sporting events in HD ? that I am looking forward to. And I have already come to appreciate the widescreen aspect of the LCD for watching DVD movies. I’m renting the Lord of the Rings Trilogy again to test it out.

      The next step is a media PC. As part of the LCD TV installation I removed the old cartridge CD player and the cassette tape player ? they were just taking up valuable space. I’ll sell them to you if you are interested.

      For those of you more experienced in the ways of TiVo and HD, what advice can you give me? What should I do first when it gets installed?

      • #3164432

        Joining the TiVo revolution ? sort of

        by smorty71 ·

        In reply to Joining the TiVo revolution ? sort of

        It depends on when you get it hooked up. If the NBA Finals or Stanley Cup Finals are on, then check one of those out first. Otherwise, watch Discovery HD Theater (if your cable provider offers it). That is what I always used to “wow” people when I got my HDTV.

    • #3270462

      Onward and upward ? a Media PC

      by Mark W. Kaelin ·

      In reply to Old enough to want to and fool enough to try

      Now that I have the HD LCD Television and the DVR/Digital/HD server from Insightbb.com, I guess it is time to add a media PC to the mix. As part of this summer’s project to upgrade the entertainment center at the Kaelin homestead, I am going to attempt the daunting task of building a media PC from spare parts. Most people travel to exotic locales where sand gets in your teeth, not me, I like to stay home and fiddle with frustrating technology.

      I know this will disappoint all of my Linux evangelist friends, but I have decided to go with Windows Media addition. Getting everything wired correctly is going to be headache enough; I don’t need the added pressure of trying to figure out Linux at the same time. I’m intimately and infuriatingly familiar with Windows and all its quirks, so I know what to expect more or less.

      However, if it all works out, I’m going to have a few audio components to get rid of. Anyone interested in a Pioneer CD-player? It uses a 6 ?CD cartridge and is in perfect working order. The cartridge was great two cars ago when I had a cartridge CD player in the trunk. I also have a dual-cassette tape deck from Pioneer. It also works great if you are still using cassette tapes. I’ll even throw in four never-been opened blank TDK Gold tapes.
      Isn’t it amazing how music formats have evolved? I still have about 200 vinyl album records. Now the close to 1000 CDs I bought over the years are on their way to obscurity. It’s getting hard to keep up.

      • #3167934

        Onward and upward ? a Media PC

        by rexworld ·

        In reply to Onward and upward ? a Media PC

        Ooh, you finally got that LCD TV.  What did you end up buying?  I’m still happy with my el-cheapo Westinghouse.

      • #3167924

        Onward and upward ? a Media PC

        by Mark W. Kaelin ·

        In reply to Onward and upward ? a Media PC

        I couldn’t find a deal any better than the Westinghouse – used the lower price as an excuse to upgrade to 37 inches. The TV has been great, what I wish there was more of is true HD television. I know it will eventually come, but I want it now, not later. The World Cup and the NBA Championship were fantastic in HD — I want that always and on every channel, please.

    • #3167917

      A media PC – well sort of

      by Mark W. Kaelin ·

      In reply to Old enough to want to and fool enough to try

      I installed a Media PC during my week of vacation. Well,
      it’s not a true Media PC, I decided to let the DVR I got from Insight handle
      the television recording part of things. The PC does (or will when I can get
      around to ripping and burning) house all of the music I want.

      The PC comes in handy for betting on horse races through the TVG Web site. I
      can watch the races and bet without leaving my chair or carrying a laptop with
      me.

      Only one thing has upset me about this process — and I’ve mentioned it before
      — the asking price for a DVI to HDMI conversation cable is just plain highway
      robbery and I refuse to pay it. The cable the lame-brain at Best Buy wanted me
      buy was $120 – yeah, like that is going to happen. When I complained about how
      much, he gave me that arrogant look of a self-proclaimed electronics snob. The
      look that says, “You don’t want to spend as much as possible for your HD
      viewing experience — I snub my nose at you.” I hate that. I don’t need
      that kind of attitude from a pimple-faced punk geek who lives with his parents
      and has his electronic life handed to him on a silver platter.

      After suffering his indignation, which was quickly followed by my expression of
      perturbed hostility, he suggested the cheaper version of the exact same cable
      — $65. I handed it back to him and left the store. I’m using a VGA cable and
      it works just fine geek boy.

      • #3168515

        A media PC – well sort of

        by jamesrl ·

        In reply to A media PC – well sort of

        How about the right cable for $25.99 at tigerdirect?

         

        Cables have to be the biggest ripoff around. What most people don’t realize is that for the most part, people buying the expensive cables get nada zilch zero out of them for their “investment”. Back in the old days we used to argue about speaker cables – those people paying for “Monster Cable” were getting monster ripped off.

         

        In the digital age, if anything its worse – the signal gets through or not.  Gold plated contacts might be a great idea if you live in a moldy house, but most of us will not outlive the life of a cheap cable.

         

        James

         

         

      • #3168444

        A media PC – well sort of

        by rickt1 ·

        In reply to A media PC – well sort of

        How about $20 CAT5 cable at any retail store (Best Buy, CompUSA, Office Depot, Office Max, etc…), when you can buy the exact same CAT5 cable online for about $2.50 (even with $10 shipping you come out ahead).

      • #3168383

        A media PC – well sort of

        by rexworld ·

        In reply to A media PC – well sort of

        It’s a risk but try eBay.  That’s where I got my DVI cable–$20 plus shipping.  Still not cheap but a lot better than retail.

      • #3167140

        A media PC – well sort of

        by beth blakely ·

        In reply to A media PC – well sort of

        I HATE that snob look. Do you think they teach them that as a sales tactic?

      • #3166958

        A media PC – well sort of

        by shraven ·

        In reply to A media PC – well sort of

        I don’t know how long you need your cable to be, but they start at $4.44 for a 3 foot cable at monoprice.com.

        Best Buy is for fools and suckers.  And I have yet to meet an employee there who knew anything about anything.  Caveat Emptor if you ask a question.

      • #3209959

        A media PC – well sort of

        by Mark W. Kaelin ·

        In reply to A media PC – well sort of

        Update: I ordered a DVI to HDMI cable online over the
        weekend that cost a mere $8.64. That is over $100 less than the cable Best Buy tried
        to sell me.

    • #3209960

      Is SVG actually used?

      by Mark W. Kaelin ·

      In reply to Old enough to want to and fool enough to try

      I just edited and published an article on TechRepublic (let me know if you see a typo) and it lead to a question. Over the years at TechRepublic and Builder before that, I have published articles dealing with Scalable Vector Graphics. The standard always seemed pretty darn cool to me, but I don’t think I have seen many instances where it has been used in a practical manner.

      Today’s article is an exception. Ed Woychowsky finds a use for SVG that I had not thought of and I think you might find it interesting.

