Technology


Unable To Contact Rogers On Demand

tvI haven't been keeping up with "Weeds". I've also dropped "Rescue Me" and rarely catch "The Office". My non-sports television these days is primarily focused on programs I can access via Rogers On Demand.

Rogers On Demand, channel 308 at my house, comes with TMN and is how I watch "Curb Your Enthusiasm", "Dexter" and "Tell Me You Love Me". It's also how I catch movies, because it's so damn convenient. The movie starts when I'm ready to watch and I can pause, rewind and all of that good stuff. I'm aware of the PVR option, but I'm hesitant to increase my cable bill any further. Rogers On Demand is currently my television life blood.

Unfortunately, every once in a while, Rogers On Demand goes AWOL. That's what's happening right now. When I visit channel 308, it tells me to "please wait..." and then states it's "unable to contact Rogers On Demand17". Did it try Rogers On Demand 1-16 first?

I'm precisely the kind of guy who would love a PVR. When I'm ready, I want to be able to watch my Sunday night cartoons, "The Office", "30 Rock" or whatever. Until I take the plunge, 308 will have to do.

Maybe it will actually start working again soon...

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24 in 1994 Brings Me Back

rewindWe've come a long way, baby. I just revisited 1994 thanks to this slice of funny from Collegehumor. It's the pilot for 24, filmed in 1994 and never aired.

Those early years of the web seemed so advanced at the time, and so dated in retrospect. I remember paying for Internet access by the hour, losing my connection because someone picked up the phone, receiving AOL floppy discs in the mail and building a Geocities web page. Geocities was the original Blogger, AltaVista was our Google and Netscape was our Firefox.

Speaking of flashbacks, here's a cringe-worthy peek at how things looked around here back in the day.

Update: I'm told the embedded video above disappears in IE. If you're using IE, and want to see this vid, go here.

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Thank You, Browsershots

webA couple of days ago I was buried in the wonderful world of browser compatibility. A redesign of this site was working in Firefox but not in IE6. The struggle, of course, is testing my code in various flavours of different browsers on different platforms. This is where Browsershots is a life saver.

Browsershots makes screenshots of your web design in different browsers. It is a free open-source online service created by Johann C. Rocholl. When you submit your web address, it will be added to the job queue. A number of distributed computers will open your website in their browser. Then they make screenshots and upload them to their central server.

On Linux, I saw this site behaving properly in Epiphany 2.20, Firefox 1.5, Firefox 2.0, Konqueror 3.5 and Opera 9.24. In Windows, I saw this site behaving properly in Firefox 1.5, Firefox 2.0, MSIE 6.0, MSIE 7.0, Opera 9.24 and Safari 3.0. In the Mac OS I saw everything looking great in Firefox 2.0 and Safari 2.0. I also saw that there are issues in Windows in MSIE 5 and MSIE 5.5. If you're still using a version of Internet Explorer that pre-dates 6, you'll see the left sidebar overlaps the main content. You're also out of luck because I've decided not to care about you. Upgrade your browser!

I highly recommend Browsershots for web authors. It's a fantastic service and you can't beat the price.

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Blackberried

phoneIf you've been reading this blog for a while, you'll know I've been sort of proud of the fact I've never owned a mobile phone. I was almost given a phone just for blogging about it, but I turned it down. The iPhone piqued my interest, but it's not yet available in Canada and I'm not ready to spend that kind of money on something I've lived comfortably without for 33 years.

For 33 years I've been without a cell phone, but today my streak ends. My employer just handed me a Blackberry. This is the perfect phone for me, it's a phone I won't have to pay for. The ramifications of this event cannot be overstated.

I'm now reachable just about everywhere, when I'm used to being completely uncontactable during times I'm in the car, walking the streets, shopping, or whatever. Even if I turn it off, it's got voicemail, and I'm going to be expected to check a voicemail within a reasonable amount of time. It's a virtual leash I've never desired, and now it's strapped on and ready to vibrate.

I've been Blackberried. Mark the date. I think I did quite well making it deep into 2007 before going mobile.

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My Windows History

mouseI've had an interesting relationship with Microsoft. Whenever possible, I've actively seeked Microsoft alternatives, but when it comes to the OS I've always ended up with a version of Windows. I love the spirit of Ubuntu Linux, but I'm still running Windows as my primary operating system.

Here's my personal Windows history, the OS I love to hate.

  • Windows 3.1 - Taryn bought our first PC when we were dating. She bought it from the University of Toronto computer shop without consulting me and she paid for it monthly. It was running Windows 3.1, took years to pay off and probably ended up costing her us a milllion dollars when all was said and done.
  • Windows 95 - I upgraded the aforementioned PC to Windows 95 in 1998. I should have done it a lot sooner as Windows 95 was a big jump from Windows 3.1.
  • Windows ME - In 2000, Boris helped me build a new computer and we installed Windows ME. People would tell me how horrible ME was, but I didn't have any more issues with it than I did with Windows 95.
  • Windows XP - In 2002, I moved to XP. I've since bought another new desktop PC and run Windows XP on that machine as well. I just got a new laptop and demanded XP for fear it would arrive with Vista installed on it. You see, I don't want to be a Windows guy, but so long as I'm a windows guy I'll stick with XP. I know it, it's stable enough and everything I need works with it.

