// Internet Duct Tape

Geek Sanity Tip: Make Everyone Run the Same Software

Posted in Microsoft Windows XP and Vista, Technology by engtech on September 01, 2008

Working With Windows

Much like how doctor’s get bombarded with medical questions, being the alpha geek in any family or group of friends means you’ll get asked questions about computers. There’s only one way to stay sane: get everyone you know to run the same software.

Outlook vs Gmail

Case in point, I’ve had to support Microsoft Outlook for over a decade now even though the last time I used it was in 1997. Even though I switched from Outlook to Thunderbird, and then Gmail I’ve had this albatross of questions hanging around my neck. If I could convince everyone I know to switch to gmail I wouldn’t have to worry about problems like:

For me the main advantages to using gmail instead of a desktop based client are:

  • Access email from any computer
  • No “downloading email” wait time
  • NO VIRUSES! Everything is virus scanned any nothing is downloaded on to your computer without your express interaction
  • The best junk mail filtering available
  • Incredibly fast search that works so much better than manually organizing emails
  • You can keep your old email address and still use gmail as your mail program
  • Offline support with Google Gears
  • Automatically signs into other Google services like Blogger and Reader

There are many instructions on switching from Outlook to Gmail using special software like Gmail Loader (or gExodus), by temporarily setting up a mail server to importing into Gmail using IMAP, or using POP. With that last method, you can transparently use gmail while keeping your old email address.

Internet Explorer vs Mozilla Firefox

I love Firefox because of all the ways I can extend it with Greasemonkey and because of ad-block plus. Internet Explorer isn’t as bad as it used to be, but you’ll still run into strange headaches like how much more difficult it is to subscribe to an RSS feed using Google Reader in Internet Explorer than in Firefox.

Filesharing

I was a long time Azeurus bittorrent user, but I’ve found it hard to explaining to anyone else how to use the program, not to mention how poorly it performs. uTorrent is so much simplier to use, and it is so much easier to explain to other people how to use it. These are the uTorrent settings I use to work well with Rogers Canada.

uTorrent seems to work better than Azureus or the original Bit Torrent client, and I really like how it defaults to selecting individual files in a torrent to download. It also seems to have much less virii than the older quality P2P applications like Limewire and Soulseek.

There are quite a few legitimate uses of bittorrent. A lot of excellent free software is distributed using bittorrent, and as older movies, books and music comes into the public domain it is being hosted on bittorrent networks. People are sharing their public domain podcasts and video casts using bittorrent as well.

Norton Antivirus vs Anything Else

The other big problem I run into as the computer tech person is “my computer is slow”. The culprit is an easy find: Norton Antivirus. Norton Antivirus is a virus because it is more detrimental to your computer performance than actually having a virus. Nobody likes Norton Antivirus.

We’ve been trying out AVG Free as an alternative, but ran into issues with how user unfriendly it is (finding virii in the Recycling Bin, finding virii in the Outlook Deleted Trash and the difficulty in deleting the virii). Leave a comment if you have any suggestions of which antivirus to use for casual home users who aren’t tech saavy.

I keep hearing about NOD32, Kapersky, or Clamwin.

Best of Feeds – 14 links – security, gmail, google, testing, dns

Posted in Best of Feeds by engtech on January 01, 2008

RSS feeds are like cookies (that are good enough for me). Best of Feeds is a weekly collection of the best stuff I saw on the Internet this week. They’re saved on delicious and stumbleupon and cross-posted to Twitter and Tumblr as they happen and then collected together on Saturdays. I don’t blog on the weekend so read these links instead.Subscribe to //engtech to see this every week (or get it by email).

Legend

  • saves – number of people who bookmarked on http://del.icio.us
  • inbound links – number of blogs who linked to it (max 100)
  • diggs – number of people who dugg on http://digg.com

This Week at Internet Duct Tape

  • 7 Tips to Optimize Windows XP for Gaming — Playing The Witcher on Minimum System Requirements
    • One of the lures of the holiday season is to be able to hopefully squeeze in some time between eggnog, family and friends to exercise your vices. No, not heroin, but that other life consuming addiction: gaming. PC gaming is quickly going the way of the dodo, with console gaming taking over because…
  • Windows XP – Disable dumpprep when programs crash
    • One tip for improve Windows XP that I absolutely love is turning off that annoying “do you want to send an error report” message when programs crash. The sad truth is that those error reports rarely reach anyone who could fix the problem, so it’s a colossal waste of time — especially…

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Avoid Prime Real Estate for Live.com Email Address Landrush

Microsoft’s live.com is offering email addresses, and the usual land grab rush is on to “secure” your identity on the service. What most people don’t realize is that securing a “prime real estate” email address is probably the LAST thing you want to do.

