Thursday, April 26, 2007

More Joost invites

I just discovered that I have 5 Joost invites that I can give away. First 5 people to add my blog to their blogroll or website will get an invite. Post a comment with your blog and email address, and the invite will be on it's way.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Ubuntu and MythTV

I think I'm going to finally do it. I have been getting more and more upset with my cable company (Comcast), and I think I'm going to go ahead and set me up a Ubuntu/MythTV box. I have one of those Motorola DVR boxes from Comcast that I have not liked from day one. The interface sucks. But for $9.95 a month, it wasn't too bad of a deal. However, I just noticed that they have raised the rate to $11.95 a month. And the stupid guide has ads on it now. If they are going to put ads on it, the cost should have gone down. So, I want to get rid of it. And, it will certainly be a good way to get my feet wet with Ubuntu as well.

The problem is, I don't have a lot of money to spend on it. So, I will be using old equipment wherever I can. I will also be setting up RSS feed tracking for the shows I like to watch the most, so I don't need a lot of tuner cards. I will get at least one tuner card, and I'm still looking for the best deal on that. Maybe a Hauppauge PVR-150. Or maybe I'll splurge and get a PVR-500. Whatever I get, it will be hardware based MPEG-2 encoding. That will help keep the CPU requirements low. I have a machine already that is a P4 3.2Ghz, which should be enough CPU power. Hopefully, the only thing that I'll need to buy is a larger hard drive, more memory and a tuner card.

I've also decided to blog my progress. I've seen plenty of people do this already, but I think I can put a different spin on it and give it a fresh look. There are changes in Ubuntu 7.04 that makes a MythTV installation better, which I plan on talking about, as well.

So, to begin the process, my next entry will be about the computer itself. Whether or not I want to have a front computer end and a back end computer, or one computer that acts as both front end and back end.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Presents for my birthday

Today is my birthday. And surprisingly, I have a couple of gifts. You may think that Ubuntu is being released for the millions of fans that have been looking forward to it, but in reality, it's my gift. I won't be selfish and not let you have a copy. I don't mind sharing.

Seriously though, I have been playing with Ubuntu for a while and I like it, but just never thought I could make an actual switch to it. I certainly like the idea of getting away from the Microsoft tax. It's well supported. Easy to use. And very well designed. So, what's keeping me from making the switch? Basically, lack of software support. There are certain programs I need for work that are not available for Linux. A lot of what I do can be in Ubuntu. But not everything.

Now that the latest version has been released, and released on my birthday, I think I'm going to finally take the plunge. What I'll do for the apps that I need for work is run VMware and have a Windows virtual machine to run the needed programs. I'm not sure when I'll finally do it. I have too many projects going on at work at the moment, but as soon as I do, I'll blog about it here.

But Ubuntu isn't the only gift I got today. Thunderbird, an email client from the folks at Firefox, have released version 2.0. I'm a gmail user, so I really don't see a need for switching. But, it's my birthday present, so I HAVE to try it.

So many presents, so little time...

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Joost invite giveaway

I was just notified of an available invite that was added to my Joost account that I can giveaway. If you would like the invite, add my blog to your blog list or post an article in your blog linking to my blog. The first person to do this and post a comment will get the invite.

You can link to this blog (www.ronniestechblog.net) or my other blog at www.ronniesblog.net.

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Raw Feed

There are lots of places on the net that I use to help keep me up to date on the latest happenings in the wonderful world of technology. One particular site that I enjoy a lot is The Raw Feed. Mike Elgan (who also produces a great email newsletter at this site.) is the author of the site. I like the list because he has interesting things that don't necessarily make it into mainstream media.

Add the RSS to your favorite RSS reader. You'll be glad you did.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Traineo

I have been using this site for a while now, and it's pretty cool. Traineo is a weight loss and fitness tracking website. You can track your workouts, diet, and weight. And you can set up other categories to track yourself in the My Logs section. For example, my wife and I track our waist size in inches.

