Published by Toronto Mike on November 5, 2008 @ 20:36 in Technology
One perk when working for a software company is easy access to hardware deemed insufficient for development purposes. At least this is a perk when you're buds with the IS guy. Older desktops and laptops are taken out of circulation and replaced, usually because the latest version of Windows demands too much under the hood.
When I get my mitts on one of these desktops or laptops, I breathe new life into them with a proven technique that never fails. I get Ubuntu.
Ubuntu is a community developed, Linux-based operating system, and my personal favourite distribution of Linux. Oh yeah, and it's completely free. Here are the steps I follow when salvaging PCs.
- I visit http://www.ubuntu.com/getubuntu/download and download the latest version of Ubuntu's desktop edition, currently 8.10. This gives me an .iso file that will fit on a blank CD.
- Using the free InfraRecorder I follow the super easy steps here to burn the image to CD.
- With this newly burned Ubuntu install CD in the CD-ROM drive, I start up the PC and get into the BIOS. Usually that means pressing F10 or F1 or some key combination. Here's a cheat sheet.
- Once in the BIOS, set it to boot from your CD-ROM drive. Save changes and exit.
- Ubuntu will now guide you the rest of the way. It's super easy, trust me. You don't need to be a geek. The entire installation takes less than 30 minutes.
Almost everything is done in the browser these days, and Ubuntu comes ready to rock with Firefox. Connecting to the internet, either wired or wireless, is easy. It just works. Windows users will adapt quickly.
So if you have a PC that might be a little dated and lacks the horsepower for Windows, give it a new life. Give it Ubuntu. That's what I do.
Published by Toronto Mike on October 28, 2008 @ 19:02 in Technology
As it gets easier and easier for regular folk to publish on the web, I find less and less publishers are actually bothering to get their hands dirty with design. Using Blogger? Simply choose a theme from the list. Using Facebook or MySpace? The default settings will do. Using Wordpress or Movable Type? Again, we've got numerous themes to choose from, one is just right for you!
I think it was early in the year 2000 when I stopped marking up my design in the HTML. CSS design made so much sense so I dove in. Every colour, every font size, every border, everything could be moved to an external CSS file.
Here we are, eight years later, and I'm still crazy about CSS when it comes to design. I'm also still creating web sites from scratch, hand coding the CSS files from a blank slate. This entry was inspired by a great article I just read on CSS design, entitled Why Programmers Suck at CSS Design. The author's hope is to show people that feel CSS challenged that you don't need to be an artist, know how to draw or even just pick colours, and certainly you don't need to know how to use Photoshop to be able to come up with a nice, clean, readable and original layout. I concur.
It's an article I wish I had written. If you design for the web, or if you think you might like to learn how, read the article. At the very least it will get your creative juices flowing.
The Google Adwords Maple Music Redirect Mystery
Published by Toronto Mike on October 26, 2008 @ 21:07 in Technology
I've never met Buffalo Boy, but I helped build his blog and I help him out now and then. Earlier today, I received an S.O.S. email from him. A visit to buffaloboymike.com was resolving at maplemusic.com.
At first I didn't believe it, because it didn't happen in my Firefox. Then, I tried it in IE and saw it with my old eyes. There was clearly a redirect from Buffalo Boy's blog to the official Maple Music website. I tried it in Chrome and saw the same thing. I was intrigued.
I reviewed every line of the source code looking for a redirect script that may have piggy backed its way in there with an image or video Buffalo Boy put on his site. Everything was clean. I checked out the Movable Type templates, deleted the commented out countdown script to Spring Training 2008 and trouble shot this sucker to death, scratching my head the whole time. Then, I had that eureka moment.
Buffalo Boys displays Google ads on his site, as I do. My Firefox suppresses these ads because I use Adblock. That would explain why I wasn't redirected in Firefox but was redirected in IE and Chrome. Lo and behold, when I took out his AdSense code, the redirect stopped.
