Archive for the 'Technical Help' Category



Internet Security (in my view)

This is a lengthy response to a friend who wrote me with the following inquiry (to protect her privacy, her name does not appear):

Hey Brian,

You guys have a channel on YouTube, right? I was just curious about what you think about it. I would like to do one (all kid videos) for the convenience, but I’m worried about weirdos watching videos of my kid. I’ve tried to do a private video before, but it’s such a pain. What’s your advice?

Thanks!

Here is my long answer:

Warning: You asked. Don’t blame me for the long response. ūüėÄ

Disclaimer: I didn’t take the time to edit this that I should have. I didn’t edit for sensitivity, so please don’t be offended if I come off as insensitive. I didn’t edit for perfection. Perfection is not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. This letter is long because I lack the time to make it shorter. It is, however, full of good, important, and heartfelt information related to sharing YouTube videos publicly, and Internet security (keeping things private versus making them public).

In a nutshell, I love having a public YouTube channel. ūüėõ You should totally go for it.

I used to go to great lengths to keep all of my Internet presence private and secret. A Google search once upon a time would have revealed nothing about me, I never received any spam, and there was no possible way for anyone to stalk me by online information alone. Then I got into website design and began to learn more about online security.

The truth is that nothing is truly private on the Internet unless you have either done the research and designed the security protocol yourself, or you are paying money to have a security firm protect your data for you. Sure, services like Blogger, YouTube, and Picasa offer settings to keep things “private” (meaning unlisted, non-public), but if someone had a reason to get information about you and they were going to dig around in the Internet to do so, having a private blog or private videos wouldn’t stop them.

Blogs, social networking sites and content sharing sites have “private” settings that lull us into a false sense of security, but they offer little more protection than a sticker in your window claiming your home is protected by a high tech, expensive security system; and a deadbolt. Small time and unmotivated criminals will often turn around and go home (in fact, this is a proven method that I heard can prevent something like 60 to 90 percent of all break-ins), but anyone with an objective or strong motive will likely be undeterred.

Most passwords you use to protect your data can be revealed to any tech-savvy twelve year old with a Play Station 2. That’s right, Play Station 2 machines are being employed by amateur and professional hackers all over the world to crack passwords online due to their ability to do thousands of floating point calculations every second. Your WEP password protected WiFi signal? I can hack that in ten to twenty minutes using a laptop running software that reconstructs your password just based on your wireless traffic. (By the way, NEVER use WEP for a wireless Internet connection ‚Äď always use WPA or WPA II ‚Äď WPA takes a little longer to crack, unless the FBI is hacking in, they can do it in three minutes.) Oh, and passwords are the strongest when they are at least 12 to 20+ characters long. It doesn’t matter if it’s all special characters, length alone can protect you from these hackers.

The point being, I realized several years ago that if anyone were truly interested in getting in on my private life, my setting things up as “private” wasn’t going to stop them. So I gave up and made everything public.

The easiest way to keep things secure is to monitor what you share. On our family blog I have our phone number posted. It’s a Google Voice number. It’s not associated with my address, it’s not associated with my social security number or any of my financial information. If people dial it, it goes through a simple, mostly convenient screening process before my phone rings. When I pick up, I hear “You have a call from [it plays a recording of them stating their name here]. To pick up press one, to send to voice mail, press two,” … etc. I can share my phone number anywhere because it’s secure. If someone who calls is already in my address book, they aren’t screened. I can define certain behaviors for when they call. When my family calls, they hear a specialized greeting while my phone rings, then when I pick up it tells me who they are. I can still send them straight to voice mail if I want, but why would I do that? ūüėČ

The basic idea is to only publish things that aren’t a vulnerability (like my secure telephone number, which doesn’t create a vulnerability).

My YouTube videos are all public. Sure, a few random people may have seen some of them (in fact, my first and only comment was left by a complete stranger earlier this week – I’ve been posting my family videos there for over a year now). But most of the views are from family and friends that I direct there myself (I just wish THEY would leave comments o_O). The fact that those videos are public just makes it easier for my friends and family to enjoy them without having to go through an annoying screening process.

Some people who choose the public route choose not to put full names online (like omitting their last name, or only posting their last name) while I’ve known some people who only use nicknames on their website. You can take that route if you like, but it’s just another silly sticker. I just throw it all out there.

To quote your reason for writing:

“I would like to do [a YouTube channel] (all kid videos) for the convenience, but I’m worried about weirdos watching videos of my kid. I’ve tried to do a private video before, but it’s such a pain. What’s your advice?”

In the security profession, there is a saying. I don’t know it word for word, but it comes down to the fact that you can’t have both convenience and security. They are polar opposites and arch enemies. Any security you add will take away from convenience and convenience is not secure. So you have to weigh whether you want more security or more convenience. In this case, which is of more value? The security that you are considering implementing (private videos) is weak and cannot deliver the level of security that you believe you will be getting. So you can chose to implement it, but for what? To make it a pain for your friends and family to share in your fun family moments?

You state that your primary concern is weirdos watching videos of your kid. So you don’t take your child out in public? Sure, it may seem that the ratio of weirdos to normals on the Internet is scary, but it’s no different from when you’re at the mall. Besides, most of those weirdos who you don’t want watching videos of your kid are using torrent file sharing networks to distribute and view illegal, disturbing images of children that are much more entertaining to them than watching your child burp and giggle. The odds of them locating you online or in a mall and tracking you to your home to do you evil are relatively low.

My advice specific to your inquiry? Go for the convenience and quit worrying about implementing useless security features. To take it just a small step further, drop the private settings from your blog too. I guarantee you have at least one family member somewhere who isn’t reading your blog because they don’t want to deal with the complicated security settings you’ve set up. Even Rochelle doesn’t keep up with your blog regularly because she can’t subscribe with her RSS feeder due to your security settings.

The question remains, well if that sticker in the window really does deter crime, why drop the security settings even if they are weak? Should I just publish my passwords everywhere too? Here are a few simple things you should do that provide a greater level of security than keeping your blog and videos “private” in public:

  1. Never ever ever ever post your full address anywhere where just anyone can read what you wrote. Keep in mind that a lot of things these days are being automatically tagged with geological meta data (translation: some kind of GPS coordinates or location information collected by the device that recorded the data). So if someone wanted to know your physical location it wouldn’t be hard to track you down, but if they aren’t planning on paying you a visit and they need your address for financial reasons, you’ll have thwarted them by not posting your city, state, zip or street anywhere online (unless you’re making a secure payment or transaction, in which case you NEED to see some kind of “secure” symbol on the page and in the browser interface AND the web address should start with “HTTPS” not “HTTP” alone).
  2. Going along with the first tip, the names of schools, work places, etc. give easy ways to track down where they can find you. Don’t share that stuff online. If your family needs to know where John is working, call them. Don’t put the name of the company online.
  3. Obviously, keep all financial information private. Even how much you make should be kept extremely vague if you must share (certain income brackets represent prime targets for some criminals, you don’t want to call their attention). Something like, “John got a raise and now we don’t have to buy gas with the change we collect under vending machines anymore,” is perfect.
  4. Be smart. If you wouldn’t walk up to a total stranger and share it, your family doesn’t care either. And I’m talking about when you’re in a giddy mood about something when you tend to share things with strangers anyhow. Like when your kid does something cool and you just want to tell the world. That’s the stuff your friends and family are interested in. Share that.