I don't use it to track my workout or diet, but I do use it for my weight and waist size. On both, you are able to see a graph of your progress, which allows you to see how you are doing over a period of time. That is really nice.

You can also track your BMI, Body Fat Percentage, Distance run in km and miles, Happiness, Sleep and Waistline in CM and Inches. There is also a "Cans of tuna" available which makes no sense. But, it's there. And if any of those options aren't what you are looking for, you can enter your own with whatever measurement unit and it will allow you to track that too.

But one of the coolest features is the motivator system. You can set it up so that other Traineo members can become a motivator for you. They have access to your logs, and can receive emails letting them know your current stats. If you need other people to help keep you motivated, this is one good way of doing it.

Related to the motivators is the ability to add a badge to your website or blog that also displays your current stats. I will include one of those at the end of this blog.

Overall, it's an excellent way of keeping track of your fitness goals. You may be asking yourself now, "so how much does it cost?" Well, that would be a great question. And the answer is, NOTHING. The service is completely free. So, there is no reason to not give it a try.

Now, if only it could exercise for me!

traineo

Friday, April 13, 2007

PassPack

A comment was posted on my last entry about Clipperz about a competitor for Clipperz. And, I have to say, Clipperz has some tough competition. PassPack seems to take password management up a notch, or two. I don't know who made it onto the scene first, but there are a lot of things I like about PassPack. For the most part, it's the same as Clipperz. When you add username and passwords to PassPack, it encrypts the data locally and stores the encrypted data on the servers. Like Clipperz, PassPack has no way of resetting your password for the PassPack system.

But some things that make PassPack stand out are the double passwords required for logging in. One password is for getting into the account. And the second password is for unpacking the data. It's kind of nice to have the double layer of security.


Another nice thing about PassPack is the password manager. After you have entered a username and password, you can view the record with the information and the password is scrambled. Unlike Clipperz, you can highlight the field and do a standard copy and paste to copy the password. Someone watching over your shoulder will not see the password. In Clipperz, the best I can tell is that you have to unhide the password in order to be reminded of what it is. With PassPacks way of doing it, it is never revealed.

Like Clipperz, PassPack also has disposable logins. If you are going to be using your account from a public computer, or a friends computer, you can create a disposable login that will work exactly ONE time. That way, if they have a key logger running on the computer, they will not be able to have access to your data.

PassPack is working on a direct login feature for their product, and they promise that it will be a lot easier to use than Clipperz.

One other thing that I really like about PassPack is that they offer a password generator. With a password manager like this, longer tougher passwords are possible. Especially since the password can be copied and pasted easily. And, when they get their version of the direct login, you won't even have to copy and paste it. So, having a generator that will give you more secure passwords is a huge plus.

I'll keep playing with both services and will post an entry in the future what my experiences are. If anything, if I have my passwords in both services, I'm doubly protected if one goes under. Which also makes me wonder how they are going to make money. Clipperz has an entry on their blog about it. Should be interesting.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Clipperz

If you are like me, you have LOTS of different accounts on many different sites. If you are also like me, you have the same password at all of those sites. Yes, I know, it's dumb to do something like that. I figure that the sites I go to can be trusted to not go trying out my credentials at other sites. I don't usually create accounts on sites that can't be trusted, and if I do, I use different credentials.

That being said, I have always hated this habit of mine. I didn't want to write down my passwords on paper. I didn't want to create a file on my computer with my passwords. I didn't want to use a program on my computer to keep track of passwords. Either of the last two options would be lost if the computer died. I also haven't been to keen on the OpenID thing either. I just don't trust the key holders.

So, that's where the topic of this post comes in. The site is called Clipperz. It is a site that will allow you to manage all of your username and passwords for any site on the Internet. And, it does it in a highly secure way. You could be thinking, "how is this different than OpenID? Won't they have all the keys to your information?" Well, actually, no they won't. The reason is, the browser will encrypt the data before sending the information to the website. The information to Clipperz is a bunch of noise, more or less. In fact, if you lose/forget your Clipperz username and password you're simply out of luck as there is no way they can retrieve the information for you. You can even have a look at the code they use to verify their claims.

