Friday, March 30, 2007

Gmail account consolidation, getting mail into Gmail from other accounts, etc.

GmailOne of the more recent popular series of posts on my blog are the posts about consolidating Gmail accounts and getting mail into your Gmail account.  Due to the volume of questions and comments, I have created a Squidoo lens as a central repository that consolidates all of the information on my multiple posts into one place; quite frankly, it also makes it very easy for me to update the information.

Please check out the lens via the link below and feel free to send me any additional guides, information, corrections, etc. that you may have; if you send me a detailed guide, I promise to give you full attribution and a link to your blog, website, etc.

Link -- Gmail Options Lens

P.C/C. (as in "preemptive clarification/comment") -- yes, I know that I need to update the lens with the information that Gmail's Mail Fetcher now allows you to fetch mail from other Gmail accounts -- it will be updated this weekend.

Now Minimo isn't working

So I put up this post about Minimo and how it's working on my Cingular 2125 and now it doesn't work any more.  I'm not sure what's changed, but it's super-frustrating.  Regardless of my personal issues, I still stand by the fact that if you can download, install, and use Minimo on your Windows Mobile 5 device, you should as it is much better than IE.



cell phoneI'm not sure if you've seen the ads for 42020 (the one I saw was for Billboard Hot 100 ringtones), a service that sends you ringtones for your cell phone, but I just did and as I was reading the fine print, I was pretty sure that it said it billed at $29.95 per month.  After doing a quick Google search I found that I wasn't mis-reading:

  • Verizon+Cingular: billed monthly at $29.99

  • T-Mobile: billed monthly at $9.99

  • Sprint: billed weekly at $7.99

  • Subscribers receive three realtones per week (T-Mobile 1 per week), retail value $2.49 each (Sprint $2.66). 

Wow!  I think I'm in the wrong business -- providing content via SMS sign-up is truly the new 900 number.

One good thing to keep in mind is that if you (or your kids or your employees) sign up for one of these services, SMS providers are required to stop services if you send a SMS that simply says "STOP" to the provider address (in this case 42020).

I actually know someone that got signed up for a bunch of these services and it was costing $100+ dollars per month.  Currently cell phone companies do not offer the ability for individuals or companies to block these premium SMS providers, but I'm guessing, just like 900 numbers after a few years, that the services will be available soon. 


Minimo for Windows Mobile 5


If you are looking for an alternative to Internet Explorer on your Windows Mobile 5 smartphone, take a look at Minimo.  Minimo is a Mozilla project and uses the Mozilla rendering engine to include the following features:

  • Fast access to your mobile content via Homebase start page

  • Best support for modern web standards (Javascript and AJAX).

  • Social Bookmarking

  • Tab browsing

  • RSS Support

  • Proven security (TLS, SSL3)

  • International support

  • Cross platform capability

  • Widget and Extension support

I've been using it on my Cingular 2125 and it blows Internet Explorer out of the water; I would imagine that it's even more useful with a device that has a full keyboard.

In order to make it easy to get the CAB directly on your phone, I'm providing this SnipURL:  If you put this URL into your mobile browser (or send it via SMS to your phone, which is the easiest way), it will take you directly to the CAB file download for Minimo 0.2.  Note that Minimo CAB file is about 4MB, so make sure you have room before downloading.

If you want to check out Minimo some more and/or download the installation file in a different way, I have included a link to the main Minimo page below.


Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Big e-mail changes

Today Yahoo! Mail announced unlimited storage for e-mail accounts starting in May 2007.  Obviously this takes direct aim at the e-mail storage limit of 2.8GB currently imposed by Google's Gmail.  I still think that Gmail is a better e-mail environment, but if you've hit the storage limit and no longer can use your Gmail account, you may want to look at Yahoo! Mail.

Gmail's Mail Fetcher no longer prevents you from using POP for other Gmail accounts.  This means that if you are looking to consolidate multiple Gmail accounts, you can now POP into other Gmail accounts from your primary account and get your e-mails in other Gmail accounts moved over without having to deal with any screwed up date and time information by using GExodus or similar programs.

If populating mail into Gmail from other accounts is worth spending a little money to you, I did find a simple solution to getting mail into Gmail:

  • For $24.95 for 6 months, you can sign up for a account that include both POP and IMAP access with 2gb of storage.