I’m fairly certain you knew most of that. Just keep in mind there are only two kinds of criminals on the Internet you need to worry about. Perverts and Identity Theives.

Let’s say you open everything up to the public today (your blog, your YouTube videos, your photos, EVERYTHING online except your Facebook profile which should retain the highest level of security you can live with). Here are the two worst case scenarios, one from each type of bad guy.

Pervert. He sees a video of your kid and decides he needs to steal him from you. He is able to pay a twelve year old to hack into YouTube and provide him with some location meta data attached to the video by your computer when you uploaded it from your home Internet connection. The guy flies out to your city from San Francisco (there are a ton of nuts there, he’s likely from the city of nuts and fruit) and spends the next month trying to track you down from the vague location data the kid sold him for fifty dollars. Eventually, he finds your home and begins the process of trying to abduct the boy the same way any pervert would without the use of the Internet. Hopefully you guys would be prepared to handle that. The Internet pervert won’t be armed with any additional information that a street stalker couldn’t get without the Internet. Think about all the information you’ve opened up to the public. Is the key to your front door online? No. Public videos don’t give the online pervert any extra ammo.

Identity Thief. He finds your videos, watches your child, and doesn’t care. In the video though he sees that you have a new forty inch flat screen tv (a group of kids walking around in your neighborhood is just as likely to notice your tv and either do the heist themselves or sell your address as a target to some other thief). You must have some money. Not a lot, but who cares? He is able to link you YouTube channel to your blog by reverse following the links. He reads up on you, gets your physical location, etc. So what? In the end he doesn’t have anything more than a person digging through your garbage would have (unless you’re someone who throws credit card numbers away in tact by accident, in which case your trash can is a much bigger security problem to you than having a public blog would be!).

Obviously this is pretty watered down. There are a lot more threats out there on the Internet, but most of them you are already safe from (you stay out of the shady parts of the Internet, right?). In truth though, worrying about the threats won’t do any good. Keep your home secure like you always should, teach your children about the dangers on the outside, and you will have completely thwarted all perverts, online and off line. Monitor your credit, keep your financial information private, and just be smart, and you’ll be safe from all the other ones. Finally, I recommend passwords that are as long as you can make them (don’t go for complicated, just long ‚Äď a password doesn’t have to be just one word, do a sentence), and DON’T use Internet Explorer. Use Firefox or Google Chrome (Rochelle and I love Chrome ‚Äď it’s fast, super secure and gets information about how safe a website is from Google, and they know everything).

Those are my thoughts on Internet security. Don’t say I didn’t warn you, but once you get the basic, truly secure ideas in practice, you can relax and quit worrying about everything. OK?

I just have to say it one more time though (since I only mentioned it in passing before). Your Facebook page is the one place you do need to worry about security. Keep that as secure as possible. Don’t let Facebook share things about you that you don’t want shared. You are in control of what you share on your blog, but you have things on Facebook that you might think Facebook is only sharing with your friends, and if you don’t correctly adjust your security settings Facebook might share that information with other sites or people. Look online for help keeping your social networking sites secure, but look to your heart and your brain about what to put on your blog and YouTube channel.

Thanks for reading!

Your friend,

Brian


Update: A Kindle for Authors

My Kindle for AuthorsMy Kindle for Authors

Alas, there is still no Kindle for authors in the sense of a low cost, feature rich, power sipping device dedicated to the act of writing. For now, my favorite writing implement is my Logitech Classic Keyboard 200. It is a simple plug-and-play USB keyboard that supports everything from Mac to Windows – Linux and even my Wii included. It’s extremely comfortable to type on, and I use it on my old desktop replacement laptop (a once powerful machine that is now on the verge of death) and on my EEE PC. I love the EEE for its portability, but being a first generation model, it lacks some of the refinement most of the newer netbooks have (a¬†slightly¬†larger screen/keyboard, for example).

However, some netbooks are losing their identity and so I am proud to own a true netbook. I do not like the trend to put traditional hard drives in netbooks. A netbook should have solid state memory, even if only a little bit of it (mine has 4 gigs, and that’s plenty for writing and browsing the Internet). Companies are trying to dress the netbook up like a laptop – making them larger, more powerful, able to do things that a laptop should do. If I want a laptop, I will buy a laptop. Laptops should cost $500 – $2,000, depending on what I’ll use it for. Netbooks should cost $200 – $400.

My Asus EEE PC 4G Surf

My Asus EEE PC 4G Surf

 

Now people are trying to sell you laptops that cost $450 and do little more than a netbook, and netbooks that cost $500 – $600 and do everything a laptop should do. Personally, I don’t even think a netbook should be running Windows. I’ve heard that Microsoft is aiming to make Windows 7 able to run on netbooks (less of a RAM monger than XP and Vista, maybe), and in that case I might consider Windows an option. Until then, though, Linux works just fine on my little Asus. Sure, it’s not as user friendly as Microsoft’s OS (Linux has too many different Kernal versions for software installation to be user friendly, among other little problems), but it gets the job done just fine. I’m personally a huge¬†fan of OpenOffice.org, and all of their applications run great on my Asus EEE.

You could always use this...

You could always use this...

If you’re really, really¬†interested in something portable, that lets you write stuff and transfer it to a computer later, has good battery life and doesn’t do much more than that, the AlphaSmart products might work for you. I’m considering the act of sharing this with you my good deed for the day, since I was looking for something like this for almost a year before I stumbled upon it. Maybe I’m just bad at looking for things, but these devices don’t seem very prominent on the Internet. I discovered the AlphaSmart only months after I purchased my EEE. I’m still glad I bought the EEE instead of an AlphaSmart, but I intend to add an AlphaSmart to my writer’s toolbox in the future simply because it’s not¬†a computer.

I hope you found something here to help you find what you are looking for. If you have any additional questions, or actually wanted me to go into more¬†detail about any of this, leave your comment and I’ll get back to you.

A Word on Windows

It never looked like this on my screen...

It never looked like this on my screen...