An obvious email address suffers from an insidious kind of spam you’ll never be able to properly filter or get rid of: I’m talking about wrongly addressed email.

(photo by planeta)

As a gmail beta tester I was lucky enough to grab several firstname@gmail.com accounts and a couple of firstinitiallastname@gmail.com accounts. It was fine for the first year, but it has rapidly gone downhill as Gmail has risen in popularity. Now when I check my primary email account I’m lucky if one in four emails were intended for me.

I’ll get university class mailing lists, church lists, hotel bookings, and account signups by the handful. [1] It’s the digital equivalent to rifling through the magazine rack for subscription cards to sign up your ex. Except there’s no malice behind it; only ignorance and carelessness.

Good

Bad

jqpublic@live.com john@live.com
jpublic77@live.com jpublic@live.com
johnqpublic@live.com johnpublic@live.com
  gilesb@live.com

Possible email address for John Q Public

What makes it doubly-worse is that with many email programs automatically collecting any correspondence to your address book means that telling someone they have the wrong address might be enough to get you added to their address book forever. If you choose an email address with your last name, chances are that the people emailing you might have the same last name — automatic address collection means that you’ll be on the receiving end of each other’s Christmas newsletters for who knows how long.

I know I sound ridiculous, but you really can’t appreciate the number of similar email accounts on services like @gmail, @hotmail, @yahoo and now @live until you get a popular email address and start seeing the effect of several people who give out the wrong account name — yours.

Related Posts

[1] And out of all those wrongly addressed emails there was only one mis-sent dirty letter.

Password Recovery — The Achilles Heel of Your Online Security

Posted in Google Calendar and Gmail, Technology by engtech on October 31, 2007

Software

I had a fun surprise when I woke up this morning: I was locked out of my Gmail account. I sometimes play in bad neighbourhoods on the internet, and this immediately brought up worries of that I might have a keylogger Trojan, but a system scan revealed nothing. The actual truth of what happened was much stranger…

password recovery - locked out of my gmail account

Like most people who grew up in the last quarter of the 20th century I have been inundated with information technology since a very young age. I had one email address in high school, two others during university, and new email addresses with each job and change of internet service providers. For the last few years I’ve been stabilized on Gmail, but I still switch between four different accounts (real name, nickname, gaming, blog). Schizophrenic? Yes.

Email aside, I use around twelve different online user accounts over the course of a week, and many more irregularly. When it comes to those dusty accounts I often have to use the password recovery feature to retrieve my login information over email. Despite my distaste for OpenID, I have to admit that I see the appeal. Password recovery works fine only if you can remember which email account you used to sign up with and you still have access to it. Jobs change, ISPs’ switch, and that free web-based email account you got in 1999 eventually goes down.

It was that last scenario that blindsided me. Like any other web account, Gmail’s recover password feature will send a verification message to your secondary email address on file. In my case that secondary email address was a free account I used infrequently in the hazy years following the turn of the century. Because I used it so infrequently I had no idea that it had been sold and was under new ownership. And I would have remained ignorant for much longer if I hadn’t been using a common name for my gmail account.

Being a Gmail beta tester had it’s perks, one of which was being able to grab the good names before anyone else could. But as Gmail became more popular, that perk changed into a disadvantage: the world is full of idiots who don’t know what their email address is and put down your email address instead. The amount of spam I receive is almost equal to the amount of misdirected email I get because Erica T. put down the wrong email address when the professor was handing the sheet around the classroom. Often these savants trigger the Gmail password recovery cycle as they try to log in to “their” account.

I ignore these password recovery emails the same way as I ignore the misdirected emails. Unfortunately, the good Samaritan who bought the domain my password recovery email was pointing to wasn’t as laissé-faire. Things were eventually sorted out, but not before I had a heart palpitation when he tried to do me a favour by changing my Gmail password and trying to find an alternate means of contacting me. Don’t let this happen to you, and make sure you know what email address the password recovery feature is going to use for your most important accounts.

How to Change Your Secondary Email Address and Your Security Question With Gmail

Click on the Google Accounts Settings link. (It’s hidden in Gmail under Settings >> Accounts).

Click on the Change Security Question link.

gmail change your security question

Change your security question or your secondary email.

gmail change your password recovery email

The Moral of the Story Is…

Well, I’m not quite sure what the moral of the story is, to be honest. Obviously, there is something to be said for having one email address and keeping it for as long as you can. There is something else to be said for using an email provider who requires voice confirmation with personal identifying information before changing your password. Don’t get me started on the benefits of having an account name that other people are unlikely to use.