This just looks to be the ideal solution to all of my password problems. I can now use different passwords for all of my site accounts. I won't lose the data if my computer crashes. It's accessible from any browser. I don't even have to worry about my computer getting compromised and someone finding my passwords in the password manager of my browser. It's the ideal solution.

Besides being a great way to store passwords, it's also a great way to login to sites for you. They call it "Direct Logins". When you create a "Card" for a site, you can set it up for direct login. Then, when you click on the direct login link, it will open up a new window (or tab) and automatically log you in to that site. The drawback is that not all sites will work. I'm sure Cipperz will be working on making it work with more and more sites, but it's, for the ones that work, a great way to log in.

Direct logins are created with the help of their "Bookmarklet". Basically, you drag the bookmarklet button to the bookmark toolbar of your browser. Then, on a site that you want to create a card for, you click on the bookmarklet and a popup window is displayed with code that is prehighlighted. Copy that code and paste it into the appropriate box when creating a card. You may have to clean up some of the fields that are unnecessary for logging in. But once you have the data entered and saved, you can then try clicking the direct login link to automatically log in.

Also, the site can be used for any piece of information. That is probably why they use "cards" instead of some other name. The fields are not limited to just username and password. Any field label can be used with any type of data for the information. So, whatever your secrets are, you can securely store it. For instance, bank account numbers could be stored.

The site is also completely anonymous. All you need to create an account is a username that isn't already being used, and a passphrase. No email address, or any other identifiable information, is required to create an account.

The site is still in beta and is completely free for the time being. And new features are planned for the near future. One that I'm looking forward to is sharing of data. Another function of password management I have been interested in is for where I work. I want a way to securely allow access to passwords to certain employees, and only the passwords I select. So far, I just haven't found anything that works like I want. Hopefully, the sharing feature will do just what I'm looking for.

If you are looking for a way to store passwords, Clipperz is a great way to do it.

I'm finally on Joost!

Well, I finally got the long awaited email yesterday letting me know that I was officially invited into the beta for Joost. I will have a more complete review in a few days, but initially, it looks good. The biggest problem I see with it now is that it insists on being full screen. It will run in a regualr window, but some of the functions only work in full screen mode. Why? I have no idea. The functions block viewing of the content, and would make more sense for it to be viewed/used outside the video area.

There are, also, issues of pixelation on fast moving content. Hopefully that will improve over time, but most of the video I have seen looks great. I think if I were watching it from a TV, it would probably not be noticeable. At least, not on a regular TV. And HDTV may be a different story.

And, there isn't a lot of content available at the moment. That, I assume, will change before it comes out of beta.

I don't yet have any invites. As soon as I get some, I'll offer them to anyone who wants one.

Monday, April 2, 2007

EMI is DRM free now!

Well, it looks like someone finally got a clue. It has been announced that EMI will make higher quality DRM free songs available on iTunes starting next month. The down side is that songs will now cost $1.29 each. But, you will get them at a higher quality level now, 256kbps. And songs that you have already purchased can be upgraded to the higher quality for $0.30 each.

I am just so glad to hear about this. Hopefully this will be a success for EMI, and if so, I hope other record labels follow suit. If they would stop spending millions of dollars on suing people for downloading copyrighted music, they will actually begin to make a few million.

In related news, Lucky and Flo have sniffed out more illegal DVD's. A few weeks ago, they sniffed out 3 million dollars worth of counterfeit DVDs and caused a reward to be put on their head from the "bosses" of the counterfeit ring. How much was spent on training these dogs? About $17,000! THAT is what the RIAA and MPAA need to be doing. They will see greater returns on their investment by doing things like this than to go around suing dead people and 12 year old kids. It would help their reputation, and people MIGHT actually start listening to them when they talk about how much stealing copyrighted material hurts the artists.