Recently, my brother wrote me with some information I had requested, then he added this note to the end of his message:

Also, I wanted to ask you something. I might be getting a work at home tech support job soon. I just have to take a couple more tests, which would be pretty cool so I could just work at home and do animations in my free time (and get paid a lot more or work where ever I want and move around a lot). It would be great, but I wanted to see if you knew of any good web sites I could use for quick reference on how to solve various PC and windows issues. It’ll be Windows based so I’ve partitioned off about 30 gigs of hard space on my Mac and installed Windows Xp so I can meet their requirements for my home setup. They say they don’t expect their techs to know everything, just how to find out and troubleshoot (which I think I’m fairly good at) but if you had any good tips or reference sites it would really help me. I’m probably going to try to take the test by the end of the week. Wish me luck.

Thanks for your help and hope you’re doing well. I’ll talk to you soon.

I’ve been a Windows user for a long time. My family started on Macintosh with an old Power Mac (version 7+ or something, I can’t remember), but at school we went from Apple IIe to Windows 3.1 to Windows 95, and my first computer ran Windows 95 (since that’s what the rest of the world seemed to be running, it seemed like a good idea at the time). My brother went with Macintosh (smart kid) most of the time, but as his note indicates, he will be using Windows if he gets this new job. So, I wanted to share my response with you.

I’ll be happy to share my experiences with Windows with you. You’re in for a bumpy ride. Please pardon my wordiness, I’m rather passionate about this subject.

Things you should know about Windows:

1. Windows DOES randomly change settings, corrupt things and lose things for no apparent reason, all by itself. It’s not ALWAYS going to be the user’s fault.

2. Many of the bugs people will experience are completely unique to them because their problems are a result of a condition that is created by thousands of individual factors that are unlikely to have conflicted on any other machine (software installed, drivers installed, versions of drivers/software installed, hardware configuration being used, the list is endless). A simple illustrative example was the Windows XP Service Pack 1 (or 2, I can’t remember). People who had already installed software at the time of installing the service pack experienced major problems, but people who installed their service pack on a wiped (or empty) machine had no troubles at all. The simple order of installation was the crucial factor that caused systems to either crash or perform better (there was no in-between).

3. Most of the bugs in point 2 have no practical “solution,” (other than erasing the hard drive and reinstalling the operating system, which is a pain in the butt) but the user may be able to find a way to simply work around the problem and “live with it.” Ex. For several months before my Windows XP laptop had a fatal crash (the hard drive was corrupted beyond repair) the sound card would randomly fail to initialize properly. I would have to restart the computer two or three times until the sound card would magically work. I have no idea how the error was occurring, and dozens of hours on tech support would have likely made the problem worse.

4. Tinkering with settings in an attempt to solve a problem will almost always make the problem get worse, even if the same changes didn’t make things worse on another computer. This is not to say that things don’t sometimes get worse before they get better, but if you become so bold as to ask a person to change any settings, be prepared for a major meltdown and some crazy combinations of swear words.

5. Most Windows users are complete retards that barely know how to turn their machine on.

Point number 5 above leads me to write the following list-

Top 3 problems you will deal with the most:

1. After having worked as a freelance tech support guru for over a decade now, (including my time at Radio Shack) I promise that people really do leave things unplugged, uninstalled, or unfinished and somehow expect them to work. I once solved a “faulty” cable box problem by plugging it into the wall. I once fixed a “broken” cordless telephone by putting the battery in (no, not replacing a dead one, PUTTING one in). On several occasions I have helped people get their hardware working simply by installing the drivers they didn’t install (people CLAIM they read and follow instructions, but they often miss important steps and think they did everything they were supposed to). Even after fixing these “major problems” for people, many of them refused to admit they did anything wrong. They still muttered on about how the instructions should have been more clear or the device was poorly designed (I can only assume these are the same people that would sue MacDonald’s for serving hot coffee that didn’t say it was hot).

2. If it’s not a problem having to do with point 1, sometimes it’s something someone did wrong later down the road. People go into folders and delete random things that don’t LOOK important, but then when things stop working right they blame the computer. In Windows, ALL installed software MUST be removed by going into the control panel and using the ADD/REMOVE SOFTWARE tool (if not, the elusive “registry monster” will become angry, and nobody wants THAT). Every physical doohickey the computer interacts with (whether it be internal hardware or an external device) MUST have an up-to-date driver or it won’t function properly (drivers and the registry are the two biggest sources of headaches and problems in Windows).

3. All problems that do not fall under 1 or 2 can be traced back to conflicts or errors among drivers or registry entries. This is a fact of life. Most of the time, if it is a driver problem and simply updating the driver doesn’t fix the problem, a true (expensive) professional will be needed. For the registry, there are several free or almost free registry cleaners that can often fix problems of immense proportion, but if they can’t get the job done, a professional will be needed.

Conflicts and problems in the registry and drivers are difficult because 1) it can be impossible to find where the problem is and 2) it is equally difficult to restore things to a working order.

I have been researching problems before and found that installing Game X after already having installed Software Y can cause a software conflict that eventually leads to the hard drive malfunctioning. Sometimes, people will have a system that is configured and set up just right, and it works for years, then they install some new “updated” version of something that actually downgrades a driver, and the whole system gets thrown out of whack.

So, here are some things I generally ask myself about each new problem before I begin researching a solution:

1. WHEN did the problem begin?

2. WHAT changes were made to the system about that time? (New software/hardware added, a new device plugged in, an update installed, something was downloaded off the Internet, something changed [a setting, a configuration, the wallpaper, anything at all], etc. – even if it wasn’t anything NEW, if something was CHANGED, you need to know about it.) Because Windows is made by the devil, there may be no logical explanation for the new behavior. If the user doesn’t recall any changes being made to the system, move on.

3. You need a detailed description of EXACTLY what happens, the complete behavior of the system under the new, faulty conditions. Is the system running slower (the processor is over worked, possibly running a virus or malware in the background); are there any pop ups (you need the exact text, error title and any numbers associated with the errors), compared with how things used to work before, how are they working now (boot times changed, shutdown times changed, program launching changed for each or every program); if the error messages contain “Abort,” “Retry,” “Fail,” buttons, what happens when each one is pressed? If the computer shows the blue screen of death, there are usually detailed error messages on those screens (you’ll want the text of those messages as close to verbatim as possible) and some kind of error number or code.

Sometimes, in the process of collecting data about the problem, the solution will become clear (i.e. – something needs to be plugged in, something needs to be updated/installed). Most of the time, though, data collection just isn’t enough. There are some basic things you can do to check to see if the system is healthy (the Device Manager, found by right-clicking the My Computer icon and going to the Hardware tab, is VERY helpful for hardware problems), but if the routine tricks don’t work (you’ll just have to learn those by experience, I can’t enumerate them) you’ll have to look for the solution online.

Once I’ve compiled as many details about the problem as I can (and determined that a routine fix won’t work), I go to my number one resource for finding the solution to my problem: Google. I don’t use any specific resource, I don’t have any special website (other than Google) that I go to, I just search Google to find the solution.