      But as for the question that has been raised: Is SVG an interesting technology looking for an application or are there uses for SVG that I am unaware of? Please clue me in.

      P.S. With regard to a previous blog post, I ordered a DVI to HDMI cable online over the weekend that cost a mere $8.64. That is over $100 less than the cable Best Buy tried to sell me.

      • #3209865

        Is SVG actually used?

        by justin james ·

        In reply to Is SVG actually used?

        Mark –

        I have only once seen an SVG in use that I am aware of. someone was showing it off to demonstrate the picture quality/fie size ratio. I think this is related to the same reason why so few people use PNG: Internet Explorer. As Ed points out in his article, IE does not natively support SVG. Since the Web is where most image content seems to end up, if 70% of users cannot use the format, the format is officially useless. It is a shame, because I like the idea of SVG as a format. Another problem is that the vast majority of raster graphics editors (and viewers) do not support it either. I cannot recall ever seeing SVG in an “Open” or “Save As” option. Adobe ImageReady and Photoshop (at least CS 1) certainly do not seem to support it. Illustrator supports it. Visual Studio (2005) does not support it’s use in a program, and the .Net Framework does not support it. Eclipse (version 3.2) does not seem to support it. Java seems to support it through a separate add on, JViews (http://java.sun.com/developer/technicalArticles/GUI/svg/index.html). In a nutshell, the vast majority of programmers, Web designers, basically anyone without a program designed for vector graphics (Illustrator, Flash, I’m sure) has no way of creating or using these graphics.

        This is really a chicken/egg problem. Vector graphics are more difficult for end users to work with on a number of levels, and the code techniques for working with them are significantly different (and more difficult) than those for raster images. No one wants to work with an unsupported format, and no one wants to support an unused format. SVG has been around forever (I want to say “nearly 10 years”) and only once (when it first same out) did I ever see anything in the format.

        J.Ja

    • #3279143

      Is there a mobile revolution on the horizon?

      by Mark W. Kaelin ·

      In reply to Old enough to want to and fool enough to try

      Okay, I
      admit it. Sometimes I don’t get it. Sometimes a technology comes along that I
      don’t find all that attractive and choose to ignore, only to find out a year or
      so later that it is all the rage and I’m behind the curve. I hate being behind
      the curve. The fax machine was one of those technologies. I remember wondering
      aloud why you would need a fax machine, especially if no one else has one. I
      didn’t realize that everyone would have one eventually.

      That being
      said, you can understand my current dilemma with mobile Web devices. I admit I
      just don’t get it. Personally, I don’t want to get information on my cell
      phone. In fact, I can’t think of any information that is so vital to my life
      that I simply must have it immediately as soon as it is available. Do I really
      need to know the score of a particular baseball game this very minute as
      opposed to tomorrow morning when I read the paper? ESPN would have you believe
      that I do. In fact, popular culture would have me believing that there is
      something wrong with me because I don’t want to pay $1.99 to watch Desperate
      Housewives on my iPod phone. I use my cell phone to make phone calls. I make
      about four perhaps two minute phone calls a month.

      Now, I know
      some people live there lives with a cell phone in their ears. I see them on the
      road serving across the center line in front of me because they weren’t paying
      attention all the time. Or hear them talking to seemingly no one in the
      grocery. It is only later that I realize they are on the phone. I don’t know
      why it is important to gossip about so and so and her bunion or her choice in
      men, while you absentmindedly fondle the lettuce for an inappropriate amount of
      time while I cool my heals trying to get to that one head you haven’t soiled
      yet.

      I ask you
      seriously ? is that better living? To me, it is just a case where technology
      has allowed the already inattentive, obtuse, and rude to express their annoying
      talents in new ways.

      That’s why
      I am so curious about the W3C standards and best practices that Peter
      Mikhalenko discusses in this article. I
      mean, while there are standards for developing Web-based applications for
      mobile devices, which is a good thing, is the actual creation of those
      applications a good thing? Are the developers who visit TechRepublic involved
      in projects designed to use mobile devices? Is there a future in it? Is this
      technology like the fax machine and I just can’t see it or is it a fad like the
      pet rock? Someone clue me in so I don’t end up behind the curve again.

      • #3278862

        Is there a mobile revolution on the horizon?

        by jmgarvin ·

        In reply to Is there a mobile revolution on the horizon?

        I honestly can’t see why you’d want to surf the net on a 2″ screen with a limited keyboard and the high probability of dropped connectivity.

        What really baffles me is that a lot of people aren’t buying into it.  People just want cell phones, they don’t want to watch TV, surf the net, or be able to listen to MP3s on crappy speakers.

      • #3278173

        Is there a mobile revolution on the horizon?

        by rexworld ·

        In reply to Is there a mobile revolution on the horizon?

        For the business-intelligence portal that I work on, we have received several requests to incorporate mobile versions of some of the reports and portlets in our system.  And while we don’t yet have the programmer bandwidth to implement, I’m pretty sure we will do it at some point fairly soon.

        The reason is that mobile-enabled versions make sense for at least two subsets of our audience–upper management and outside sales.  These folks are in meetings all day, or they are flying off to meet customers/vendors/partners.  For them, being able to pull down the latest stats and data into a cell phone or PDA could be enormously beneficial.  They would have near-instantaneous access to the vital business data that they need to make decisions or close a sale.

    • #3207552

      It’s a sad, sad day for this computer geek

      by Mark W. Kaelin ·

      In reply to Old enough to want to and fool enough to try

      I tell people I was a computer geek before being a computer geek was cool. To prove my point, to drive it home, I have proudly proclaimed that I have had a continuous subscription to PC Magazine since 1984. For most of those 22 years, PC Magazine was the bible of how to operate a PC. Getting DOS to load a certain way so specific programs would run, getting Windows 3.1 to work without crashing, downloading utilities to make file management easier, all that and more came from the expertise expressed in those pages. For a time I actually found PC Magazine so useful that I stored my copies for future reference. At the peak I probably had over 100 on hand.

      But, with the hiring of Jim Louderback as managing editor, PC Magazine has taken a turn toward the consumer. The magazine is now merely a collection of press releases put out by companies trying to sell me their latest MP3/phone/camera that nobody wants ? especially me. I want to know what makes Vista tick inside and out. I want the nuts and bolts. I want to see benchmarks on Intel Dual Core chips, not PC Magazines’ latest take on unnecessary gadgetry. If I want trite commentary on frivolous potential gadgets I’ll go to the Internet, where the trivial thrive.

      I’m going to miss that once great glossy of geekdom. I’ll have to get my nuts and bolt PC geek-on from Maximum PC for now. But, still, it’s a sad day. I feel like I’m losing an old friend.

      Anyone got a good tech magazine I could try to fill the void?

      • #3207484

        It’s a sad, sad day for this computer geek

        by jamesrl ·

        In reply to It’s a sad, sad day for this computer geek

        My PC Magazine experience.