  • Load all of your e-mail into the Fastmail account using IMAP -- you can use Outlook, Thunderbird, etc.

  • POP into your Fastmail account from Gmail Mail Fetcher and pull all of your e-mail over.

It will be interesting to see how Gmail responds to Yahoo!'s announcement.

Link -- Yahoo! Mail 

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Google SMS finally provides flight data

google mobileI love Google SMS -- just send a SMS to 466453 (GOOGL) regarding information you need and Google SMS send you the information back.  One of the glaring missing information pieces from Google SMS has been airline flight information, but now that information is available, which is great!

Simply send a SMS with your airline and flight number and Google SMS will return flight status data to you via SMS.  Another cool feature is sending the name of the airline -- Google SMS returns the reservation phone number. 

See all the Google SMS features by following the link below.


Sunday, March 25, 2007

MediaFork (used to be HandBrake) + Core2Duo = perfect DVD ripping


I've been using my G4 Mac Mini to rip my DVD library and have to say that I've been less than impressed with the time that it takes to rip a DVD.  Today I decided to try the beta version of MediaFork to rip a DVD on my MacBook Pro.  Previously I have ripped DVDs using the standard ffmpeg MPG4 encoder at 60% constant quality and have gotten movies in the 800MB-1.5GB range at a quality that's certainly acceptable using the AppleTV.  However, I did rip one DVD on the mini using the H.264 encoder and the quality was much better, but it took around 11 hours to rip.

When I put a DVD in my MacBook Pro today and set MediaFork up to use the H.264 encoder at 70% constant quality, it ripped the DVD in less than 2 hours (film length of 2.25 hours), which is just incredible.  MediaFork is compiled as a universal binary, so it obviously takes a lot of advantage of the capabilities of the Intel processors.

In conclusion: I'll be ripping my DVDs with my laptop until I get a Core2Duo desktop.

Link -- MediaFork 

Friday, March 23, 2007

They're cracking the AppleTV wide open


And I'm not talking about the guys that are just taking apart to see what's inside of it, I'm talking about the guys that are playing with the actual software to try and make it do more things.

In near-real-time I'm watching a conversation between people on a board talking about how Apple may have disabled USB keyboard support and how they might be able to use standard OSX software to fix it.  This thread started off with figuring out how to get the AppleTV to play other formats, which became the gateway to enabling other functionality.

5 years ago this wouldn't have happened easily; 2 years ago this wouldn't have happend this quickly.

Link (I'm linking to the last page in the thread at the time of writing this post)

Oh, and people have already figured out how to upgrade the hard drive (I'm guessing you pop out the factory one, put it in an external housing, and use Carbon Copy Cloner to transfer the software to a bigger drive).

Oh, and people have figured out that a widescreen tv is not necessary; any tv with component video inputs seems to work to some degree. 

Here's what I want: iTunes lite

iTunesI've got all of my music, videos, etc. stored on a RAID that's connected to a single computer at home.  However, I still travel and work with a laptop, and I occasionally want to, for example, put some music on the laptop to listen to at work.  In order to currently do that, I have to have the full version of iTunes installed, I have to connect to the RAID over the network, and I have to copy songs from the RAID to my iTunes library on my laptop, duplicating the file; for songs that I purchased from iTunes, I have to authorize my laptop.

What I want is for my laptop to be treated just like the AppleTV over my wireless network: I want my laptop to show up as a device that I can manually manage content on and to which I can synchronize content.  I don't need to be able to access the iTunes Music Store on my laptop as I purchase all of my content on my main machine at home.

What I guess I am looking for is iTunes "lite" -- simple software with a smaller footprint on my machine that allows me to treat my laptop as an iPod through my main machine at home.  I want the iTunes lite to allow me to play DRM content and I guess it would be ok if it still took one of my DRM licenses.  There is no need for my laptop to be able to stream content like my AppleTV; I just want to be able to move some content to my laptop and update it from time to time.

Maybe there's already something like this, but if there is, I haven't seen it.  Some of you might say that there is something like this and it's called a Video iPod, but if that's your response, then you either are missing the point of this post or I am not explaining it effectively.


Oh, and while I'm thinking about it, here's something to chew on: iTunes obviously has the ability to recognize and synchronize content over wifi as evidence by the AppleTV functionality . . . and doesn't the iPhone have wifi?   