I generally begin by typing out (or pasting in) the complete error message text into the search bar. Google limits its search strings to a certain number of characters, but the search string is long enough to pull up very unique results for long strings. (In case I lost you with the term string, it’s a computer term for anything that isn’t numerical or specially formatted data – a text message is a string, your name is a string, etc. You probably knew that, but I wanted to make sure I didn’t lose you.) If the text you searched for was too long but you didn’t get a good result, try removing common words that Google doesn’t search for anyhow (when you do the search, Google tells you that small words like “it” are removed – so do your search without those words). That way you can get a more meaningful representation of the message you are searching for.

Many times, just searching for an error’s text will take me to a site where someone has experienced the same problem and fixed it, or it takes me on a ride chasing after someone who has solved it (sometimes, you’ll find a blog post where someone experienced the problem, but the solution will be buried deep in the comments for that post).

The same technique works for error numbers, or even a short description of how the problem occurred (if the user remembers that everything worked fine before they installed WoW, try searching “error after installing world of warcraft”). Again, you’re looking for someone else who had the problem, someone who has solved the problem, or my favorite: forums run by those expensive experts.

Windows has a set of forums for just about any error you could be looking for. Most of the time, by typing in the error text or code/number one of the top results will take me to a Windows or Microsoft site. Finding the answer in those forums can be daunting since most of the time they use language and terms only the “experts” would understand. However, if you can find (and understand) the solution on an official forum like that, the solution will often work better than some of the other ones (some of them are only temporary fixes).

Also, remember that many of the more severe problems (especially software conflicts) may have been addressed by an official Microsoft Patch. By finding, downloading and installing the correct patch, things will magically return to a good state (though, in my experience something ELSE usually goes wrong as a result of installing the patch – but don’t worry, there’s usually a patch for THAT too).

Honestly, that’s all I do. If I have to spend more than an hour (or up to three hours if it’s my personal computer I’m trying to fix) trying to find a solution, and I still can’t find it, I give up. The thing is this: sometimes there just isn’t a solution. You could opt to call in an expert and pay a bunch of money, but if you’re followed all of the steps above and it was fruitless, the expert will likely end up telling you that you can fix it by paying anywhere from $500 to $2000 to repair this or replace that. It’s not worth it. The trend these days is for cheaper, better computers (HP makes a Windows notebook/netbook for under $500, and there are comparable desktops for the same price).

If the system is still under warranty, that means it’s not completely out of date and they should go ahead and repair it under warranty (unless their warranty is stupid and doesn’t cover mysterious, random meltdowns). If the warranty is expired, and it’s got a problem they can’t live with, they should back up as much data as they can and get a new computer.

Windows sucks. Everybody knows that. There are a lot of things that aren’t good for us but people do them anyway. Smoking is bad, but people do it. People know that MacDonald’s isn’t all that healthy, but we eat there anyhow. Microsoft hasn’t put out a reliable consumer operating system since Windows 3.1 (that I know of) and yet they continue to outsell Macintosh. Now, Macintosh computers are beginning to have troubles, and it’s beginning to look like there won’t be a safe operating system to turn to in the near future.

Basically, I’m saying that you are going to be doing the most futile work there is. Working tech support in the Windows environment is like doing janitorial work in an old building with completely rusted internal piping. You’ll know that the building should be condemned or gutted and rebuilt from the inside out, but all you can do is replace the cracked faucet washers and dust the shelves. No matter how much you clean things up and replace washers, there will always be leaks and water damage to the ceiling.

So, when I say that I wish you luck, I’m not just wishing you luck on the tests. I don’t mean to get you discouraged, I think the job could be very fulfilling (especially if you’re only the first step in a multi-tiered system and you can forward people up the chain after determining that you don’t know how to do something). I just hope you don’t let them expect too much out of you (or that YOU don’t expect too much out of yourself). This is going to be one of those jobs where sometimes you just have to leave it at that and say, “oh well, I did what I could but I couldn’t fix the problem because Microsoft screwed up.”

In Microsoft’s defense, their operating system is old and complicated, and most of its infrastructure was designed at a time when processor speeds were constant and nobody dreamed of what we’d be using computers for in the future. I don’t hate Microsoft, I just hate that Windows is so unreliable. When it works right, it’s wonderful. I really don’t mind it. It’s those inexplicable errors and bugs that pop up for no apparent reason that really get to me.

One final note: Not long ago I read about some 9-year-old girl from India that became the world’s youngest Microsoft Certified Professional. I thought to myself, “If a 9-year-old can do it, I can do it.” I did some looking into it and decided I didn’t want to be Microsoft Certified.

If Microsoft Certification is what you are going for (I’m not sure what kind of test you’re going to take) then the article I linked to above has a link to the official site for the certification. There you will find a whole section on preparing for an exam. Even if you’re not going to be certified, looking through some of their test preparation resources will definitely come in handy for whatever test(s) you may have ahead. Here’s the link to the Microsoft site:

http://www.microsoft.com/learning/mcpexams/register/default.mspx

I hope at least a little bit of what I have written for you helps. If you need clarification on anything, or any additional information, just let me know. I love you and will talk to you later.

I’m sure some Microsoft Fanboy out there (yes, you, the only one) is going to get all upset at some of what I said here, or perhaps I’ll offend a nice older person who is ignorant when it comes to computers and thinks I feel superior to them. Look, I don’t think I’m better than you just because I might know more about computer, and I don’t think I know everything. I readily (and happily) admit that there are many things I don’t know, can’t do and am not good at. I have, however, successfully managed to resolve many technical problems in my short life, and I get better at it every time I give it a go. I may not have stated the facts in the way that would have made you feel like you had rainbows in your eyes, but all I’ve done is stated facts mingled with some opinion-laced thoughts on the facts. If you’ve got a problem with my opinions or the way I stated them, that’s fine. Leave a comment. Just remember that it’s all in good humor from my seat, and nothing you say will hurt me.¬†

Shhh – Keep this Quiet

Shhhh. ¬†Don’t tell anyone about this post. ¬†I can’t believe I’m even writing it. ¬†Frankly, I expect more out of my self, but that is often the problem. ¬†I expect too much out of myself. ¬†Today, I’m letting something slip, I’m letting go.

I’m going to complain in public.

Sure, I complain to friends and family every once and a while, but I don’t want to be a labeled a “complainer” so I try to keep it to a minimum. ¬†Right now though, it’s all I can think to do. ¬†There is just so much to complain about.

Obviously I’m not oblivious to the things I have to be grateful for. ¬†I’m just having a hard time seeing those things. ¬†All I can think about is the stuff I’m annoyed at, the things I don’t want to do, and the people that are frustrating me.

For example, take this repair guy that came over to my house. ¬†His name is an odd spelling of a name that I have associated with a famous female singer, so we’ll call him Jesika. ¬†That’s not his name, thank goodness, but that’s what I feel like calling him.

