I deal with some clients that sometimes need me to jump right in and take over their computer for a little while. This means I need software that can allow me to do this. Here are some options I’ve come across:

  • TightVNC
    The original screen commander. VNC is an acronym for Virtual Network Computing. Once setup on the computer and the ports on the router are properly forwarded, this is an awesome tool for remote accessing a computer and doing what needs to be done. You can even find mobile apps for remote access.
    The problem is that this require the client to know how to forward ports on the router. If the clients I dealt with could do that, they wouldn’t need my help initially.
  • GoToMyPC
    This access software is all over the radio trying to promote itself as a way to work from home. It does work and it works pretty well. The lag is not that bad and the access is pretty painless.
    The problem is that after 30 days they want your credit card. I wouldn’t mind paying if this was a regular part of my day. However I help about 10 clients a year and that in no way covers the cost of subscription.
  • YuuGuu
    This software has a wild name, but it works. I found this a year or so ago and they had a free version that was easy to find. I think that’s when their software was still in beta. Now it’s pretty hard to locate their free download and if you do, it’s then hard to locate where to register your free account.
    The problem with this software is that it’s the laggy-est of the three I’ve tried to date. You can work with it remotely, but expect a delay that sometimes feels a little confusing. If you know what you’re doing, no problem. If you’re feeling your way around trying to help someone when you don’t fully know what your looking for, you might get frustrated.
  • TeamViewer
    This is some software that I’ve come across and would like to try based on a few glowing forums posts. They have a free version and they have a mobile application.

Other services that I have not had the opportunity to try:

  • LogMeIn (thanks Zeroy)
    There does appear to be a free version available for this product, however there is no comparison of features letting you know what you don’t get. I also cant confirm if the free version is limited and requires an upgrade later.
  • RemotePC
    Requires a monthly plan.
  • WebEx
    Nice for online meetings, but expensive. I used this software briefly when it first launched and shortly thereafter moved to GoToMyPC. GoToMyPC was a better pay-for product at the time.

Also, here’s a nice list of product via Wiki. I’ve listed those products I’ve heard about above.

 

I was very surprised to come across this little application. Pixlr seems to work like Photoshop and it runs right in your browser. It’s free to use and seems to work pretty well.. with what little I’ve fooled with.

I discovered it while using a Chrome addon called LightShot. It allows me to take a selected screen shot. If I choose to edit the screenshot, the image is automatically uploaded to Pixlr and is ready for me to manipulate.

pixlr-testOK… It’s not as feature rich as Photoshop. But this little utility would be awesome if you were on the road, working from a laptop, need something quick… ;)

 

Many of you know I’ve been trying to get around to updating the MODSonline server. However, I’ve been putting it off for many reasons.

  • New servers mean additional expenses. I’m already paying a lot of the expense out of pocket and an upgrade would mean paying more.
  • I can’t just move to a new server without updating the backend that drives the site. And I can’t just update the backend without updating the server. The two together means… whew, more work than I care to think about.
  • If the work involved in the move doesn’t turn out to be more than expected, something will come up that is. (and it did, but that’s not for this post).

>======= Perhaps boring to most of you. skip down =======>

Trying to acquire a server that I think matches the requires of MODSonline, I ended up with difficulty in actually getting that server. I shop at ServerBeach for my servers. What I mean is that I (sorta) lease them from ServerBeach for a monthly fee similar to a normal hosting plan. The difference here being that I have full control over the entire server as opposed to a hosting plan which is usually shared with many other websites. I use ServerBeach because after shopping with many other providers in the past, I found them to be the most reliable and consistent. And reliability is really an important factor when it comes to a website you want to see running… regularly.

After having issues in picking my server (the right one for the job), I thought to check out co-location. This is when you purchase the hardware and plug it in somewhere. Why didn’t I follow through with this in the end? It turns out that reliable co-location costs about the same as a dedicated server. I’m not trying to lose money and create more work.. I’m trying to stay within a budget (that I can get away with because I always end up spending more than I can afford).

>======= Skipping done, read on. =======>

So finally, the server was chosen. I went quad core, 2Gb ram, larger storage and 100Mb net card (it was a 10Mb). The entire site WILL run faster and smoother. Download speeds should improve.

Of course, there is that thing that always comes up that makes a server move go from “simpler than expected” to ” ugh, this is killing me”. After talking with techno2sl, I realized there was something else that needed to get done.

Oh, what? You thought I was going to tell you? Sorry, no reason to ruin the surprise. You’ll find out by September 4th. Why that date? If I don’t finish the move by that date, I have to pay for two servers that month and… ouch.

 

I gave in and am spending the next 30 days testing an iphone. Now let’s backtrack and explain.

I’ve been a loyal customer of Verizon for many years now. It could possibly be about 14 years that I’ve stuck with the same carrier and it’s not because I have a thing for Verizon. It’s because I know from experience and other user experience that they have the most reliable service in the Northeast (USA).