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Logitech Harmony appears to have AppleTV remote support

Good news! 

Check the screen grab below (click the photo for a bigger version):

harmony appletv

For those of you with Harmony remotes, I simply did the following from within the Harmony software:

  • "Device" tab

  • "Add Device"

  • "Computer" radio box

  • "Apple" as manufacturer from the drop-down

  •  Input "AppleTV" as the model number

The Logitech software immediately moved on to the screen grab you see above, which leads me to believe that they've got the Harmony remotes ready to be programmed to control the Apple Remote.  Although I'll be waiting to get all of my equipment and cables next week before I reprogram everything, I find this very encouraging as it has been my experience that if the Logitech software recognizes something without giving you an error, then it just works.

I am interested to see if I can get the Harmony remote to actually be the sole paired remote with the AppleTV though that is not a critical feature for me if it doesn't work.

More on this later as well, but if you are the owner of an AppleTV and are looking for a great multi-function remote that can control everything, you may want to check out the Harmony series (and be sure to shop around for sales on these things -- I got mine for $150.00 off just by searching around and I always see them on Craigslist).


The AppleTV has landed

appletvSo my AppleTV arrived this afternoon and I just couldn't wait for the cables and switcher to arrive to play around with it -- I simply put it on top of the DVD player, removed the HDMI and TOSLink cable from the DVD player, switched everything over as if I was playing a DVD, and the AppleTV logo was on the screen.

Setup is very straightforward: select a language, select a wireless network, input the wireless network password, and you cross the initial hurdles.  The AppleTV then instructs you to go to a machine running iTunes and connect it to the AppleTV using a code displayed on the screen (very similar to pairing with Bluetooth).  At first I booted up iTunes and the AppleTV didn't show up in my Device list, so I went into the settings to try to add it, but couldn't see it.  Once I exited the settings, then the AppleTV appeared and I was able to enter the code.  One word of warning: the second you enter your code and click ok, the AppleTV start synchronizing.  However, even though the sync immediately starts, you can go through the tabs an set specific synchronization parameters.  For example, I set it to only sync some specific tv shows, only sync some specific movies, only sync some specific music (it seems that if you are like me and have 5 times as many gigs of movies as the AppleTV holds that you may want to manage the music you sync by play-list), and to only sync the last 12 months of pictures from iPhoto.

Even though it was/is in the process of synchronizing, I was still able to stream DVDs that I had ripped to my upstairs machine with no problems at all; there was no discernible lag, no artifacts, etc.  It is important to note that I controlled the rip settings for these DVDs and ripped them at the highest possible resolution.

One thing that worried me when I installed the AppleTV was that the audio seemed distorted during the initial startup.  I'm not sure what caused that (poor audio recording or some problem with whatever is hardcoded on the ROM), but it has not been a problem with anything that I have streamed.  I will say that having the TOSLink out covered with a little flap that you push in when you insert the cable and that automatically closes when you remove the cable is pretty cool; no more worrying about those little plastic plugs to protect the port.

I was worried that although I am running a 802.11draft-N network, the computer that holds all of my material is only 802.11g -- this only seems to be slowing up the synchronization and does not seem to have any noticeable impact on streaming.

The video configuration is a little bit funky in that I have a Panasonic enhanced definition tv, which I thought I had understood would play 720P through the HDMI port, but, of course, 720P is considered HD although not as HD as 1080P.  For some reason, when I change the output on the AppleTV to  1080i, the picture is perfect, which I did not think would be the case; I thought I understood about EDTV pretty well and it may be that the optimal setting is 480, but I need to do some research.

I did try streaming some content that I had pulled off of my TiVo and while it's watchable, it certainly is not great, especially as compared to stuff I ripped off the DVDs.  Now that I have the AppleTV and have verified how well the ripped stuff works, I will restart my efforts to rip all of my DVD to content and get it into iTunes. 

At this point I'm trying to figure out why I even need to synchronize a lot of stuff to the AppleTV as the streaming playback is so good.  I suppose I would want some content on the device if I had to shut down my computer upstairs, but honestly that computer runs 24/7 as it is my main file and media provider for my network.  Further, I suppose if the network went down I would want some content on the AppleTV just to have something to watch, but it's hard for me to conceive of that happening in such a way that the AppleTV would still be working.  One of the limitations of the AppleTV is that it does not stream pictures from iTunes, so I do realize that I need to get all the pictures that I want on their synchronized to the device -- I do find it strange that TiVo lets me interact direct with my iPhoto library while AppleTV does not though I have heard that there is some sort of optimization process that the photos go through to make them look better on the screen with AppleTV.