        Once upon a time I worked for a software company that was coming out with an amazingly good first product. It just so happened PC Magazine was coming to town with a roadshow, and both the editorial writers and others were coming.

        I was excited, we were going to meet the editorial staff and do a demo of the last version before production model.  There was also a mini trade show where we could man a booth and show invited readers what we were working on.

        Our demo was at 9 AM. John Dvorak, someone whose columns I read avidly, arrived late and really never was “there”. The others were not terribly interested in what we had to show. They just didn’t get it. That software by the way sold millions of copies, and made the company into a powerhouse.  When Dvorak wrote about being in our city, he was more in a tiff about software rentals and copywrite laws than about the software.

        What I experienced at the mini trade show was the salespeople (me) became the customer. The hunter became the hunted. Ad sales reps from PC Magazine put on the full court press. We were lead to understand what it would take for the editorial board to pay attention. And that was a big ad buy.

        I became a little more cynical about PC Magazine after that experience. Maybe you can’t buy love, but you can buy attention.

         

        James

      • #3207334

        It’s a sad, sad day for this computer geek

        by jaqui ·

        In reply to It’s a sad, sad day for this computer geek

        It’s not just PC Magazine, unfortunately.

        ‘The Computer Paper’ has become ‘Hub Digital Living’ and has lost all reviews and editorials on anything but digital cameras, cell phones or games.

        They did, at one time, have a number of great articles of computer hardware, review of software, all operating systems, and helpfull comparison charts for buying classes of hardware.
        Now they only review the latest toy that is no use to anyone.

        I stopped reading PC Magazine when they never started having any regular content on linux after linux came out.

      • #3208841

        It’s a sad, sad day for this computer geek

        by rexworld ·

        In reply to It’s a sad, sad day for this computer geek

        If you’re looking for paper magazine recommendations, I can’t help you. Haven’t subscribed to a paper trade/PC magazine in many years.

        But there are a few Web sites you might consider adding to your bookmarks.  Start with Tom’s Hardware ( http://www.tomshardware.com/ ) which I think is in many ways the true successor to that geek-filled PC Magazine you remember.

        The other one I like, because they cover both PC and Mac stuff with occasional Linux thrown in, is Ars Technica ( http://arstechnica.com/ ).  They do tend to have more gadgety stuff which you were complaining about from PC Mag but there’s also some meaty stuff in there as well.  I think better than what PC Rag has been churning out recently.

      • #3208824

        It’s a sad, sad day for this computer geek

        by Mark W. Kaelin ·

        In reply to It’s a sad, sad day for this computer geek

        I like Tom’s, but it is on the Internet. I liked the glossy mag for easy chair, beer swilling reading on lazy Sunday afternoons. I guess I’m going to have to learn use the laptop while juggling a frosty mug and and a bowl of pretzels.

      • #3205862

        It’s a sad, sad day for this computer geek

        by fjames1 ·

        In reply to It’s a sad, sad day for this computer geek

        Try Windows IT Pro from Penton.  It’s oriented more towards the enterprise than the desktop, but it’s really filled with meaty articles.

      • #3205848

        It’s a sad, sad day for this computer geek

        by pweegar1 ·

        In reply to It’s a sad, sad day for this computer geek

        Another really good site is http://www.tek-tips.com.  This website covers everything from programming in many different languages, to hard drives, OS’s, to most anything in the enterprise.  I read it almost every day.

      • #3207218

        It’s a sad, sad day for this computer geek

        by gcostigan ·

        In reply to It’s a sad, sad day for this computer geek

        I believe the reason that PC Magazine became so consumer – oriented and less technical is that the ZD Media people couldn’t keep their other magazines going and growing.

        Remember PC Computing Magazine? It was what PC Magzine has become now. The magazine with training wheels, the one for beginners and new users. Remember when Computer Shopper had technical articles almost as good if not better than PC Magazine? Now, it’s like a computer magazine version of the Home Shopping Channel.

        Maximum PC still talks technical, but focuses on a very small group of people who twenty years ago would have readin Hot Rod magazine to soop up their street rods.

        Very few technical magazines have the career length that PC Magazine has, but most of us get our really geeky stuff from the Net, or from trade journals aimed at our industry jobs.

        I hope you, and all of us out here still looking for something you can carry into the bathroom to read that doesn’t require a battery or LCD screen to use, find what we’re looking for to keep current with our love of computers and their potential.

      • #3207080

        It’s a sad, sad day for this computer geek

        by wevens ·

        In reply to It’s a sad, sad day for this computer geek

        Insert comment text here
        In addition to Maximum PC, I also enjoy CPU (Computer Power User) magazine.  For on-line info, I tend to check out  hardocp.com rregularly.  While all three  sources are  slanted a bit more towards the DIY crowd than some may like, I find them to be  interesting & useful.  
        Regarding PC Mag, the ascention  of  Lauderback (sp?)  put the nail in the coffin for me as well.  I was already noticing the lack of objectiveness in their reviews  (comparing  their reviews for  home video editing software, vs. other sources made it clear to me that ad spend = nothing less than an OK review) but the new format and emphasis changes are making this my final subscription.
        Best of luck.

      • #3208351

        It

        by admin ·

        In reply to It’s a sad, sad day for this computer geek

        The article and all the comments are correct, but it isn’t just PC Magazine having this problem. It seems to be a new nature of American society, our mentality. I’ll bet the talk among PC Mag executives is all about how to sell ads or subscriptions. And they probably think that to be a business virtue!!!

        Observe the steady stream of drug/medicine/diet “news” coming at you from everywhere. All are “consumer” oriented yet virtually none of them are accurate science. One can sense they try hard to be the first with the news, or to sell ads or medicines, yet don’t care whether objective truth is present. (If it is in a Medical Journal, it must be true!) Some of these so-called “studies” are done by students, and most are led by people who think statistics is science. Also notice that it isn’t Americans leading in technology development anymore; sure we have some but it seems to be decreasing. There is now more development from Europe and other places than here. All many major corporations do these days is to market someone else’s products. I doubt this is because Europeans received sudden technical insights, rather, it seems fewer and fewer Americans are pursuing science, mathematics, and technology in schools so we are becomming “dumber” in that sense.

      • #3206251

        It’s a sad, sad day for this computer geek

        by mcnock ·

        In reply to It’s a sad, sad day for this computer geek

        II know it is an Australian magazine, but Atomic MPC is a seriously Geeky techo PC magazine, pulling things apart, explaining how stuff like Crossfire etc works, more orientated to Hardware geeks than software developers, but hey, it’s good stuff.

        Website is http://www.atomicmpc.com, enjoy.