Being a fan of gadgets a gadget freak, I’m always ready to jump on board the next greatest thing. However, Verizon really doesn’t allow me to do that. They don’t release new hardware right away and the hardware they do release is usually not as feature rich as the manufacturers originally conceived. For instance:

  • It wasn’t until about a month ago that Verizon realized their consumers like the availability of WiFi on their portable devices.
  • Want to install an application? It better first go through a year of testing by Verizon before being approved. And that’s the easy part from what I hear.
  • Tethering? I hope you know how to hack work around issues.

Aside from all those issues, I convinced myself it was the right thing to do to remain with a provider that was reliable above all other things. Then comes the iPhone.

My wife gave me an iTouch (iPod Touch) for Christmas last year. I fell in love with this new gadget. Not only is it a wonderful piece of hardware, it’s forever evolving thanks to applications. The ability to create an application and get it approved by Apple is so easy, anyone can do it. Heck, even I have a game coming out in about week (stay tuned for that bit of awesomeness). Applications to a gadget enthusiast freak such as myself is the equivalent of a bag full of gadgets.

The problem I’ve been having is that in order to get everything you can out of this new piece of hardware, you need to purchase the iPhone. And the problem with such a purchase is you have to sign up for an AT&T account as opposed to Verizon.

The plan was to head over to a Verizon store to see what kind of savings I could get out of my account by dropping services and then to head over to an AT&T store to see what kind of testing (try and return if I don’t like) I could perform on the iPhone.¬† At the last minute I realized the short path was to head to the local Best Buy where all the services were available in one location.

*Note: I have found that if you know as much as or a little more than the service provider, they will drop all the bullsh!t and tell you truth. Rather then make sure they don’t lose any money from additional services (which I know they are specifically instructed to do), I had the guy telling me everything about the company and how to get the lowest bill possible in my situation.

*Note 2: In case you wanted to know, Verizon will be launching 4G in the 4th quarter of this year which could quite possibly mean future iPhones on the Verizon network about a year after that. Also, they are interested in getting involved in the Andriod phone business, but haven’t figured out how to go about it. Expect a response next year regarding this.

Let me cut to the chase. I am testing my iPhone for the next 30 days in which time I can cancel my contract with AT&T without penalty. So far, it works. The service isn’t as bad as I’ve been told. I might change my mind about this in another week, but so far… why did I wait so long? I’ll let you know what happens.

 

I’m not sure how many of you know about Google’s Notebook application. If not, it’s just what it sounds like, an application for taking multiple notes. Think of it like Twitter for Google Documents.

I’ve been a regular user of Google Notebook for recording the weekly topics for the MODSonair program I do every Sunday. During the week, I sift through the daily news articles and find topics that may or may not be good to talk about. I throw those topics into the Notebook application and review them at the end of the week when I put together a more comprehensive topics list.

A year or more ago, Google developed a FireFox add-on (aka extension) that made it extremely simple to select text from a page and insert that selection into your Notebook along with a URL back to the source page. Making notes could not be easier:

  1. Find a topic worth discussing.
  2. Select the title and perhaps some of the text or even an image.
  3. Right click the selection and choose to “Note This”.

That what the whole process of taking notes. In the end, all the notes were available on a single page where I could sort through them, remember what it was about via the text I selected and noted and click the URL to go back to that noted page before adding it officially to the topics list.

I believe it was earlier this year that Google decided to discontinue support of their add-on. It was still functional, but I wasn’t to expect any future improvements.

About a month ago, Google took the add-on download off of their website. Until then, you could visit your Notebook page and grab it from a link at the top of the page. It’s possible that this was only available to existing Notebook users, but still the file was available for download. Not any longer.

Yesterday, Mozilla released FireFox 3.5 which put the near final nail in the Google Notebook add-on coffin. The add-on no longer worked.

I spent about half an hour searching the net for a replacement. I almost found one until I realized their FireFox add-ons also didn’t work in the new FireFox. So, I popped open the source code for the add-on and decided to make it work. A few minutes later, the add-on is installed and running like new. (read on for a link if you want the add-on).

This is going to probably kill the Google Notebook application. I can’t see why anyone would use it if it didn’t have a quick-add tool. The Google toolbar doesn’t support similar functionality, so why use the Notebook application when the Documents application does pretty much the same thing. Perhaps Google Wave is going to be the replacement?

Anyway, for those of you who miss the add-on as much as I did or if you just want to try it out, I have made it available for you. Use the link below to download and install the FireFox add-on good for the 3.5.* version of FireFox. I’m not ready to give it up yet myself.

Update: Good for 3.9.*

Google Notebook Add-on 1.0.0.25

 

I was really enjoying my running. I finally reached a goal of 5 continuous miles a day and I wanted to make that (every other day actually) my normal routine. For some reason, I’ve been enjoying the workout. I bet it’s related to my level-up-atitus.

However, this week I decided I needed to consult a doctor. See, my leg has gone numb and that can’t be good. The doctor says that I have a pinched nerve in my back that is causing my leg to lose feeling. Part of my therapy requires that I don’t overwork my lower extremeties… ie, no more running.

Yeah, I can start running again after this is all worked out. But it’s going to take weeks and I’m going to lose all the progress I’ve made. I’m also concerned that I am going to lose the enthusiasm I had for running.