I know that I’ve got a long boring task ahead of me over the upcoming weeks. I have to assume that any other accounts that were linked to that email address could have been compromised in the 12 hours I lost control of my account. Searches of the trash and sent folders showed no tampering, but that means nothing since a smart person would have just downloaded all of the mail and started data mining with a copy. Can I safely assume because the guy went out of his way to contact me to restore access to my account that nothing bad happened to it? Would you?

Blog Tip: Creating a Blog Maintenance Start Page with Netvibes

Posted in RSS Syndication, Technology, Technorati, Twitter, WordPress.com Tips by engtech on September 25, 2007

Bloggin Tips and Tricks

In Blogger GTD, Leo mentioned that it was a good idea to have one inbox for all your blogging related notifications. I hate cluttering in my inbox, but I do agree that it makes sense to have a single point of reference rather to spend 5 minutes checking some information in one place and then spend 5 minutes checking information in another place. As Skelliewag says, those 5 minutes add up over the course of a day and by the end of it you’ve wasted an hour.

Directing everything to my inbox would never work for me, but it is possible to have a single start page for all your blog maintenance activities using Netvibes. If you aren’t familiar with Netvibes it is a combination of an RSS feed aggregator and a widget platform. It is analogous to iGoogle (but works better). In simple terms Netvibes lets you put lots of information in one place and look at information from several web pages on a single page.

blog maintenance netvibes start page

If you’ve never tried it out before then please visit http://netvibes.com — they let you play around with a default page even if you don’t have an account.

This is what I put on my blog maintenance start page. Replace internetducttape.com or engtech.wordpress.com with your blog URL.

Column 1: Comment Administration and Social Site Monitoring

blog maintenance netvibes comment monitoring

The first column is for things that I want to respond quickly to — comments and checking to see if my site is submitted to Digg or Reddit.

Box #1: Comments RSS feed: http://internetducttape.com/comments/feed

Or you could use my WordPress Comment Extractor / WordPress Trackback Extractor to get only the comments or only the trackbacks.

Box #2: Shortcuts to WordPress administration activities using the Netvibes Bookmarks widget.

Bookmarks: http://www.netvibes.com/subscribe.php?module=Bookmarks

I add the following bookmarks:

Box #3: Social Site Submission Watchdog is a custom Yahoo Pipe I created.

Click on this link then

  • change your blog URL
  • click on Run Pipe
  • copy the RSS link to Netvibes

Column 2: Blog Stats

blog maintenance netvibes check blog stats

It’s a bad idea to check your blog stats multiple times a day, but is it so bad if you’re also checking blog comments, emails and instant messages at the same time?

Box #1: This will only work for WordPress.com bloggers, which is too bad because it’s a great way to check stats at a glance.

WordPress.com Mobile Widget: http://gamespotting.net/wordpressnetvibes.html

Box #2: Technorati Rank from RSS. Another custom Yahoo Pipe. This one is a little more complicated to install because you’ll need your Technorati API key.

Click on this link then

  • change your blog URL
  • find your Technorati API key and cut-and-paste it
  • click on Run Pipe
  • copy the RSS link to Netvibes

Box #3: Filtered Blog Reactions from Technorati. This is another custom Yahoo Pipe. It shows the blog URL as the title and links to the front page instead of directly to the post.

Click on this link then

  • change your blog URL
  • click on Run Pipe
  • copy the RSS link to Netvibes

You could use this RSS feed instead: http://feeds.technorati.com/search/internetducttape.com

Column 3: Direct Communication

netvibes blog maintenance communication twitter

I use the second tab as a way to keep a quick check on how I stay in contact with other bloggers — through Gmail and Twitter.

Box #1: Gmail: http://www.netvibes.com/subscribe.php?module=Gmail

I use a dedicated Gmail account for blogging — I don’t receive any personal or work related email with that account.

Box #2: Twitter Replies RSS feed: http://twitter.com/statuses/replies.rss

This shows some of the power of Netvibes — you can view password protected RSS feeds.

Box #3: Twitter: http://www.netvibes.com/subscribe.php?module=Twitter

Create Your Own Blog Maintenance Start Page

This gives you a few ideas of how I use the service, but the possibilities are endless.

For instance there is a Facebook widget: http://www.netvibes.com/subscribe.php?module=Facebook

Not to mention several widgets that let you directly embed a web page. Using those generic modules you can embed Google Reader into Netvibes and other crazy stuff like that.

What are you going to put on your blog maintenance start page?

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