The back story behind why we had a repair man over is long and if I were to bring it up I would begin ranting up a category five hurricane. ¬†Let’s just say we have a short in our telephone wiring in the house and we called the maintenance company for our rental home to have them send someone qualified to take a look at the wiring.

Our past experience with this company tells us that most of the time they will send out some gross high school drop-out with a bucket of paint to literally cover our problems up. ¬†“Leak in your piping? ¬†Let me paint that over real fast and call it done.” ¬†So this time I called and made it very clear that this was no paint bucket job. ¬†Someone who actually finished high school was going to have to come out and run diagnostics (something other than listening for a dial tone) to figure out where the short is and fix it. ¬†I insisted and made myself crystal clear.

They sent Jesika. ¬†Jesica is six foot three (or so), looks and acts like his dog (who I haven’t met, but one can imagine) and behaves just like the three-year-old child he fathered but couldn’t support.

Maybe I’m being a little harsh. ¬†Nah, you’ll see.

He knocked on the door, then stepped away to go inspect our telephone wire box (or whatever that thing is called).  I poked my head out the front door to look for him.

Of course, he’s very polite. ¬†“Hello sir, I hear you’re having problems with the phone lines. ¬†Did you call your phone company and make sure everything is hooked up right in the box? ¬†It doesn’t look like they hooked you up yet out here in the box.”

“Uh, yeah… ¬†We’ve been living here for a year and a half and the phones have been working fine the whole time. ¬†We only started having problems this weekend.” ¬†I tried to cock an eyebrow at him, but I’ve never been very good at it.

“Oh, wow. ¬†Really? ¬†This isn’t a new service? ¬†Oh. ¬†Wow. ¬†OK.” ¬†Defeated, Jesika’s head hung a little as he carried his bag of tools over to the front door. ¬†He unzipped it and pulled out one of those dummy yellow handsets that are used to test the lines for service. ¬†“Show me where your phone jacks are.”

“We’ve only got two…”

“Of course you do. ¬†Show me.” ¬†He wasn’t listening to me at all, so I kept talking.

“…and they’re both working fairly well – we can place outgoing calls just fine. ¬†The problem is when other people call us. ¬†No calls are coming in. ¬†Sometimes it rings, sometimes it doesn’t. ¬†I called the phone company and they ran some diagnostics that said we have a short in the wiring.”

While I talked we arrived at the first jack in the kitchen and he ripped our plug out to stick his tester thing in and check for a dial tone. ¬†“Hum, yeah. ¬†Sounds like it’s working just fine.”

“I think I already mentioned that we can place outgoing calls just fine from both jacks.” ¬†Of course there’s a dial tone, moron. ¬†I really wish I had finished that thought, we could have gotten the visit over a lot sooner. ¬†“We can’t receive calls.”

So, Jesika dials his cell phone with our phone. ¬†Yeah, that’s right. ¬†He placed an outgoing call. ¬†His cell phone rang. ¬†I really wish I had reeled back in shock and exclaimed, Oh my gosh! ¬†You fixed it! ¬†It works, you’re a genius! ¬†Of course, I didn’t. ¬†What a shame. ¬†Should’ve, would’ve, could’ve. ¬†Oh well. ¬†“Well, that’s my phone ringing, it’s placing calls just fine.”

“Yeah, I told you we could place calls just fine. ¬†We can’t receive any incoming calls.”

So he whips his cell phone back out and asks me what our number is. ¬†As soon as I begin reciting it he finds it in his incoming call log (he knew how to use his cell phone?!?) and hits “Send.”

Every once and a while a call will come through. ¬†It’s rare (most of the incoming calls are dropped) but it does happen on occasion. ¬†Lucky for us, his call didn’t make it through. ¬†I breathed a sigh of relief, and his brow furled. ¬†“That’s odd, it rang twice then went to a strange busy signal of some kind.”

Wow, really? ¬†You mean it didn’t work? ¬†Good thing you’re here to fix it! ¬†“Yeah, that’s what’s happening. ¬†Sometimes that busy signal comes on, other times the call just gets dropped and the caller gets silence, and every once and a while it’ll ring on our end but still drop the call.”

Another side note: ¬†The day before I came home for lunch after trying to reach my wife all day and went around the house trying to figure out what the problem was. ¬†I pulled everything out of the phone jacks, I called the house several times, plugged individual items in, and just ran some basic troubleshooting steps to see if I could isolate the problem. ¬†At the end of all the fiddling I was able to call the house. ¬†The problem appeared to have resolved itself, but later it reappeared. ¬†I don’t know if fiddling with stuff fixes it for a call or two, or if the problem is an on again off again thing, but somehow it worked for nearly an hour yesterday.

Today, though, it wasn’t me fiddling with stuff. ¬†It was good ol’ Jesika. ¬†I followed him past our front door and down our hall on the way to the second jack in the bedroom (after our major breakthrough at the first jack). ¬†I was explaining to him that I already knew the problem wasn’t with our phones – we got good dial tones and outgoing calls on both jacks from both devices. ¬†I reexplained that the phone company’s diagnostic revealed a short in the wiring, which is why I had requested that a specialist come out to check all of the wiring for shorts.

I think I even went as far as to tell him that listening for a dial tone on the other jack would be a waste of time, or something to that effect. ¬†He turned around to face me in our narrow hall. ¬†“Well if you’re saying that the wires need to be checked I’m not going to do that. ¬†There’s no way I’m going to rip all the wires out of the walls to check them.”

“Well, I know the jack is working just fine. ¬†The problem is in the wiring in the walls, not the jack. ¬†You’re welcome to inspect the insides of the jack, because the short could be there (though I didn’t see one when I opened it up earlier in the day), but since it’s working fine for outgoing calls I think the wires need to be checked.” ¬†Electricians can use special tools to locate problems along wires in the walls, don’t (or shouldn’t) phone repair people have similar tools?

Jesika became notably upset. ¬†“You mean you don’t want me to check the jack? ¬†You know what, you’re right.” ¬†He pushed his way past me back in the direction of the door. ¬†“I guess I’m not the right man for the job. ¬†Let me get out of your house.” ¬†He was storming off like my son does (my five-year-old son) after I punish him. ¬†“You want the wires checked you need to get someone else in here to do that.”

“Whoa, wait. ¬†I’m not asking you to leave. ¬†You’re here, you’re the repair man, please look at the jack.” ¬†I had to calm my voice as though I were trying to soothe an angry customer, which I learned to do working at the bank for so many years. ¬†“I’m just telling you that there is a dial tone and that there is probably a short in my wiring. ¬†I understand you have experience repairing phone wires, but if this problem isn’t in the jacks I need the wires inspected. ¬†You must understand, I need my phones to work. ¬†As of right now, our cell phones don’t work in the house because the cell phone service stinks here, and our phone stopped taking in calls this weekend so while I’m out I have absolutely no way to get my wife on the phone. ¬†Surely you can understand my situation.”

