June 2007

Finally I have come across something to write about that truly talks to my site motto “where technology and fatherhood collide.” It is not very often that I can write about a new service or piece of software that can help a family. Computers are now as common as TVs and now kids have computers in their rooms, at schools, at friends houses, at libraries, etc. I’m sure that someone will say, the best protection for your kids on surfing the Internet is direct supervision, and I wholeheartedly agree. However, this is a difficult task to consistently do, so sometimes we need to rely on other methods to reduce the risk. I, personally, wouldn’t want to have to watch over my children’s shoulders as they go though NickJr.com or PBSkids.org for hours upon hours. However, I WOULD want to monitor them if they had unfettered access to ANY site on the web. Thus, there is a need for tools to regulate what can be accessed.

I did a couple of things to resolve this issue in the past. On one of my girl’s computers, I installed ZoneAlarm with some Parental Blocking of certain sites. It really slowed the computer to a crawl (of course the computer was really old as well so I’m not sure what the culprit was). Sites are categorized at ZoneLabs and then each request to visit a site is checked against their lists, I believe. It pretty much did its job, but slowly.

On another daughter’s computer (a Mac), I set up the Parental Controls on Safari. This basically sets up a “white list” (allowed list) of sites. Any other site is blocked. The big problem with this was adding a new site to the white list. You have to type in the url, enter the administrator’s password, and then add that site to the bookmark bar (you can’t really add it to any favorites folders…at least not easily). This too, was not the best solution, in fact it was a real pain in the ass.

Well today I came across a much better solution…an offering called Glubble. In my opinion, Glubble is the perfect melding of Web2.0 technologies out there. It has plenty of AJAX, real-time communication, social networking, and other things that I am sure that I will come up with later. But that is the “tech” side of me talking…the “dad” side is impressed with the service as a whole. But now, where to begin?

Installation

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I’m writing this using Microsoft’s latest beta of their blogging software called “Windows Live Writer“. There are lots of ways to do blog posts out there, from using the built-in blogging tools, to using Word 2007, to using programs like Ecto. All have advantages and disadvantages, unique and common features. Now I will add Windows Live Writer into the mix.

From the get-go, it was very straight forward to installed (even asked to install other Microsoft products like Windows Search). The wizard walking you through a Blog Account setup was easy to do and worked immediately for me using my own self-hosted WordPress site. The first wizard screen prompts you for the Blogging provider you use (first two options are Microsoft’s). I chose the third option for my WP blog (Live Writer is supposedly compatible with WordPress, Blogger, LiveJournal, TypePad, Moveable Type, Community Server and others).

Choose_weblog_type

After that, you are requested to enter in your Blog URL and the user name and password that you use to access your blog. Live Writer seems to be smart enough to be able to detect who your provider is.

weblog_login

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I’m sure that many of you have already heard of QuickSilver which is one of the most powerful, free, “finder-replacement” tools out there. QS is simply amazing in letting you quickly launch programs, execute tasks, find documents…all with keyboard commands. No need to dig through hundreds upon hundreds of folders and applications to find something, just hit the hotkey and start typing the name of the file or application or person or whatever and QS can launch, open, reveal, get info, etc. on it. Well for me, I found myself just launching applications all of the time and not really using the rest of the features. I must admit that I haven’t gone through all of them yet as there are too many to list and new ones are being added.

So the other day, I stumbled across an application called “Namely” which is basically QuickSilver with 99% of the other functions stripped out of it. All it does is allow you to search for applications by typing the name and launch them. Simple and straight forward. When you first install it, it indexes all of the applications on your hard drive (and I’m sure whenever you install new ones, it adds to the index). Then using a user-defined hotkey, you launch the search box where you just start typing. Your search results are displayed below and you use an arrow key to select the one you want and hit Enter:

Namely Search

Also, according to the author, Namely start to “remember” your most frequently used applications (there must be some kind of frequency search counter built in). The Preferences are just as simple as the application itself, with very few things to select or configure.

Namely Preferences

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While the announcements at the WWDC 2007 (Worldwide Developers Conference) in my opinion, lacked some things (e.g., new hardware announcements), the information about the up coming Leopard OS (due in October ’07) did have me drooling a bit. And, Apple has started to extend its reach into the Windows arena similar to how they did with QuickTime and then iTunes. There is now a public beta of Safari 3, the next iteration of the Apple browser.

I must say that the PC version of Safari does move pretty quickly. It is consistent with the previous Mac-only versions with very little on-the-surface changes. The website does tout the 12 reasons that Safari is “good”: speed, interface, bookmarking, pop-up blocking, inline find, tabs, SnapBack, Autofill forms, built-in RSS, resizable text fields, private browsing,  and security.

I think that many of these items do exist (some better than others) in the other prominent browsers out there (Firefox, IE, Opera). However there are a couple that are new or somewhat unique to Safari (and new to Safari 3) that warrant a tiny bit more detail.

  • Blazing Performance – yes, I do have to agree. This version of Safari is a lot faster at rendering pages. (Safari – 7 seconds for MSNBC, Firefox – 13 seconds and IE – 15 seconds) Note: this are quick and dirty tests. Firefox has a bunch of ad-blocking and other processing that is uses on my system. Safari was fast and clean with the rendering though…it did WIN.
  • Inline Find – this is probably the most elegant treatment that I have seen in any browser. The keyword that you are searching for is highlighted in a very Web2.0 way. All of the other parts of the screen are gray-ed out. Take a look at the screenshot at the bottom of this post for a more detailed view.
  • Resizable Text Fields – at first I could not figure this out for the life of me. I kept trying to drag single line text fields. This is NOT the type of field that can be resized. It is the multi-line text boxes that can be resized. Once I figured that out, it made a lot of sense.

Those, in my opinion, are the biggest differences between Safari 2 (on the Mac) and against other Windows Browsers out there. I’m sure that if I play with it more, I will uncover more. I still do love the built-in RSS feed reader too!

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Fix-it: How to remove a document stuck in your Printer Queue

June 11, 2007

Recently when I was setting up a client’s computer with Windows Printer Sharing, I ran into an issue where a document was stuck in the print queue and was brining the system down to a crawl. First I tried deleting the document from the queue the “traditional” way by opening “Printers and Faxes” and launching […]

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What HighTechDad wants for Father’s Day

June 7, 2007

I’m taking a side-step here away from my usual software and hardware posts to talk about something dear to my heart…selfishly enough, Father’s Day! I already have the best 3 gifts I could ever want, three wonderful daughters! Who could ask for more than that? Not me! So why this post then? Well, the other […]

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LogMeIn.com makes me happy with NEW macintosh remote control

June 5, 2007

Looks like LogMeIn.com has finally won my heart. For several months, I have been looking for a cross-platform solution to manage both PC’s and Mac’s. Until now, all of my PC work has been with LogMeIn and all of my Mac work has been in a state of trial (but swinging towards YuuGuu.com which I […]

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Concept: Spreading critical news viral-ly

June 4, 2007

Last week I had one of the “best” traffic days on my blog. Google Analytics shows a nice little blip: First, my blog is not one of those places where I get huge amounts of visitors (maybe someday but these things take time). I try to post things that are relevant and timely, interestingly, it […]

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