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tech archive at the letter e
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Archive for the 'tech' Category

last.fm

Been having a blast with last.fm. Was put on to it by Joel and am really impressed by it’s ease of use and good quality (128kbps) streaming. And free!

Just plugged in my music stats to this blog so you can see the last three songs I’ve listened to. Clicking on the last.fm logo will go to my profile page.

And other than the fact that the site is down at this very moment, it’s been up the last three days I’ve used it.

it’s not IT, but where IT’S at

I just spent about 16 hours trying to find a solution to a technical problem I was having. Here’s the sitch (warning: techspeak ahead):

Mission: Site-to-Site VPN between Microsoft ISA 2004 and SonicWALL TZ170.

I expected this to be fairly slam-dunk since both Microsoft and SonicWALL had technotes for this procedure. [Microsoft document; SonicWALL document] (By the way, the SonicWALL link is complex one, so hope it works. Also, I have to say that the SonicWALL site has one of the best implementations of an interactive online support agent. You start with keywords and then it interactively asks questions narrowing down the solution. I’m sure kudos are more toward the individuals supplying the content rather than the portal provider, but still…)

Application of said documents took about an hour. Didn’t quite work. Mostly worked. I then googled my brains out. I was searching for every document, every shred of anything that might have something to do with this issue. Nada. Then I started going deep into IPSec debugging. Found specific error codes that could generate more search hits. Nada. Then went to well-known support sites for said products. One is www.isaserver.org . Great site, but the Search box didn’t even turn up documents that Google found on the same site!

Tonight, after getting a HUGE kick from What’s Up, Tiger Lily I decided to checkout isaserver.org’s forums. Registered, found a lot of activity, then did a search on the forum… bang. I found a post from someone that knew exactly what he was talking about and I was flying about five minutes later. (If you’re wondering what the problem was, the VPN tunnel had corresponding subnets configured, but packets from ISA were arriving from the ISA WAN IP and the SonicWALL did not have a corresponding IPSec policy for it. Solution, add ISA external IP to SonicWALL VPN policy and add SonicWALL external IP to ISA VPN policy.)

The moral… I got too google-centric. Google to find focus sites, then dig deep into that site’s data!

ps: I love SonicWALL products.

high-res satellite pictures of Katrina/Rita

If you have a couple hours to spare, the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency has posted a Hurricate Crisis Imagery website that has hundreds of high-resolution before and after pictures of Texas, Alabama, Louisiana, etc.

I am a big fan of Google Earth, but for some reason the site’s Google Earth option is not working for me. There is a streaming imagery viewer that has tons of data though.

Like I said, you might want to have a lot of time to browse these pics. Mostly phenomenal.

trail of breadcrumbs

Got off on a kick googling my name and found some neat old references to tech stuff gone by. This ref is a call for votes to establish the Usenet group comp.os.nt. You can see my name and email address in the votes area further down the page.

At the time I was actively involved in the BBS scene and was sysop of my own system called Etcetera Etcetera. I ran an a gateway called FrontDoor and a BBS called RemoteAccess. I still remember the author’s name, Joaquim Homrighausen. Anyhow, I was also involved with a BBS network called FidoNet. Here’s an old FidoNet listing, just search for “Smythe” or Tulsa…

Participation in FidoNet and BBSing in general allowed me to peer with experienced technical guys which is how I learned C programming. One of my first applications was a messaging tool that wouldu grab internet email and newsgroups (the big boys) via UUCP and convert them to FidoNet .PKT message formats (the BBS dialup boys). This allowed me and other users on my BBS to use internet email and newgroups from my lowly Intel 286 machine.

And that’s how I got into the internet… pre-world wide web of course. But that’s another story.

Enough reminiscence…(may not be real word)

money… it’s a gas

Finally got to the point where I was the status quo was not efficient enough and I has some spare time to switch paths. What am I talking about? Today… personal accounting software.

The whole process began as I was evaluting Microsoft’s Small Business Accounting 2006, which has just released and is challenging QuickBooks. See, I find that Intuit has no idea about user interfaces. I find navigating through their systems way too difficult. Add to that the slightly technical fact that QuickBooks is not Terminal Server-friendly makes it a real nightmare to use in network environments with greater than a few users.

So then I started to renew my complaints about Quicken, which I use for personal finance. I’ve regretted the day I bought (year and a half ago) ’cause it just didn’t have the automation you think would be in a computer application for 2005. I bank at Citibank. It’s a large bank. But does Quicken seamlessly transfer bank statements from Citibank? No.

And of course, it’s user interface is equally terrible. Anyway, Microsoft has Money 2006 for a 90-day trial. I bought the Deluxe version after 36 hours. It works VERY smoothly and has taken a huge chunk of time out of my bill payment and reconciliations. (BTW, no integrated Bill Pay features for Citibank yet, statements are fully integrated.)Money Home Page.

Anyway. SBA and Money have my vote. If you’re a new user, I have no hesitation in STRONGLY recommending both of them to you. If you’re already using Quicken or QuickBooks, you may not have reason to change unless you are just fed up with Intuit products. SBA and Money support full Quicken/QuickBooks imports, so you basically be able to move everything intact. My Quicken import was transparent. The QuickBooks import will take a little more work, but I still did my company conversion in a day (and got sweet Word invoice/receipt/etc. XML templates customized in that time too.)

Just install Money for PocketPC. We’ll see if that’s anything that will improve my quality of life.

small business specialist

Went to Ventura last Wednesday to take a Microsoft Small Business Specialist exam. Passed! Should be getting my certification materials soon and will update my company website accordingly.

55 questions. Covering topics relating to specification, installation, and configuration of Small Business Server 2003 and Windows Server 2003. I used Harry Brelsford’s exam prep book and found the practice questions to follow the Microsoft exam model very well.

ftp for firefox

I always thought it weird that Firefox did not have any ftp support to speak of. I like SmartFTP for a dedicated ftp client, but needed to give some simpler instructions to a couple users. Internet Explorer has good ftp support, even allowing drag and drop transfers. However, it’s not great for all sites and is questionably dependable. If you have Firefox, fireFTP is a great plugin. I think I might ditch SmartFTP for it!

google desktop 2

I’ve been a big fan of Google Desktop ever since it was released many months ago. Google Desktop 2 was released last week or so and I’ve been playing with it for a while. One of the most upgraded features is it’s Sidebar.

Continue reading ‘google desktop 2′

pole position

I said I’d never start a blog. I’ve also said other things.

Like… I’ve said I would never begin a conversation that began with an excuse of why it didn’t start sooner.

And with that, we begin.