Reluctantly, like an angry child agreeing to do the dishes – but only because if he doesn’t do them he won’t get dinner – Jesika turned back around and went into the bedroom. ¬† The rest of the visit was littered with instances of me trying to be nice and Jesika trying not to show how angry he was.

In the end he left our bedroom with no conclusion about the jack.  He had unscrewed it to inspect it, but when putting it back together he was careful to leave it in worse shape than it was when he found it.  The screws were all loose, though I had left them all tight and secure when I opened it.

He asked for the customer service number for our phone service and went outside to make the call. ¬†A few minutes later he was calling to me through the opened door to inform me that a solution had been found. ¬†“Call forwarding has been activated. ¬†You need to turn it off.”

“We don’t have call forwarding, it’s not part of our package.” ¬†My wife had set it up, and we had gone with the most basic, inexpensive package available. ¬†No call forwarding.

“Well you do now, and it’s turned on. ¬†She says you have to dial star, star, seven, two to deactivate it. ¬†You should hear a beep beep.” ¬†So I grabbed the phone, dialed the code and heard a busy signal.

By this time I was frustrated and wanted Jesika gone.  I used my cell phone (since we were outside it worked) to dial my house phone.  Partially to my relief and mostly to my horror, it rang.  I picked up and the connection was made.

If you’ve ever accused a young child of something he swore he didn’t do, then had to admit that you were wrong later when you learned the truth, you know exactly what face was beaming at me when I looked up from the phone. ¬†“It worked?” ¬†His inquiry was rhetorical, at best.

“Yip, it worked.”

He gloated to the lady in the phone. ¬†“I told him I’m the best repair guy around. ¬†He didn’t believe me, but here he is thanking me for being the best guy they’ve got.”

He was, in his view, quite congenial after that. ¬†He shook my hand hard and eagerly retrieved a customer satisfaction survey card from his truck for me to submit. ¬†He wanted to wait around for me to fill it out right there so he could read my praise before giving it to his boss. ¬†I knew in my heart though that I would be writing about his immaturity, sloppiness and gloating spree. ¬†I told him I’d turn it in later.

He left in a very proud, chipper mood.  A couple of hours later I decided to test the phones.  I sent my mother a text asking her to call our house.  The phone rang.  I picked up and got nothing.  It rang again and I picked it up quicker.  This time she was there.  I asked her what happened the first time and she said she got a busy signal after it rang a couple of times.

Oooooh. ¬†I wanted to throw something and smash it. ¬†Deep down inside though, I was just glad Jesika wasn’t right. ¬†I tested it again an hour ago, and it didn’t even ring. ¬†I heard the ringing in my phone, but no ringing in the house. ¬†I tried that magic code again (even tried dropping one of the “stars” since it only produced a busy signal) and nothing worked.

So now, tomorrow I have to figure out what I’m going to do. ¬†The phone company will send someone out to fix it, but I’d rather not go through them until I have determined for certain that the problem is not in our walls. ¬†If the phone company repair guy find the problem on their side of the fence (from the box out to their company) they will fix it for free. ¬†If the problem is inside our house, they will charge me $55 for the first fifteen minutes of work, and $20 for every fifteen minute increment afterward. ¬†If it takes them forty five minutes to find and fix the problem, I’ll end up spending nearly $100 to have something fixed that my maintenance people should have fixed.

This isn’t the only frustrating, annoying or difficult thing I face tomorrow. ¬†In fact, if I had a “skip one day free” card, tomorrow might be the day to use it.

Oh, if you’d like to send me condolences or your pity, don’t bother trying to call. ¬†I’m completely unreachable at home. ¬†Wait until I leave my house tomorrow or just send me an e-mail.

Well, thanks for reading my rants. ¬†Sorry I’m so boring lately. ¬†It’s been rough. ¬†I think I’m managing to get through everything with most of my mind and a little sanity. ¬†We shall see. ¬†We shall see.

Reactions

I would like your reaction to my recent redesign. ¬†I chose a more organized theme (should be easier to look over and better for browsing the side bar) and did a custom header (up top). ¬†If you’re reading this through a feed reader you’ll need to click the link to go to the site and see the update.

Tell me what you think. ¬†I can control all of the elements in the image (not the text) in the header so I can change that if you don’t like it, or if you just don’t like the overall look, let me know (even though I can’t change the overall look without chosing a new theme).

Obviously, your input isn’t as important to me as my opinion, but I shall take any complaints into consideration!

Thanks.

Thoughts on Chrome So Far

I was about to write all about my problems with Chrome and Google Docs, so I did a quick document in Google Docs from Chrome, sent it to my blog at WordPress and grabbed screen shots of everything, then went to Google Docs in Firefox to grab screen shots of how it performs there and write up a quick document to show how it formats everything, then I was going to post that document to my blog to show how my work flow had been running so smoothly from Firefox.

Unfortunately, Google Docs wouldn’t post to my blog in Firefox for some strange reason (despite that I have¬†always¬†done things this way). ¬†It’s always unsettling when things suddenly stop working the way they had been working consistently.

Overall, after using Chrome for nearly two weeks I have almost no complaints.  Of course, I was spoiled in Firefox with all of the ad blocking add-ons, bookmark synchronizing and other plug-ins that will surely be a part of Chrome in the future.  From an everyday use point of view, Chrome has met all of my needs and shown me a better way to browse the web in most cases.

On the features page for Google Chrome they list ten features that have been talked about since even before the browser launched a couple days shy of two weeks ago.  Taking a shortcut in writing my official initial review of the Google Chrome browser, I am going to list each of the ten features and write about my personal experiences with that feature.

One Box for Everything

AKA, the Omnibox. ¬†Let me just say that I love¬†the omnibox. ¬†I have been trying to exploit all of its functionality since I began using the browser, and I think it may still be hiding cool features from me. ¬†It just seems to be able to do everything. ¬†You can type anything¬†into it and when you hit “Enter” it just goes. ¬†Sure, nothing is perfect, and I was hoping to be able to find a story I read earlier today somewhere by searching the omnibox, but it couldn’t find it (then, neither can I, searching the history, searching the web and retracing my steps, so I may just be dumb).

Of course, not much of what it does from a basic user standpoint is actually unique, it’s the fact that it is all combined into one place that makes it new. ¬†It highlights the main domain URL, but so do some plug-ins and beta browsers. ¬†It does both URL and search box jobs, which Internet Explorer has been doing with Microsoft’s own search when what you type doesn’t lead to a website. ¬†Of course, the ability to search using a site’s search function before you ever load the page is a wonderful new feature. ¬†The omnibox’s connection with your browsing history is extremely useful, and the fact that it has combined so many features into one place just makes me happy.