Here's a great video making the rounds with all the Windows start up screens and sounds.

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My Personal IM Evolution

gaimI just realized I've been logging on to one instant messenger protocol or another for over a decade now. How I do so today is quite different than how I did so back then, and over the past ten years there's been an evolution of sorts.

Here, in chronological order, is my personal IM history.

The Early Years: Yahoo!
In the beginning, I was a Yahoo! user. Yahoo! wasn't just my search engine, it was my personal email, my news portal and my instant messenger. As Yahoo! Instant Messenger user mikeboon I installed the YIM client and logged onto that single protocol for years.

The Multi Protocol Revolution: Trillian
As more and more people were only logging on with the MSN Messenger, it soon become obvious I'd have to do the same or I'd be cutting myself off from some work-critical contacts. I refused to log in to more than one client at at a time, and I hated the thought of using a Microsoft client for chat, so I tried Trillian. Trillian was a single client that allowed me to simultaneously log into Yahoo! and MSN instant messengers and this worked well for years.

A New Discovery: Gaim
Searching for a good Jabber client for internal communication at work, I discovered Gaim (recently re-branded Pidgin). Gaim was like Trillian, only I liked the interface and behaviour better. There was even a portable version of Gaim I could stick on my memory stick so my settings could follow me everywhere I went. Gaim trumped Trillian.

Email Integration: Gtalk
Google became my new Yahoo!. That meant it was my search engine, my news portal, my email client and my instant messenger. What rocks about Gtalk is how integrated it is with Gmail. You were just online, but what about those YIM and MSN folks you left behind?

Life in the Browser: Meebo
Imagine if you could log into multiple IM protocols easily without having to download anything or install anything and your settings were the same on any internet-connected computer in the world running any modern browser and operating system? Try meebo.com. It's replaced Gaim for me and has become my YIM and MSN chat vehicle. As for Gtalk, I left him in Gmail where he belongs. Life is good when it's all in the browser.

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Wi-Fi Detector Shirt

hangerNow that I do most of my work on a laptop, this wi-fi detector shirt sounds like a pretty good idea. Geeks think of everything, don't they?

Here at ThinkGeek we're pretty lazy when it comes to technology. We expect our gadgets to do all the busywork while we focus on the high level important tasks like reading blogs. That's why we hate to have to crack open our laptops just to see if there is any wi-fi internet access about... and keychain wi-fi detectors, we would have to actually remove them from our pockets to look at them. But now thanks to the ingenious ThinkGeek robot monkeys you can display the current wi-fi signal strength to yourself and everyone around you with this stylish Wi-Fi Detector Shirt. The glowing bars on the front of the shirt dynamically change as the surrounding wi-fi signal strength fluctuates. Finally you can get the attention you deserve as others bow to you as their reverential wi-fi god, while geeky chicks swoon at your presence. You can thank us later.

wifi_shirt_anim

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Toronto Mike Goes Wireless

wirelessI'm writing this entry from my front porch. Work bought me a shiny new laptop so this afternoon I picked up a wireless router from Future Shop and just set her up. That's right, I'm a little late to the wireless party, but better late than never.

Testing the new network, I decided to play some YouTube clips for Michelle. The first thing that popped into my head was Kids in the Hall, so I played a few skits from that amazing show. You can forget how clever and hilarious that show was if you don't revisit it once in a while.

Here's some sarcasm...

Here's some drunk dad advice...

Here's the trapper...

Fantastic... and completely untethered.

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Blowing Away The BOM

webI recently inherited a web site that was littered with BOMs. A BOM is a byte-order mark which is the Unicode codepoint U+FEFF, corresponding to the Unicode character 'ZERO WIDTH NON-BREAKING SPACE' (ZWNBSP). To dumb it down a shade, every instance of a BOM displayed like  in the web browser. Occasionally IE would suppress these funky characters, but not always, and Firefox was very unforgiving.  was everywhere.

It was fun trying to figure out where these guys were and how to prevent them from reappearing. It seems there's a bug when you combine PHP files with the Apache web server and crappy Microsoft text editors. That told me how to prevent the BOM, but how would I delete a character that I couldn't see in my editor?

The solution is a hex editor. In a hex editor, you can see the BOM and therefore delete the BOM. I downloaded this Freeware Hex Editor XVI32, weeded out the nasty buggers, over wrote the BOM-infested PHP files on the server and banned text editors like Microsoft's Expression Web.

The BOMs are gone. My work here is done.

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Web Crash 2007

webIt's happening now...

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