Overall I have to say that I'm pretty impressed. 

More later I'm sure.  Feel free to ask any specific questions.

Note: the light on the screen is just from the flash of my camera.

Force feed readers to use your Feedburner feed when your blog is hosted on Blogger

bloggerfeedburnerOne of the challenges with the level of feed subscription management in feed readers is that the readers tend to default to a particular feed, which may not be the feed that you want your subscribers subscribing to.  This is especially prevalent when you go to subscribe to a Blogger feed with Google Reader; Google Reader likes to subscribe to the ATOM feed of the blog rather than the Feedburner RSS feed.  Unfortunately you cannot disable the ATOM feed because that is what provides content to the Feedburner feed, but you can modify your Blogger template to attempt to force feed readers to use your Feedburner feed.

I did some searching on the topic of forcing the Feedburner feed and found the full instructions on the Blogger Template Tricks blog.  Here's what you do:

  1. Find where it says the following in your template: <$BlogMetaData$>

  2. Insert/paste this code following the text above:  <link rel="alternate" type="application/rss+xml"
    href="" />

  3. Replace the instances of "Strategize" above with the appropriate title of your blog and the address of your Feedburner RSS feed

  4. Save your template

  5. If you are using the new version of Blogger, you do not need to do anything; in the old version of Blogger, republish the index.

If everything works out correctly, feed readers should automatically pull your Feedburner feed instead of your ATOM feed.

I never would have figured this out myself, so big thanks to Blogger Template Tricks.

Link -- Blogger Template Tricks

Using Google Reader trends to clean up subscriptions

google readerIf you use Google Reader, you are probably familiar with the trends portion of the site that shows you all kinds of data like how many feeds you read, how many items you've read in the last 30 days, etc. -- all interesting stuff and fun to blog about, but not necessarily super-useful.  One interesting portion of the trends that I was playing with today is in the "Subscription trends" portion under the "Inactive" tab.

Interestingly, I had 6 subscriptions that had never been updated since I started using Reader.  Luckily for me, Google put a trashcan icon right next to each feed, making it very easy for me to simply unsubscribe from the feed.

After moving through the subscriptions that had never been updated -- pretty easy to unsubscribe considering that I obviously hadn't been missing the content -- I moved on to the subscriptions that hadn't been updated for months or even, in some cases, a year.  I did some random spot checks on some of the feeds and realized that some of the bloggers had changed the host for their blog or their feed or even just stopped blogging.  Once again, it was pretty easy to unsubscribe from most of the feeds because I obivously had not been missing the content.

What all of this subscription cleanup proved to me was that bloggers really need to think hard about how they manage their subscription options.  I have been pushing all of you that currently subscribe to this blog and those that may subscribe in the future to subscribe using Feedburner.  A big reason that encourage subscriptions via Feedburner is that Feedburner allows me to keep the same feed address regardless of my blog host; once someone is subscribed to my Feedburner feed, it is invisible to the subscriber what I do as a blogger as it relates to hosting because the Feedburner feed exists independently.

Food for thought if you're a blogger.

AppleTV out for delivery

appletvEven though the e-mail that I got from Apple showed an expected delivery date of March 23 for my AppleTV, I just tracked it with FedEx and it's out for delivery this morning, which is awesome as I'll get to play with it this evening and tomorrow.

I have had to order a few additional things to get the AppleTV to easily integrate with my home entertainment system:

  • Octava 4 port HDMI switch with TOSLink.  I've covered the full features of the Octava switch before, but basically I need it because I don't have a HDMI tuner to switch sources and I only have 1 TOSLink input on the audio solution that I use.  What I didn't realize when I reviewed the unit before was that it is auto-switching between HDMI and TOSLink sources, which means that I should not need to even program the remote control functions into the my Harmony remote (I probably will anyway since the unit is supported and I have an extra IR blaster port available, but good to know still the same).