The cause? My job. Who here thinks that computer work could cause so many problems. 3 years ago I hurt my hip. That required me to move my wallet to my front pocket and regularly wear running shoes. 2 years before that my shoulder lost it’s range of motion thanks to the almighty mouse. That ended up in new office chairs with adjustable arms.

So, watch out those of you who seek a desk job. There are medical risks to consider. :/

Jun 112009
 

I just got Nike+ gear for my ipod. See, over the last 6 months I decided I needed to lose some weight. In doing so I took up running, lifting and eating better. Since I spend so much time (and I mean A LOT OF TIME) behind the keyboard, I don’t get a chance to burn off the calories I digest.

Anyway, I’ve been enjoying my runs. However, I’ve been wanting a way to track my progress better than mapping it out on Google and writing it in my journal. I’ve known about Nike+ for a while now, but thought it required Nike sneakers of which I am not too fond.

A few days ago, I realized you didn’t need the sneakers. You could purchase a small pouch to attach the tracker to the laces on your sneakers and everything is supposed to work from there.

Today I gave it a go and it actually worked. I was quite surpised at the accuracy of the run. Now I look forward to doing some more.

Interested in more info? Well, you need an iPod touch or an iPod nano. I have a touch. If you have the touch (not sure about the version of touch required), you only need to purchase the tracking fob which is currently about $19 from Best Buy. If you don’t know if your device will sync without the wireless tracker as I didn’t or if you have the iPod Nano, the whole kit is $30 and called the Nike – Sports Kit. Next I recommend the laces holder for the fob called the DLO Action Pocket for Nuke+ Shoe Sensor. This holds it to your shoe and you don’t need Nike shoes now.

That’s all you need. Registration and tracking at the Nike site is free.

Oh, and if you’re wondering, I lost over 30 pounds and completed my diet on May 15th. I just enjoy it enough to keep going.

 

This past weekend I decided to give Windows 7 a try. I’ve been fooling with the beta and went all in by installing RC1 on my main desktop computer. It was going quite well, until the broadcast for MODSonair.

The broadcast seemed to be going well. However, when I went back to work with the recorded version of the show, the quality was really poor. Let me lay out the scenario for you following along at home. Perhaps you can give me some advice on what to change… even if it’s the whole routine.

  • I’m currently using Webcammax to mix and broadcast the video. I need a means of overlaying text and pictures as well as using PIP with about 7 sources. Yeah, I know that’s a lot, but how else can I get in an overlay picture, 4 other video feeds (the other hosts), a picture or video of the topic in discussion and the chat window.
  • Webcammax also does the recording of the video that I produce and release later in the week. It does have an option to go to AVI, but for some reason I can’t get the audio to record. The video is now working, but no audio. Strange.
  • I also capture the audio separately so I can clean it up in production. I could use this audio with the video, however it’s more difficult to insert without reference and I’m concerned something could go wrong. Maybe I’m paranoid.
  • All of this I stream to a broadcast agent such as Stickam.

I’m up for a whole change of process if someone can offer me a solution that works. Ideally, I would LOVE to broadcast in HD. However, webcammax is really limited and there is no other solution out there of which I am aware. Is there?

If you suggest that I try using a Mac-based software option, know that I have a Mac Mini. I’ve been assuming that the Mac Mini can’t handle the job I have here so I haven’t looked into this as a fix.

 

What is going on here?

A couple days ago, my keyboard took a header off my desk. It appeared to be working fine until I rebooted later that day. Then the keyboard was shot.. no connection.. it was dead.

Fine, I don’t mind getting something new. So off to the store I went.

I’ve been a great supporter of all things Logitech. With that in mind, I carefully decided to hit upon the new Logitech Wave keyboard. I need something friendlly on the wrists and happy for my fingers.

Today, about 2 days later, I am typing away for the MOSDonair MODSonair show, getting ready for the broadcast and I find that all my iterations of the show’s name are spelled wrong. It keeps coming up with jumbled letters. I had noticed something similar to this with other words, but I just assumed it was my poor typing ksills skills.

After more testing, I found the problem. You can’t hold down more than 4 keys at once. And if you type too quickly, some of those keys will be registered as a multiple hit and jumble up on you anyway.

I knew this was an issue with the Microsoft keyboard, but Logitech… what are you doing to me!

ugh… there goes that money down the drain. And now I need another keyboard.

 

I’m in the market for an FTP file syncronization utility. Not an FTP client for upload and downloading files. Rather a utility that will download a whole website and delete files on my local drive that don’t exist on the server drive.

I’ve been using CuteFTP Pro for years and it’s really lacking in quality. I’ve lost a few files because CuteFTP downloaded a partial file and decided it was newer than the original and never downloaded the whole thing. Now it keeps giving me errors because it gets lost traversing all the subfolders. duh.

I just tried a program called SyncBack and realize now that was not what I wanted. It will sync all the files, but anything that doesn’t quite match gets uploaded instead of downloaded. That’s the wrong direction and now I wonder how many errors I’ve created.

Please, let me know if you’ve got anything I can try.

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