I’ve always loved Google’s approach to designing user interfaces, and they carried their ideas over to Chrome beautifully. ¬†The omnibox is, of course, the very essence this philosophy. ¬†If I didn’t have my bookmark toolbar turned on all the time the whole user interface would nearly disappear into my browsing experience. ¬†Even with the slender bookmark toolbar I feel like Chrome is a much lighter browser than most of the competition.

New Tab Page

I use¬†iGoogle¬†as my homepage, but the new tab page in Chrome is so comfortable and useful, it’s almost like home.

It’s divided into four areas. ¬†The first, and largest section being the Most Visited sites grid. ¬†The grid contains thumbnails and titles of your nine most visited sites. ¬†I’ve never used the Opera browser, but I guess this “dialer” approach is directly knocked off from Opera (I’ve also seen the feature offered by add-ons for Firefox). ¬†Below the grid there is a link to your complete web history (also a nice looking, easy to use page).

The next section at the top of the right hand column is the Searches box. ¬†Here search boxes grabbed right from sites you’ve visited and searched from are displayed for you to use. ¬†This function is separate from the omnibox’s ability to allow you to search Amazon, for example by typing “amazon.com health and medicine” to search Amazon for “health and medicine.” ¬†My Searches section has a search bar for my browsing history, Amazon.com, Wikipedia.com and YouTube.com, all places I’ve searched from lately. ¬†Rather than loading those sites to search there, I can use the omnibox or the search box right on my new tab page.

The next box below the Searches box is the Recent Bookmarks box. ¬†In my new tab page it lists the last nine bookmarks I saved. ¬†I don’t know if it grabs those based on a time frame or will always list the last nine bookmarks.

Somehow, my current new tab page doesn’t have the final box (it’s usually there, and I’m sure there’s a good reason for it to be gone). ¬†The final box displays recently closed tabs. ¬†I have recently closed tabs, but by “recent” I mean a couple of hours ago. ¬†I suppose this box is populated based on a time frame. ¬†Either way, it’s the closest thing Chrome has to an “Undo Close Tab” function.

I use the new tab page frequently, though I don’t see it ever replacing my iGoogle homepage unless it can learn to display custom updates (new Gmail messages, new Reader feed content, messages and updates from other sites, etc.) from the sites I use most.

Application Shortcuts

Admittedly, I hadn’t used this function until just a few seconds ago, but it’s great! ¬†I went to my site’s dashboard at WordPress and clicked on the “create application shortcuts…” menu item. ¬†A box popped up showing me a preview of the icon and text for the shortcut, and below there were three check boxes for creating the shortcut on my desktop (checked by default), in my start menu and in the quick launch bar. ¬†I left the default checkbox checked and hit OK. ¬†Immediately, the WordPress tab jumped out of my main browser window and the whole Chrome interface disappeared. ¬†At that point, the WordPress interface takes over and it behaves just like an application on my computer.

Just to try it out, I closed the WordPress window and opened the new shortcut.  I loaded quickly (Google Gears may have been playing a part in that) and worked beautifully.  I had originally worried that the shortcut might be an average Internet shortcut that opens in your default browser (still Firefox on my computer), but these shortcuts load in special, featureless windows designed to make the page feel like its own application.

Perfect. ¬†I love this feature and will begin creating application shortcuts for all of my favorite web applications (and some I wasn’t using just because they weren’t accessible enough).

Dynamic Tabs

Dynamic is a good word for it. ¬†Even just watching them move around so fluidly as I rearrange them, open new ones and close old ones, I love the way these tabs work. ¬†Even better is the ability dock and undock tabs from different windows. ¬†If I have three tabs open and I want to make sure one doesn’t get closed by accident while I am closing others, I can drag that tab down out of the tab bar and it separates into its own new window. ¬†When I have the first window back in order, I can drag that separated tab back into the main window and I’m back to having only one browser window. ¬†It’s fluid, it’s dynamic, it’s fast and it’s efficient. ¬†I think it’s great.

Crash Control

Aah, what a relief. ¬†Google Chrome runs each tab in a separate process on your computer so if something crashes one tab the rest of them can continue functioning. ¬†In theory this should bog the system down a bit, but I haven’t noticed a drop in performance at all (and my system is OLD – 512 MB of ram, single core processor, and so forth).

Built in with these separate processes is a process manager. ¬†I can’t figure out how to bring it up manually, but it comes up automatically if a tab is taking too long and gives you the option to shut it down. ¬†I’ve heard the process manager can be viewed by bringing it up manually, but I haven’t cared to poke around enough to find it.

So far, after twelve days of continuous, daily use, I have yet to see any fatal errors, major problems or crashed programs. ¬†The task manager has come up offering to let me wait on or close slow tabs only three or four times, and most the time I just choose to wait and the tab loads eventually (dumb slow ISP…).

Incognito Mode

True, this has been dubbed “porn mode” by many ever since the feature was made part of the new Internet Explorer and similar functions appeared through the use of plug-ins and third party applications. ¬†Basically, this is a new browser window you can open that prevents any information from being stored on your computer (cookies, history, cache, browsing information of any kind, and more).

I don’t have much use for it as a “porn mode” but I did run some tests on it to see if it could indeed mask my web browsing activity as promised. ¬†No sign of my incognito activity was recorded to the computer, just like they said.

Unless I’m trying to hide something from someone else who uses the computer, I really can’t see much of a use for incognito browsing (for me, personally). ¬†I understand there are people who would want it for one reason or another, but it’s not really that exciting to me.

Perhaps the best part about this mode is the window that loads when you first open the incognito browser window.    

Click for larger view.

I love that last bullet point of things to be wary of Рpeople standing behind you.  Especially with the nickname such a mode has earned, the idea of someone thinking they are safe looking at some dirty videos or images and someone else standing right behind them watching really tickles me.

Safe Browsing

Chrome is connected with Google’s directory of harmful sites and integrates this service into the browsing experience. ¬†While my normal web browsing habits never take me to the darker corners of the net, I can see how such a service could be quite handy.

When you are about to view sensitive data over an insecure connection the browser warns you.  Also, as with any non-Internet Explorer browser, browser specific attacks are rare.  The separate processes for each tab also provide a certain degree of safety.  For a number of reasons, Google is entitled to claim that Chrome offers safe browsing.

Of course, security holes exist and a patch has already been issued in the form of an upgrade (an easy process once you know where to go Рthe About Google Chrome menu option).  No browser (to date) can claim to be 100% secure, but Chrome makes major strides in the right direction.

Instant Bookmarks

Bookmarking a page really is easy, especially since Google borrowed most of the process from already established models.  The star icon that I first saw in Firefox (though since I avoid Internet Explorer, Safari, Opera and Netscape I suppose it could have started in one of those) has reappeared in Chrome, and it has been improved upon.