I've never heard of this, and Googling the issue isn't shedding any light on the subject. How the hell was a Google ad from Maple Music automatically redirecting visitors to maplemusic.com? Does anyone have a clue?
A Father's Guide to Reclaiming the Wii
Published by Toronto Mike on September 15, 2008 @ 09:08 in Technology
We got a Nintendo Wii for Christmas last year. Well, in reality, James got a Nintendo Wii. He's been hogging the thing, occasionally throwing his old man a bone by letting me take him on in Wii Sports baseball or tennis.
This weekend, I reclaimed the Wii. Follow these three steps and you too can take back the Wii.
Step One: Cough Up a Little Cash
Assuming your Wii is on your wifi network, and if it's not it really should be, visit the Wii Shop from the main menu and go to WiiWare. For $10 US, you can buy 1000 credits. This will be the best $10 you ever spend. Whip out the credit card and cough up the coin.
Step Two: Download a Browser
For 500 credits, you can download an Opera web browser for your Wii. Do it. You'll be sharing YouTube videos with everyone on the television, browsing Flickr pics, checking the news and getting more personalized content on demand. Your Wii is already on the net, it's time to bring down the web.
Step Three: Go 8-Bit
This third and final step is the most important one of all. The quickest and most powerful way to reclaim your Nintendo Wii is to make it your old 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System. There are many retro games available in WiiWare, and this weekend I downloaded Ice Hockey for 500 credits. Ice Hockey is making me very, very happy and 15 years old again.
Now that I have Ice Hockey back (and it's exactly as I remember it, which is a good thing) I just need to score RBI Baseball.
I've got my Nintendo back!
Odeo Stops Uploads, I Search For YouTube of Audio
Published by Toronto Mike on September 14, 2008 @ 15:23 in Podcasting, Technology
I've been a member of Odeo for many years. Odeo was where I'd upload MP3s for sharing on this site. I always considered it YouTube for audio.
Odeo is how I'm streaming Ok, Blue Jays, Tom Cheek's Greatest Hits and these old Humble and Fred Christmas bumpers. The Odeo Studio was like a jewel in the rough, exactly what I was looking for. But now, Odeo has stopped allowing uploads, effectively eliminating the studio and forcing you to host your mp3 files elsewhere.
Is there a YouTube for audio files? I'm looking for a free service where I can upload MP3 files and easily embed a flash player.
I've got some audio I want to share but I'm not interested in hosting the files myself. If you know of a service I can try, leave me a comment.
Update: Testing Hound Bite
Google Chrome Beta Test
Published by Toronto Mike on September 1, 2008 @ 19:31 in Google Chrome, Technology
I just read the great Google Chrome comic book that so clearly explains Google's new open source browser, Google Chrome. The beta version of Google Chrome launches tomorrow. Once again, it appears Google gets it.
All of us at Google spend much of our time working inside a browser. We search, chat, email and collaborate in a browser. And in our spare time, we shop, bank, read news and keep in touch with friends -- all using a browser. Because we spend so much time online, we began seriously thinking about what kind of browser could exist if we started from scratch and built on the best elements out there. We realized that the web had evolved from mainly simple text pages to rich, interactive applications and that we needed to completely rethink the browser. What we really needed was not just a browser, but also a modern platform for web pages and applications, and that's what we set out to build.
On the surface, we designed a browser window that is streamlined and simple. To most people, it isn't the browser that matters. It's only a tool to run the important stuff -- the pages, sites and applications that make up the web. Like the classic Google homepage, Google Chrome is clean and fast. It gets out of your way and gets you where you want to go.
We'll see how Google Chrome matches up against Firefox 3. I'll leave a comment after I give it an initial spin.
Cuil Search Engine
Published by Toronto Mike on July 28, 2008 @ 10:52 in Technology
Cuil, pronounced cool, is the newest search engine out to steal a slice of Google's pie. I just checked it out for the first time by searching for toronto blog.
The results were fantastic! I mean, look at what's #1 in Cuil when you conduct that search. That's pretty cuil.