        Crraig

      • #3206237

        It

        by jmllal ·

        In reply to It’s a sad, sad day for this computer geek

        I stopped my subscription something over five years ago (after having
        been a
        continuous subscriber since the late 80s) when the price went through
        the
        stratosphere and the thickness shrunk to something slightly larger than
        a good-sized Sunday paper advertising insert. I’ve read but
        one or two issues since. Of course, the Internet has something
        to do with this, as well (remember when Computer Shopper was over an
        inch thick? Being the only game in town will do that for you).

        I believe that one of the things that hurt them was the attitude that
        everyone has the same bottomless pit of resources that they get from
        the parent company to try out the latest-and-greatest everything.
        Home users, and people who work for companies with real budgets and
        real balance sheets,
        just couldn’t relate to that.

        In my opinion, two things are really killing PC Magazine (and others, too):
        1. We don’t need it to be the way it used to be.
        Back when MS-DOS (and early Windows versions that were just slapped on
        top of DOS) was all there was, and all the BIOS did was boot the
        computer, you actually needed to know something about the command line
        to do what you needed to do, like it or not. Here, PC’s articles
        on command lines and their switches, batch files, how to order the
        lines in CONFIG.SYS so that stuff loaded properly, etc., really filled
        a need for computer users, both at home and at work. Every issue
        had something that, with minimal typing, was of immediate use to
        users. Since hardware was new as well, basic tutorials on such
        things as the care and feeding of floppy disks, parking hard drive
        heads before shutting down, wiring an RS-232 connector so that the damn
        thing actually worked–again, all things of immediate benefit.
        Today, who needs it?
        2. We don’t want to mess with it.
        Let’s face it, folks: computers are a commodity because that’s the way
        almost all of us want it. There’s a reason that Windows, despite
        it’s sometimes egregious faults, is so popular: it insulates us from
        having to know, or even get involved with, the minutiae that really
        makes our computers go. Uncovering and describing this minutiae
        was what I remember PC Magazine, in its heydey, excelling at.
        Today, we’d just prefer to turn them on and start rockin’ and rollin’
        on whatever job we have to do. I believe this is also why
        programs like System Mechanic are selling so well: that one-click
        “optimize your system” button. Is it really optimized after it’s
        done? Must be: it said so (!)

        Actually, you could probably add a third one: with 3+ GHz dual-core
        processors, fast HDDs, video cards, and GB of DDR SDRAM, you can’t
        really tell the before-and-after difference without getting a program
        like SANDRA, which a lot of people don’t even know exists (or just
        don’t care). I bought my first computer almost 25 years ago: a
        Heathkit H-8 with a proprietary OS, 64K of RAM, and an
        8080 zipping along at a clock speed of a whole 2 MHz. When
        something wasn’t optimized on that system, you KNEW it.

        End of rant.

        John

      • #3214726

        Magazines for the Former PC Magazine Subscriber

        by hellogary ·

        In reply to It’s a sad, sad day for this computer geek

        Yes, sadly PC Magazine has gone consumer, I have subscribed since issue
        1 but now I have had to seek much of my tech mojo elsewhere.

        Here are my suggestions to fill that aching tech void.

        In addition to Maximum PC let me suggest two publications from the United Kingdom.
        PC Pro and Custom PC which are both published by Dennis Publishing Ltd.
        PC Pro is as the publisher states:

        PC Pro is the UK?s biggest selling PC monthly magazine,
        and your source of professional IT news, reviews and tests. Combining
        in?depth industry comment and analysis with rigorous product testing ? PC Pro
        will keep you ahead of all the developments in the IT world.”

        It is kind of like PC Magazine used to be in the old days but on steroids….
        In my opinon the product tests exceed even the old PC Magazine in their breadth and depth.

        The URL is http://www.pcpro.co.uk/

        One can subscribe from the publishers site as an “overseas
        subscriber”, that is a Britishism for those who are not part of
        the “Empire”.

        Alternatively and less expensively one can subscribe via Amazon’s
        magazine subscriptions service. The Amazon subscription offers the
        CDROM edition of the magazine, print magazine + CDROM with featured
        software, shareware, freeware and editiorial material from the current
        and previous editions. The CDROM edition through Amazon is less
        expensive than direct from the publisher. Unfortunately the DVD
        edition that is available by subscription in Europe or at overseas
        newstands is
        not available to overseas subscribers either from the publisher or from
        Amazon. I make a point of picking up copies of the DVD edition as
        it usually has five or more full edition software packages per
        DVD which are usually a version or two behind the current version sold
        retail. Great way to try out software without time
        limitations or crippled options. If you like a software package
        there is often a
        significant discount offer to upgrade to the current version.

        In New York City Barnes and Noble bookstores (in the magazine section)
        and Universal News Magazine shops do sell the DVD edition of the
        magazine at about $15-17 a copy.

        The sister publication to PC Pro is Custom PC
        It is as Denis Publishing puts it:

        Custom PC is the magazine for people who are passionate about PC
        technology and hardware.
        Whether you?ve been building and customising PCs
        for years or you?ve just started performance ? tuning ready made systems,
        all the information you need is now in one place.

        URL: http://www.custompc.co.uk/

        Custom PC is kind of like Maximum PC on steroids…
        Custom PC is nirvana for the nuts and bolts PC geek who loves to build
        their own system and mod, mod, mod. Some but not all of the
        material in Custom PC is derivative to the articles in PC Pro. It
        definitely has a hands-on bent, the articles on enterprise
        computing present in PC Pro are totally absent in Custom PC.

        Custom PC is unfortunately not available through Amazon by subscription
        so you’ll have to subscribe as an overseas subscriber. In New
        York City Barnes and Nobles does carry Custom PC in the magazine
        section but I have not seen it in Universal News.

        Both of these magazines are much more inclusive of non-Windows
        platforms and there is coverage of Linux and Apple products.
        There are also several excellent European magazines that exclusively
        cover Apple products.

      • #3214717

        It

        by capnpauly ·

        In reply to It’s a sad, sad day for this computer geek

        I’m glad I’m not the only one who is annoyed by the new ‘turn’ that PC Mag has taken.
        Not only does it appear to look like a child’s toy catalog with items circled with little ‘notes’ written on each page in red, but it does seem very commercial.
        Let’s not even talk about the dumb ‘caricatures’ on each page of the writer/editors that make them all look like fat mongoloids.
        I’m also upset that I have to see John Dvorak’s ugly mug at the end of every single issue!!!  I really enjoyed the signs, typos, and situational humor at the end of each mag, and now it’s merely down to three shots at the bottom of the letters page.

        🙁

        Consider me cancelled…

      • #3212797

        It’s a sad, sad day for this computer geek

        by huntlavender ·

        In reply to It’s a sad, sad day for this computer geek

        I dont have a good tech magazine, but maybe yoiu could help me. I am looking for a good forum for answering tech questions. I am looking to design a interactive corporate training and have been looking into holography, etc. Also may be considering virtual reality. Im wanting to create a completely interactive environment for human senses that would accomodate 20-50 people.. . . . . . thoughts?