While at a page you wish to bookmark, you click the star icon and a tiny menu box opens right there with options for renaming the bookmark and placing it in a folder. ¬†There is an Edit button for more options, a Close button for if you don’t need to edit anything and there is a remove button to remove the bookmark (the same menu pops up every time you hit the star, even if the page is already bookmarked). ¬†That’s it. ¬†Simple, sweet and easy to use.

Importing Settings

When I installed Chrome it identified Firefox as my current default browser and offered to import my settings and data from Firefox. ¬†I did, and it brought all of my bookmarks and cookies over, but I don’t think it brought my browsing history, which would have been nice.

Simpler Downloads

I really do like the download manager in Chrome. ¬†There isn’t much to say about it though, because it’s just too simple and elegant to criticize or discuss. ¬†It downloads things at the bottom of the window, the tab that initiated the download gets a little green down-arrow to signify that a download is being managed from there, the corner display has a percentage and bits downloaded progress circle, and the finished download display has a menu for interacting with the downloaded file. ¬†That’s it.

The browser keeps a history of your downloads, which can be viewed like the browsing history. ¬†A default download location can be set, and an option to “ask every time” can be enabled.

General Review

Again, this browser isn’t ready to replace my beloved Firefox browser as the default browser. ¬†However, after twelve days of using it as my default browser, I have to say I’m only waiting for a few things to come together.

For one, if this post formats correctly after the transfer from Google Docs to WordPress, about 90% of my reason for leaving Firefox as the default browser will have disappeared.

If I have to go back and erase a bunch of DIV tags to get it to format correctly, I’m going to be quite annoyed and Chrome will have to start mowing my lawn before I’ll make it my default browser.

So I suppose we could consider the posting of this article the moment of truth between Chrome and me. ¬†Of course, the formatting issue isn’t the only problem I’ve had with using Google Docs in Chrome.

Here is a summary of the problems I have encountered so far in Google Docs using Chrome:

1. It uses DIV tags to separate paragraphs in the HTML.  This does not happen in Firefox.  (See screenshot below.)  The DIV tag creats an issue in WordPress, and makes the whole thing format incorrectly.

Click for larger view.

2. The main Google Docs interface page is having troubles rendering correctly in Chrome (see screenshot below). ¬†As of right now, the problem seems to be coming from a failed attempt to update the Google Docs application. ¬†Right now I’ve got a red exclamation point where the little green circle should be. ¬†That’s not good.

Click for larger view.

It never got past the 67% and now it says: “An error occurred while updating software. Failed to update software for the applications: Google Documents, Google Spreadsheets.” ¬†If this isn’t Chrome’s fault, I don’t know who to blame.

3. When assigning text as a link, a space is often inserted after my selected text.  If my memory serves correctly, this may have been happening on occasion in Firefox as well.  May not be browser specific, but it can be annoying.

4. I don’t know whether to blame Chrome for this one, but Google Docs mysteriously quit posting to my blog from Firefox after I posted to my blog from Chrome just once. ¬†Coincidence? ¬†Maybe.

Conclusion

In conclusion, it is obvious that Chrome is having compatibility issues with certain web applications (eh hem, Google Docs; though others are probably out there) and that is to be expected.  For now, I forgive Google but I expect them to fix it, especially since my problems have to do with Google products.

To be completely fair,¬†web standards play a huge role in this issue, and Microsoft’s near monopoly on the browser marked makes things difficult for smaller browsers (even Firefox).

Except for compatibility and web standard issues, I really don’t have many complaints about Chrome. ¬†Google stripped the traditional browser of many features it felt were redundant, unnecessary or overly complicated and produced Chrome with all the features it needed wrapped up into a neat, efficient package. ¬†I love the way it handles. ¬†It feels like navigating the web in a technology demonstrator prototype vehicle. ¬†Some things are a hundred times more efficient (Chrome does feel a little faster) and in other areas you’re bound to happen upon a bug or two. ¬†I look forward to future releases and upgrades, and may soon make Chrome my default browser (especially if this post works out and I don’t have to redo the formatting).

*Update: The formatting issue remains an issue. ¬†I suppose I’ll have to report this to the folks at Google.¬†

WordPress Google Docs

I love that WordPress shows search terms that are pulling your stuff up on the Internet. In fact, I love a lot of things about WordPress. I am also a big fan of Google Docs, and when I first began using this “blog” thing, I wanted to use Google Docs to post my entries.

Unfortunately, as my first post indicates, I had troubles getting it set up. I got the following message: Error decoding XML-RPC response.

Now, I’m not technical genius, and I can only vaguely describe what that error message means, but I played around a bit and got things working.

I started posting all sorts of cool stories, technical ideas, and anything else I felt like sharing. Unfortunately, nobody was interested.

At least eight people have searched for a solution to this problem and were sent to my blog and the number one search term that pulls me up online is “error decoding xml-rpc responce” from Google Docs in one way or another. I guess not too many people actually have problems with this message, but those who do have no idea where to find help for it. I may be wrong, but I also want to help out where I can. So, here’s how I solved the problem. It may not be the best way, but it has worked for me.

I’ll provide a screenshot, but essentially I didn’t use the preset settings for WordPress found in the Google Docs options for posting to a blog. At the top of the “Blog Site Settings” window I clicked on the “My own server / custom” radio button. Here are the rest of the settings I used:

(RED text means you should insert your personal information. Black means yours should be the same.)

(Click the image to view it full size.)

API:

“MetaWeblog API”

URL:

“http://mereman.wordpress.com/xmlrpc.php”

-(If you really do host your blog at a different URL, the wordpress.com part my be different too. The part before the “/xmlrpc.php” is the address you give to people so they can visit your blog.)

User Name:

mediocrerenaissanceman

-(This is the whole user name you log into the site with.)

Password:

wouldn’t you like to know?

Blog ID/Title:

The Mediocre Renaissance Man

-(This is the title displayed at the head of your pages and at the top of the WordPress site while you are at your dashboard.)

Last of all I have the box checked that says: “Include the document title when posting (if supported)” and I think you should too if you want to use the document title as your posting title.

The only warning I should mention is that when I use Google Docs to post it doesn’t go immediate. When I go to WordPress afterward it says the post is scheduled for seven hours later. If I want to post immediately I then go in and edit the post at the WordPress site, changing the settings to “Published” and the time to five minutes earlier. This works, but if anyone knows of a better way to get Google Docs to do it immediately, I could use the help.

I hope this helps, and if you have any more questions or ideas, please leave a comment.


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RSS My Favorite Quotes

  • Quote #60
    "The greatest minds are capable of the greatest vices as well as the greatest virtues." - Rene Descartes
  • Quote #59
    "There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self." - Ernest Hemingway
  • Quote #58
    "The fool doth think he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool." - William Shakespeare

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