Rogers Hijacks Our Web Browser
Published by Toronto Mike on July 21, 2008 @ 12:56 in Technology
At home, our ISP is Rogers. Judging from the analytics I receive for this site, many of you are also Rogers customers. It appears Bell and Rogers dominate the residential internet access space in the Greater Toronto Area.
When you put a term like "cnn" in the address bar, your browser typically adds on the .com for you. When you put a term like "torontomike" in the address bar, your browser typically treats it like a search and renders the results for that keyword in your default search engine. This is how the browsers work because it makes for the best user experience.
Rogers has decided to hijack that practice. Rogers customers who now put a term like "torontomike" in the address bar are automatically redirected by default to a Rogers-branded Yahoo search for that keyword, complete with obtrusive graphical advertisements at the top and right hand side, not to mention the textual sponsored links beneath that Rogers logo. Below is a screen cap of what you see with Rogers.
If you're a Rogers customer, here's how you stop the hijacking. At the very bottom click "Learn More About This Page" and agree to opt out of this madness. The opt-out is cookie-based, so if you clear your cookies you'll need to do it again.
What pisses me off is that I pay Rogers for access to the Internet, not for messing with the content. Take my money and give me a pipeline to the net where I can use whatever browser I choose and visit whatever sites I choose. I'm not paying for jerkware.
How The Blogosphere Works
Published by Toronto Mike on June 29, 2008 @ 12:47 in Technology
Yesterday afternoon, before heading over to East Side Mario's to celebrate a couple of birthdays, I asked for help finding three Canadian songs in MP3 format. These are three songs I adore but have never had in my collection. That fact alone tells you're they're a little obscure.
By the time I got home, I saw a comment from Jason on that entry required my approval before being published. To combat comment spammers, I moderate all comments with 3 or more links in them. Jason was linking to his blog and two music blogs that he thought might be able to help me in my search.
I manually approved Jason's comment and, as people clicked through my site to the music blogs he linked, those blog owners saw traffic to their blogs from TorontoMike.com. As any good webmaster would do, they clicked over to see who was linking to them. I do this as well when I check my referral logs.
Miss Parker from Rave and Roll saw what I was looking for and was able to share with me the Demics and Diodes tracks. Shortly thereafter, at about 12:19am, the 3rd and final track came through thanks to Brian. In less than 12 hours I had the three songs I was unable to find on my own.
This is a great example of how the blogosphere works. It takes a great big world and connects it digitally via search engines and referral logs. It's much clearer in the chart below I just threw together.
Things the Web Replaced
Published by Toronto Mike on June 21, 2008 @ 16:14 in Technology
My kids will never know a time before the World Wide Web. I was already in university when the web arrived, so I have many memories of doing things that I no longer do as a result of this communications revolution. Here are some things that the web has replaced.
Encyclopedias - I think everyone over the age of 30 remembers the encyclopedia as the definitive reference point. It's where I'd start when doing an assignment or writing an essay. The thing about encyclopedias was that they were heavy and expensive and out of date so quickly. Furthermore, you could read them at the library, but you couldn't take them out. The web means I don't even think about encyclopedias any more.
Maps - I remember those big maps that were impossible to fold. You had to have one to plan your route, and you needed a Perly's or MapBook for driving directions. Now, it's all Google Maps for me and the paper map you buy in stores may rest in peace.
Letters - Remember when you had to write a letter, put it in an envelope, slap an address and stamp on it and drop it in a mailbox? My friend spent a year in Sweden and we communicated in this archaic fashion. That wouldn't happen today, we'd keep in touch via email.
Reference Books - It's not just encyclopedias. I used to have one book with info on movies, another with info on rock bands and others with baseball statistics, hockey players, not to mention the good ol' dictionary. IMDB killed the movie book, AllMusic killed my rock band anthology and BaseballReference and HockeyDB killed my sports stats books.
I'm sure there's more, but these are a few things that the web has replaced. Oh yeah, throw the fax machine in there. Who's faxing anymore?