      • #3232008

        It’s a sad, sad day for this computer geek

        by e34touring ·

        In reply to It’s a sad, sad day for this computer geek

        I started with Byte Magazine in 1982!. Then some of PC Mag. But these days, listening to PodCasts most of the time on my Iriver and iPod (yes, 2 devices for twice the flexibility, Iriver is a great recorder and excellent music abilities). You should check out http://www.extremetech.com for the PC-Mag affiliate that is most current and “heavy” into hardware. Its free and cool with the core PC things nice and dear to your heart. Also, if you wanted much more hardcore PC tweaking stuff, check out www.techreport.com and the links there.

        No. PCMag has not changed but diversified. I personally don’t like Jim Louderback but loved the rest of the crew including John C Dvorak (my role model in the industry). You might want to check out the Twit podcast weekly that I think is fantastic, educational, fun, humourous and very entertaining. The industry has expanded probably about 20X since the 80s. I think its great but innovation is still pretty slow in reality. Look at Vista and OSX. After all those years, these OSes should have been near ideal but they are just pretty much the normal “garden variety” stuff. Only Linux and Solaris 10 are serious OSes that are real fun on the tinkering side. It is not a sad day. It will be if my obituary is being published!.

    • #3214373

      Alien technology lands on my doorstep

      by Mark W. Kaelin ·

      In reply to Old enough to want to and fool enough to try

      In general, I really like my job. I get to read, write, and think about technology and computers and gadgets and all that — topics I find interesting and engaging. And then every once in awhile something comes along that really gets me going. The item on this occasion is an Alienware notebook. It’s the Aurora m9700 with two 256 MB nVidia GeForce Go 7900 GS SLI graphic cards in it. My first impression — as the guys on the Dodge Ram commercial say — SWEET!

      This is not your CEOs notebook. It’s big, it’s bad and it kicks you know what. Over the next few weeks, I’m going to put it through its paces by using it to write, edit, run spreadsheets, access databases, surf the Web, and, of course, to play games.

      In fact, I played World of Warcraft on it last night in a sort of dry run. It performed magnificently. I turned up all the settings and played the game for about an hour and I was not disappointed. SLI video technology is absolutely wonderful. World of Warcraft never looked better.

      Today I have loaded Office 2007 Beta, Skype (there’s a built in camera), Half-Life 2, and Call of Duty 2. I’ve also created an initial photo gallery so you can see what comes in the Alienware box.

      Look for more pictures, blog entries and a more formal review later on this month.

      Here’s a link to the company information on the Auroa m9700.

      • #3214343

        Alien technology lands on my doorstep

        by rexworld ·

        In reply to Alien technology lands on my doorstep

        Ooh, I am so jealous.  Sounds (and looks) like an awesome machine.  Too bad you’ll have to send it back when you’re done  🙁

        I bet though it would be hellish lugging it on an airplane trip.  Must weigh a ton, probably would break the tray table when you try to set it up.

      • #3214338

        Alien technology lands on my doorstep

        by Mark W. Kaelin ·

        In reply to Alien technology lands on my doorstep

        It is heavier than most notebooks people carry around with them these days. And it needs a bigger laptop bag the average, but if you need to give a multimedia presentation you can do it with this notebook without worrying about connecting to projectors etc. I don’t have the words to describe how bright this LCD screen is. Of course, after the presentation you can frag your friends or raid Molten Core — or watch a DVD movie quite comfortably.

      • #3214323

        Alien technology lands on my doorstep

        by justin james ·

        In reply to Alien technology lands on my doorstep

        Except to play games, I really would not want this kind of notebook. Just thinking about the heat that setup will generate makes me sweatier than the dual Xeon server sitting right behind me does (I kind of splurged on our new storage server). Unless I was a super hardcore LAN-party goer (and gah, that adjective scares me), I just cannot understand the need or the desire for notebook like that. Even for Vista, that is way overpowered. I generally do not like laptops in general (they break more often, heat, hard/expensive to upgrade, etc.) and view them as only being suitable for somewho frequently travels, and the idea of a laptop with nearly as much power as a desktop only makes if you are on the road often enough to not bother having a desktop. Is it a cool toy? Sure. Is it practical? Absolutely not. For the heat/size/cost, it really is not useful outside of a few niches.

        J.Ja

      • #3214290

        Alien technology lands on my doorstep

        by peter spande ·

        In reply to Alien technology lands on my doorstep

        OK, I do travel all the time and I have serious envy for this machine.  Although my back would rebel, I’d love to haul this around with me on by business travels.  I just can’t justify it as a business laptop.  I try but I just don’t know of any reason why I would need to have a subwoofer at work. Perhaps I need to find a reason to have hi-fi, graphics intensive presentations become a larger part of my job…    

      • #3214144

        Alien technology lands on my doorstep

        by Mark W. Kaelin ·

        In reply to Alien technology lands on my doorstep

        Speaking to the heat — it is not a “laptop.” Alienware calls it a notebook, but it is not a machine you want to put on your lap for very long.

        However, if I were an independent contractor of some kind who traveled the country selling the books I’ve written and giving motiviational speeches or something, I would want this notebook. Not only could I store my entire life on the m9700 in terms of e-mail, Money, schedules, my next manuscript, spreadsheets to analyze my wealth, etc. — I could also play games on it. And not just games — any game, no matter how sophisticated.

        It would be the only way to travel. Of course, I play games for my chosen past time. That is, I play games instead of watching Project Runway or Big Brother — activities many of my colleagues enjoy.

        Why would I need a notebook with this much power, you ask — why the heck wouldn’t I.

      • #3231947

        Alien technology lands on my doorstep

        by jfowler ·

        In reply to Alien technology lands on my doorstep

        Pay no attention to the nay sayers… Ok, so it’s big and heavy, who cares? It’s one bad-ass machine.
        I recently bought myself an HP Pavillion dv8000z (around 2 grand) not because I needed it (I already run 2 self-built desktops at home, which is not to mention the office machines I must tend to), but rather because I wanted it.
        Not quite all the bells and whistles of the Alienware box, (no T-Shirt either!) but enough to get me by; AMD 2.2 64 bit, 2 80 gig drives, 2Gb of RAM, 17″ wide screen, full right side number pad, Dual Layer lightscribe DVD burner, etc. Practical? Decidedly not. Fun? You betcha!
        Enjoy the new toy, I for one will be looking forward to the continuing reports…

      • #3231928

        Alien technology lands on my doorstep

        by myung ·

        In reply to Alien technology lands on my doorstep

        I like the idea of having a high end notebook type machine.  I
        have an two year old HP7000z. It sounds very similar to the 
        Alienware, excepting the dual SLI graphics chips.  I wanted a
        notebook with a widescreen display for watching movies. As always
        “high-end” is in the eye of the beholder.  For many computer
        users, the Alienware notebook would be overkill. 

