Linux

There is a lot of great free software out there that provides tremendous value. Smart programmers always want to showcase their talents and I love the fact that there is a never ending stream of interesting applications coming from the developer community. I won’t even start to mention some of the free Mac apps that I use that help me day to day, there are too many to mention. However, I discovered this great little golden nugget yesterday for those people who have a Mac laptop and who frequently bring it to different locations. These could be students or business people or just those on the go.

It’s called AirPort Location, and the premise is this. It runs in the background (requiring AirPort WiFi to be on an enabled). Once it detects a WiFi “fingerprint” (essentially, either one particular WiFi ID or a series of detected WiFi IDs or some other environmental variables) it then automatically configures your Mac environment (based on however you set it up in the application) to that environment. For example, at home, you may have a certain default printer, want your Mac to automatically attach to a networked storage device, want you screen to be a particular brightness, and certain apps to be launched. When AirPort Location detects your home WiFi, it will set up your environment that way. Then, when you go to work, once AirPort Location detects THAT WiFi environment, it changes your Mac to meet THOSE settings.

HTD_airport_location_menu

While there is a bit of a learning curve, some trial and error involved and the documentation could be a bit better, it definitely DOES work. You have a wide variety of things you can control like:

Airport_config_options

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I was lucky enough to get early access to the new release of Parallels (version 6). To put it bluntly, I was and still am impressed. Let’s face it, virtualization has been around for quite a few years. Currently on the Mac platform, VMware and Parallels have been playing a leapfrog game, one upping each other on features, performance and enhancements. While I’m not going to write a feature by feature comparison of the two virtualization products, I do feel the need to say something about the latest version of Parallels (version 6). I have been using both VMware and Parallels for a few years now, and with each iteration and release, they definitely seem to be making great advances. But the thing that got me on the latest virtualization “arms race” for Mac virtualization was the introduction of the iPhone and iPad applications that complement Parallels 6.

Parallels6_boxshot_sm

So let’s get down to brass tacks here. Both VMware Fusion and Parallels Desktop are stellar applications for virtualizing Windows or other operating systems on the Mac. I have tested out not only various versions of Windows (including XP, Vista and Windows 7) on both software platforms but also other Linux distros like Ubuntu. Both Parallels and VMware perform quite well and I feel that this multi-OS option makes the Mac and Apple hardware the only hardware that people should buy. I mean let’s face it, you can’t run the Mac OS on a Windows box unless you do some sort of Hackintosh implementation. And, of course, you have the option to run Windows in a Boot Camp instance, which means that you can dual boot Windows or MacOS within the same hardware, namely a Macintosh. That alone is worth the premium price that you pay for Apple hardware.

Here’s where I started. I have, with the recent Intel chipset-based Apple hardware, started running Windows as a dual boot option. With both VMware and Parallels, I have had the ability to boot my Boot Camp partition as a Virtual Machine (VM) instance. That means that I can work in either Windows or Macintosh environments without a second thought. (So be sure to ask your boss to pay a little bit extra to get you a Mac so that you can have all of the possible options!) Running Windows in Boot Camp is actually pretty amazing. It seems to work very well and doesn’t differ than PC environments. So, with one device, you can have the best of both worlds without limits. Apple’s Boot Camp fully supports Windows 7 as well.

But with the recently release of Parallels 6 for the Mac, the differences between virtualization software becomes apparent. I have also played with other virtualization software like VirtualBox which does a pretty good job with virtualization for free. But if you really want to have your virtualization solution fully integrated with your MacOS experience, you need to “pay to play.” While I have nothing but great things to say about VMware Fusion for the Mac, the latest version of Parallels Desktop for Mac really has made me happy.

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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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It’s been a while since my last post so I figured I would do yet another laundry list of things that I have been doing and technology I have been reviewing:

  • Updated my Blog Theme to Redoable 1.2 – still a work in progress as there are some issues preventing me from showing what I had previously
  • MAMP 1.6 - “Macintosh, Apache, MySQL and PHP” – this is a great app for testing out PHP/OpenSource applications. I use this a lot prior to actually installing on one of my sites
  • Diigo - a new level of social bookmarking and markups. This browser-addin allows you to bookmark and put comments/sticky notes on sites. Great for reviewing content on sites. Includes group collaboration as well. Other notable competitors to this are JKN and Zotero, but I liked Diigo the best thus far.
  • Particls - still in an invite-only beta, you can create news scrollers and pop-up alerts on RSS feeds. You can enter keywords that you want to get feed results on. Looks promising but I need to evaluate it a bit more.
  • YuuGuu - application and screen sharing that is cross-platform (Mac/Win). Sort of a combination of Instant Messaging and Desktop Sharing. So far, this is what I find to be the best cross platform, “zero config” sharing tool.
  • ReviewBasics - Flash-based document/image/site reviewer offering. Upload a document, assign reviewers and get in-line comments/reviews from your reviewers as an admin. I plan on writing this up in greater detail, based on an interview I had with one of the founders.
  • WootWatcher - great little Firefox add-in for checking the daily Woot.
  • Mon.itor.us – Web2.0 site monitoring tool. Looked really promising, but failed to deliver for me. Extremely slow with the AJAX implementation. It may have just been a bad week for them. Just checked it now and it seems to be running better. Will revisit later.
  • Cozi - great web-based, application and Outlook plug-in for managing your family’s calendar. Good example of a Web 2.0 implementation. Using it with my family now.
  • Access databases – spent a lot of time trying to create a complex access database with form entries, ref data lookups and other fun stuff…but hit a road-block…boy what a time suck!
  • TrillianAstra - trying to find a way to be a beta-tester on this. One of the videos on their development blog really got me excited (cross-platform, flash-based application for universal instant messaging)
  • ListPic - a Visual Craigs List browser. Say you are looking for a used car, you can browse pictures that appear within Craigs List. Neeto!
  • FileHippo - sort of a “Windows Update” but for all of your other software. Just run this small app and you will get a list of your applications that are out of date according to FileHippo.

I have done a lot of other site and tool research since the last post as well…perhaps I will update this list later with another post.

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Quick way to test if you need DST patch

March 9, 2007

Ok, you are running out of time!!! Literally! Thanks, Kris, for the comment on my previous post. Here is a site that you can just point your browser to in order to find out if you need to apply a patch for DST or not. It’s really easy to do, trust me. Click here to […]

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Check your server DST settings using PERL

March 9, 2007

The new Daylight Saving Time is almost upon us. My company is losing money now on all of the IT updates that we have to do (but that is another story, in fact, I read today that some Economic Analysts now think that the change will not save energy/money because while people won’t be using […]

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Change to Daylight Saving Time – the new Y2K?

February 21, 2007

Daylight Saving Time is changing this year, due to some decisions made in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Beginning in 2007, Daylight Saving Time is one month and begins for most of the United States at: 2 a.m. on the Second Sunday in March to 2 a.m. on the First Sunday of November Daylight […]

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Dual-boot: Mac OSX and Ubuntu (Part II)

November 13, 2006

Well, I’m making this post from my 12″ Powerbook G4, wirelessly connected to the internet using Ubuntu. Yep, you guessed it, I got the wireless working. Not the most elegant of solutions, but it works. I have have a fully functional, dual-boot, Mac OSX 10.4.8 and Ubuntu 6.10 system. So, here is what I did…and […]

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