        Does the Alienware run hot? I am guessing that it does, I suggest
        elevating the rear end of the laptop with a product like Laptop
        Legs.  The extra space for the fans underneath the notebook
        definitely helps the airflow and elevating the air intake reduces some
        of the dust that gets sucked in from the desk.

        Looking forward to the formal review.

      • #3231783

        Alien technology lands on my doorstep

        by Mark W. Kaelin ·

        In reply to Alien technology lands on my doorstep

        You are right about the heat it generates. I can use my Compaq laptop on my lap without getting to uncomfortable, but the Alienware throws out lots of heat, especially when I’m playing Half-Life 2.

        I admit I like a powerful machine. When comes to computing power, I don’t want to ever hit the ceiling. When my current system gets close to it, I’ll be in the market for a new one.

    • #3231778

      What age is too young for a computer?

      by Mark W. Kaelin ·

      In reply to Old enough to want to and fool enough to try

      Like so many of us, I routinely stop by the CompUSA or Best Buy to play with the electronic toys, drool on the latest technologies, check out the latest games, and generally hang out. I may even buy something once in a while.

      My pilgrimage last weekend got me to thinking. While perusing the notebook/laptop isle at Best Buy I found myself surrounded by dozens of teenagers and their parents. I was there to gloat about my borrowed Alienware to the goobers at Best Buy, but they were too busy dealing with combination teen and parent angst. These potential buyers were there roaming around taping on keyboards and smudging LCD screens while comparing prices versus power versus what was too cool for school.

      Some of these students were on their way to college, but many looked like they were on their way to high school. I grew up in a time where computers were only used by middle-aged men wearing white shirts, black ties and pocket protectors so the concept of a notebook computer for school is somewhat foreign to me. Nonetheless, I understand that a notebook can be a valuable tool, especially if your son or daughter is heading off to the college campus. I mean you need a notebook to download music and movies off peer-to-peer networks.

      But I was wondering about the high school students. Is a computer for the exclusive use of a high school student a given these days? I understand that a high school student would need access to the family computer, but I am uncertain there is a need for each teenager to have their very own notebook.

      Since I don’t have children that age, perhaps I am just uninformed. Perhaps some parents out there could clue me in? Is a notebook part of your children’s high school regimen? At what age is it appropriate for a child to have a personal notebook?

      • #3232090

        What age is too young for a computer?

        by justin james ·

        In reply to What age is too young for a computer?

        Students do not need computers. My brother had a computer for most of high school. He nearly failed school, but earned a PhD in Kazaa and World of Warcraft. The only thing a computer is of any use for with our current education system is writing the occassional report or paper. As it is, most students are barely able to do math because they are used to having the calculators do the work. Does anyone question why an average student in a Third World country who went to a school that had power maybe 25% of the time, textbooks that were 15 years old, and an abacus or paper + pencil to calculate can run circles around a top US student? And the numbers keep getting worse! You cannot draw anything but a strong correlation between the increasing use of technology in student’s lives and the declining levels of education. In fact, an average US student from 15 years is better than many top US students today. I knew more math coming out of high school 10 years ago than most of the recent college graduates that I meet. Coincidence? Maybe. Some of the best papers I ever did were typed in WordPerfect 5.1 on a 286 with monochrome graphics. All research came from real books that I actually had to read, as opposed to finding 1 paragraph and taking it completely out of context with no background thanks to an Internet search.

        Sorry, but learning is hard work. Computers give the impression of “learning” without any “learning” actually occuring. Unless you are learning to work with computers, I have never once had my comprehension of a subject enhanced by a computer. I read the approproiate books, magazines, go to class, etc. It’s odd, my brother and sister went to one of the top schools in the state, and their 10th grade History work was a family tree. I went to an underfunded school ranks quite low in the state, that featured delights such as knife fights in bathrooms and heroin needles in trash cans, yet my 10th grade History work was a very lengthy paper about the Schleiffen Plan. Guess who learned more History? I can say the same thing for mathematics. I can still do derivatives and integrals to an extent, 10 years after the fact. I know people who just graduated Calculus who cannot do them without a calculator or computer. Guess who learned more math?

        Computers are a poor substitute for students paying attention, hard work, doing homework, and actually learning. Even worse, they provide distractions for the students. Yes, the workers of the future need computer skills, but giving a kid some multimedia powerhouse capable of playing all of the latest games, while forgetting to get them a copy of Word is just silly.

        J.Ja

      • #3276764

        What age is too young for a computer?

        by leee ·

        In reply to What age is too young for a computer?

        I’m probably going to come off as a bit severe here, but my point is this: Everything in its own time.

        Let’s back up. How young is too young for books? A child must learn to read first, and so picture books that teach the basics would be the starting point. How young is too young for a cell phone? Start with a land line; you wouldn’t have your toddler answer the phone and not know what to do. Later, if you have a regular phone at home and a reasonable structure in place for use outside the home (‘I’ll pick you up from practice at six,’ ‘Have Jim’s mom call if you’re going to stay for dinner’), you don’t need one. Kids are not driving, nor are they straying so far there will be no phone around. Cell phones are expensive toys, and that’s all they’d be for young kids – toys. And we all know what happens to those. Cars? Most people take lessons to learn to drive, and the insurance rates are astronomical. Why? Because being at the wheel of a car – particuarly if you’re new to it – is a huge responsibility that affects not just Dad’s Chevy but the safety of others. Once drivers have proven themselves with time and safety, rates come down.

        Then you have computers. Would you allow your (theroretical) child to be the primary user of your home computer? At what age? Can you trust him or her not to download unknown attachments, frequent sites you’d consider inappropriate, befriend suspicious characters, sign up for spam-inducing ‘contests’? What about the computer itself? Can you safely assume your son or daughter is responsible enough not to spill Coke on the keyboard or drop it?

        I’m with you as far as high school students. Provided they aren’t at a boarding school (which would probably have its own computer labs anyway), they can use the home computer. If Mom or Dad has a pressing business need, a second desktop might be appropriate – and, it goes without saying, in a public area. (Laptops, by their nature, are meant to be moved.) Computers are, first and foremost, tools, and it wouldn’t kill the kid to take notes by hand or look up something at the library or read a book every now and then.

        That said, computer literacy is a requirement these days. But, along with everything in life, teach your kids everything at an age-appropriate level, lay the groundwork for responsible behavior, and feel no guilt about sending your teenager off to college with a laptop (preferably one at least partially earned from a summer job). By then, he or she will understand how to treat the equipment, and others.

      • #3231421

        What age is too young for a computer?

        by wmarr ·

        In reply to What age is too young for a computer?

        With regard to school aged children haveing a computer for school. Here is my view on this.

        Being a parent of two school aged children, (one in high school the other entering middle school) I have found that having computer and internet access is a “must” for school work such as researching for information when doing a project and writng an essay or report (book report) and being able to print it. With advancements in office programs etc. My children are able to produce a sharp looking and readable document for the instructor to mark.

        Of course there is the social aspect (with regard to my oldest in High School), Chatting playing games etc.

        Personally, my children are not into downloading music, or seeking out web sites that are not appropriate. I do not have parental controls on their computers. They have unfettered access 24/7.

        I have installed a typing tutor on each of their machines so they can learn to type properly. Key boarding skills will certainly come in handy, especially in University, and out in the work place.

        There are some unfortunate people(students) whom do not have this access to learning. They will be the ones struggling with learning to use technology for productive use. My daughter for example, can go downstairs to her computer(which is always on and connected), type up her assignment, insert pictures etc, get it laid out half decent, then have me check it over, make some adjustments (while showing her how to do this) and then she is done and all she has to do is print it. This compared to the person who either has to write it all by hand,(draft copy also) or wait till a computer is availbable at school and then struggle with “project presentability”. This process can result in a late assignment or a poor mark.

        But having stated this, I feel.that younger chldren may have the use of their parents computer for basic learning programs while supervised by a parent.

        In closing, I think that in todays techonological age, computers are a must have item especially for theadolesence and up age group. Besides, responsible chatting can help with typing skills and sentence structure..

      • #3231332

        What age is too young for a computer?

        by donthom ·

        In reply to What age is too young for a computer?

        I got my first computer when I was twelve.  It was a kit from Edmond Scientific.  I started learning to type when I was six.  It was another 6 years before I hit a school that had a computer.  There was a lot of controversy in elementary school about memorizing the multiplication tables and going the easy way.  When calculators came out there was again controversy to which Isaac Asimov commented,  “Have you ever tried multiplying in Roman Numerals?”  It ain’t the tools folks, it’s the values.

      • #3231224

        What age is too young for a computer?

        by wmlundine ·

        In reply to What age is too young for a computer?

        My daughter had an IBM XT (refurbished) when she was two years old. The only program she could use was “Baby Keys” …where a key press generated a color and tone. She loved that and later…all of Berts Coloring books and a program called “Funny Face”. She learned a lot..since she is now 14yrs. old and is an acedemic star…yes…I am very proud of her and I think a computer is no different than any technology…a tool (or a toy).

      • #3202037

        What age is too young for a computer?

        by sseifert ·

        In reply to What age is too young for a computer?

        I have heard from my teenage kids over and over, that they need to get on the Internet in order to do their homework.  As was commented earlier, all this really amounted to was plagiarizing from some reference that they found from some obscure search through Google, while really focusing most of their time Instant Messaging their friends about who was doing what to who.  At first I felt that the kids who did not have this technology available in the homes were at a disadvantage, but I now concur that we are probably the ones with the disadvantage – since the kids without the technology were forced to figure out how to get the answers they needed by using their minds, not searching the documented thoughts of other people on the Internet.  And there are way too many distractions on the Internet for kids – the computer HAS to be in a public place in the home – otherwise there is no accountability whatsoever to start meddling into all the evils that the Internet has to offer. 

        Most importantly though, responsible parenting is a key here. 

      • #3199407

        What age is too young for a computer?

        by sonicvybe ·

        In reply to What age is too young for a computer?

        I first saw computers at the age of 8, a laptop which had DOS installed – and actually got to play with it a little.  The first computer introduced into the family was a 386 with windows 3.1…cant remember what the OS was called…it’s been a while.

        Anyways, I think that the times have changed and I can see how many students are using very graphical interfaces at a young age.  There are also many threatening features of the internet that we don’t want kids to see.  However, IMO, there is no difference in what the legal age to own a computer should be.  And by ‘legal’ I am referring to the age a kid should be physically allowed to do what they please.  However, should your kid choose that path – they should also have a sense of responsibility to themselves.

        That being said, don’t buy your kid a laptop for high school before you introduce a shared desktop to the family.  Similarily you don’t want your 10 year old to taste alcohol in a bar before they understand what alcohol is at home.  Common sense – hope my perspective helps.

      • #3277336

        What age is too young for a computer?

        by deppittydawg ·

        In reply to What age is too young for a computer?

        As long as they do not drool on the keypad and short it out, they are not too young. Sounds extreme and possibly is but why keep the technology away from a “person” just because some of you fear being left behind by a very young person. Just bee cuzz I dnt know all the werds yet i will still bee smart as yoo some day

        Cuchy coo 

      • #3229974

        What age is too young for a computer?

        by kwbowman99 ·

        In reply to What age is too young for a computer?

        I don’t believe the original question has been answered.  ?What age is too young?? I dunno, but I’ve
        got a 3 yr old that has a blast on the family computer.  Sad part about
        it, he works the 3 finger salute better than some of the users I support.
         

         
        Having said that, let’s turn to the more popular comments concerning
        laptops and computers for students and the ability of the pc to
        “help” the child learn.  “NOT NEEDED”.  Computers
        and calculators are nothing more than tools. 
        The sad part is that we often give the tools to the unskilled worker and
        marvel at the results.  However, how many
        of us produced great results with hand tools? 
        What we have all too often are children that depend on calculators for
        the simplest of calculations. 
        Computations that we performed (and still do) in our head aren?t even
        attempted by the younger generation without a calculator.   

         
        These tools can be a help, but what would be more beneficial
        to the students is teaching them to learn.  There is no “need”
        of the internet for a research paper.  Last I checked, Library’s (the
        place where they keep books) were still flourishing.  As far as artwork
        and graphics, how bout some creativity?  I was in high school before
        typing a paper became an option, and in my Jr. year before it was a requirement.
        Has anyone ever wondered why some 6, 7, and 8th graders are being required to
        type their homework?  Have you taken a look at their handwriting?  Let?s
        teach them to learn, and not just play with the popular, neat tools.

      • #3201791

        What age is too young for a computer?

        by wingedmonkey ·

        In reply to What age is too young for a computer?

        School Work?

        Nah,,, I make no pretense. The wife and I got our son his laptop for his 14th birthday for the purpose of playing World of Warcraft on it. Now all three of us can play at the same time without having to take turns.

    • #3202275

      Are you wondering How Do I??

      by Mark W. Kaelin ·

      In reply to Old enough to want to and fool enough to try

      As you may
      have noticed, we have started a new franchise here on TechRepublic called How
      Do I??

      As you may
      have guessed the premise is straightforward — we are producing articles,
      downloads, and galleries that answer a specific question.

      If you need an
      example, check out this article that answers the question How
      Do I? Add Macs To A Windows Workgroup?

      You get the
      basic idea. So the question for me becomes, in my job as an editor who makes assignments, what
      do you want to know how to do?

      What assignments should I be making? We have
      several How Do I’s? in the pipeline, but we want to be receptive to your
      current needs, so this is your opportunity.

      Give me a topic or subject that you
      would like to see us run a How Do I? article on. We will do our best to address
      your issue.

      • #3202035

        Are you wondering How Do I??

        by admin ·

        In reply to Are you wondering How Do I??

        …set up for remote access. I am a part-time “IT” person, one establishment has a network of 12 computers connected to a router which has a Comcast modem on it. Another establishment has a small network of 4 computers on a hub which goes to a comcast modem. What do I have to do (especially for the larger network) to be able to access them remotely? (Articles I’ve read on this topic seem incomplete because they don’t quite work, as I understand what is written).

      • #3166708

        Are you wondering How Do I??

        by rick.cranston ·

        In reply to Are you wondering How Do I??

        This past week you ran an article on using Mircosoft backup.  As with most articles on backup, it did not address the most difficult question.  Which files do I need to back up?  My Documents is obvious, but what files do I need to back up to restore my e-mail, or ISP settings?  What other system files should I include on a backup?

        Thanks in advance for your advice.

      • #3166686

        Are you wondering How Do I??

        by agent 77 ·

        In reply to Are you wondering How Do I??

        How do I….

         

        Identify and remove the updates included in an OEM Windows XP install disk, so that I can then integrate Service Pack2 into the i386 folder and burn a “current version” install disk?

         

         

      • #3166565

        Are you wondering How Do I??

        by lastchip ·

        In reply to Are you wondering How Do I??

        Similar to admin@….

        My daughter has a home computer behind a adsl modem/router with a laptop connected wirelessly. The router includes a firewall.

        How do I access it remotely when she needs help?

        The puzzle to me is, her ISP provides a dynamic address, but then her router provides a local address.

        How do I get through the firewall and on to one of her two local addresses?

        I’m sure system admins will be chuckling and saying it’s easy; but it’s a mystery to me!

      • #3229453

        Are you wondering How Do I??

        by justin james ·

        In reply to Are you wondering How Do I??

        I would like to see some really advanced items in this series. Not everyone in the TechRepublic community is at a basic level. Some of us (definitely most of the highly active readers on the site) are at a much higher level. Many/most/all of these “How Do I?” topics that I have seen are quite effectively addressed in the product documentation itself (Remote Access? Right there in your Windows Help system… adding Macs to a Windows workgroup? I would imagine that it is right in the OSX documentation…) or are already simple Google search away. Here are some of the things that I would like to see, on some things that have been nagging me:

        * How to work with BIND. I think a college could offer a PhD in BIND and people would sign up for the courses…

        * How to best set up a *Nix system to perform a nightly disk mirroring/backup to another internal disk.

        * How to best upgrade from MySQL 4.X to 5.X.

        * Getting started with functional programming in general, and F# specifically.

        * How do I prevent the Oracle installer from mangling portions of other items when I install/update Oracle client-side tools?

        * How do I easily, effectively, and freely/inexpensively product PDF output from the software I write?

        * How do I script it so that when one server is shutting down due to a low battery notification from a UPS, that it shuts down other servers, including *Nix servers?

        These are the kinds of problems I face on a day-to-day basis. Configuring home networks and other similar topics hold zero interest for me as a reader.

        J.Ja

      • #3229419

        Are you wondering How Do I??

        by lastchip ·

        In reply to Are you wondering How Do I??

        Reference my post.

        If it was effectively addressed in the documentation (RealVNC), I wouldn’t be asking the question.

        I’ve yet to find a decent tutorial on how to use it. It works fine over a local network, but accessing via the Internet is another ball game, particularly when a firewall is in place.

        All things that are obvious to folk who have already dealt with the problem appear mundane, but if you don’t know how (whatever level you’re at), it’s worth addressing.

      • #3229380

        Are you wondering How Do I??

        by justin james ·

        In reply to Are you wondering How Do I??

        lastchip –

        You make a good point here, but I am not sure if you realised it or not. If it works fine locally, then your problem is actually not RealVNC, the problem is merely that you need to port forward from your router to the appropriate port. If you send me a private message (it won’t let me do it through here to you), I would be happy to get you going on the details needed to get yourself all set up.

        And that is actually the fatal flaw for most “How Do I?” type of things, esepcially with generic computing devices like desktop PCs. All too often, setting up the device or application itself is pretty easy, but the periperal details (in this case, the port forwarding and addressing the DHCP issue) require a separate FAQ or help of their own, specific to that particular user. 95% of the walkthroughs/FAQs/instructions that I have run accross, unless they are from a big name vendor with the cash to spend on an army of writers, simply must assume that everything else in the problem is functioning fine. At best, they will mention something like, “make sure you can ping Yahoo! before going any further…” If someone did a walkthrough of “Setting up RealVNC to work on 4 PCs behind a Brand X Model 42 router with Connect-O-Rama as the ISP” it would have been able to help you to the very last mouse click. Otherwise, you would have been stuck with something that got you up and running, and said “to get to it from the outside, assign a static IP to the PC inside the network, port forward TCP on port XYZ to that IP address, and point the remote client to the IP address that the router got from the ISP.” Yes, those are the best instructions anyone can give you without knowing your particular hardware and configuration. Even if they had your equipment, they would probably want you on the phone to verify certain details of your configuration.

        I’m not knocking you here, just trying to make clear the difficulty in providing accurate, helpful instructions or walktrhoughs for these types of problems. On a big network or with an experienced computer person, this would not be a problem. But for someone at a very basic level, those instructions would be pretty worthless for you anyways, or they would have to be so specific to you as to only be usful to you and a few other people.

        That being said… the reason why you did not get any help on the subject is because your problem is not a RealVNC-specific issue. While port forwarding to the appropriate PC is going to come up in virtually any home network now, it is outside of the scope of any application-specific walkthrough. There are too many differences in home networks to make any kind of generic walkthrough helpful, other than reminding you that you need to port forward, and letting you know which port(s)/protocol(s) to forward. In terms of the dynamic IP address from the ISP, I cannot guarantee anything specific, but most consumer grade cable/DSL lines only change your IP address once in a blue moon (I had the same IP once for 9 months), and there are ways of getting a domain name to point to your home network anyways (I recommend PlanetDNS from personal experience as being excellent).

        I hope this helps, and if you would like me to get you going on that home network, send me a private message.

        J.Ja

      • #3229379

        Are you wondering How Do I??

        by justin james ·

        In reply to Are you wondering How Do I??

        Mark –

        I just had an idea. Why not go digging through the Tech Q&A’s and the discussions to find the “repeat offender” topics. No, I am not suggesting a “How Do I… Figure Out How Much This Job Is Worth” (that comes up every 2 weeks…), but I am sure that some questions in there get asked frequently and would be a good source of topics for a while.

        J.Ja

        <