  • HDMI and TOSLink cables.  Even Radio Shack and Home Depot are raking consumers over the coals with their pricing on high definition audio and video cables.  I recommend shopping at either FireFold or monoPrice as online cable sources -- a 15' HDMI cable at FireFold is $8.06 and is $7.53 at monoPrice.

Octava did send me an e-mail stating that they were running behind in shipments, but they were hoping to ship on the 23rd, so I'm hopeful that I'll receive the switcher some time next week.  My cables should arrive either on Friday or some time early next week as well.

I think I'm going to temporarily hook up the AppleTV using some spare component video and RCA audio cables just to test it and play with it while I wait for the rest of my gack to arrive rather than permanently placing it right away.

My biggest hope is that Logitech has updated the Harmony programming site with the codes for the Apple remote so that I can program macros for AppleTV viewing and will be able to control AppleTV functions with the remote.  If anyone has any knowledge about this, I would be grateful if you would let me know.

I've seen enough unboxing pictures on the web that I don't think that I need to do that song and dance, though I am glad to if any of you really want to see my unboxing routine -- just let me know. 

Tuesday, March 20, 2007


mobivoxI got an alpha invitation for MobiVox today, so I figured I would give it a try.  MobiVox is a gateway to the Skype network, meaning that I can use my regular phone to call a Skype contact.  Although MobiVox does provide other features such as the ability to make relatively inexpensive long distance and international calls through its gateway, I'm going to focus on the Skype connectivity portion.

Upon setting up an account, I provided my Skype username and password, which auto-populated the contact list from the Skype servers.  After setting up my account, I picked a couple of local access numbers that would not be long distance calls; in reality I only use a cellphone and my cellphone has unlimited long distance, so I could have picked any number in US and not had a problem.

To test the Skype gateway, I first initiated a web-based call from the MobiVox website.  Although the website is in alpha and has the expected misspellings and interface issues, I was still able to figure out how to make a call from my cellphone to another Skype account in my house.  On the first attempt the MobiVox service called my phone, stated that it was connecting to the Skype gateway, and then the call dropped -- not encouraging.  The second attempt yielded better results as the normal ringing sound followed the announcement that MobiVox was connecting to the Skype gateway.  After being connected, the call quality was ok: not great and not horrible.  The biggest issue was that there was a discernable delay between the time that I spoke and the audio arrived at the computer and vice versa.  In using similar products from companies like Talkster, I have not noticed discernible delays -- normally I have no problems using Skype and SkypeOut over my network with normal traffic, so I think that I can safely safely assume that it was not a network congestion issue on my end.

Due to the fact that the product is still in alpha, I don't want to comment yet on their pricing model; they do have a pricing and cost tracking module built, but I'm not sure if the rates are real or just placeholders to check the system.  It would be my guess that pricing would be very similar to other players in the VOIM space.  Interestingly, the first call that did not go through was in the call history log as a 2 minute call with an associated price; again, the service is in alpha, so it's hard to judge the service based on things like this.

One of the cool differentiators of MobiVox is that you can call your local access number and interact with the system via voice recognition.  The voice recognition system can actually be queried about Skype presence, which is really cool and seems to work pretty well.  As one would expect, you can use the MobiVox gateway to not only call via the Skype network with voice commands, but also to call regular numbers if they are associated with the contact; if you only populate Skype information in your Skype contacts, then you just say the person's name and the system assumes that you want to connect via Skype.  Should you not be comfortable with voice commands, you can also use the telephone keypad to interact with the service in a similar way that you use your keypad to interact with IVR systems -- you simply hit # to let the system know you will be using the keypad.

Some of the advanced features that I have yet to play with include:

  • Conferencing.  You can instantly conference up to 9 additional traditional telephone numbers and 1 additional Skype contact by simply pressing the * key.

  • Hand-off.  If you populate numbers in your MobiVox account, you can actually have the system hand off the call from phone to phone.  For example, if you initiate the call on your cell phone, then arrive at work and want to continue the call at your office, you press * during the call and have the IVR system transfer the call.  This is a damn cool feature.

There are some other features that will be available when the service launches, but since I can't play with them, I'm not going to cover them yet.  Projected launch for the service is at this year's CTIA.

Let me know if you want to try out the service with me as I'm always up to test new products.


Monday, March 19, 2007

February 2007 is the 80% mark for home broadband penetration in the US for active internet users

Andy King sent me a link to his post with February broadband data, which has a lot of information and charts, but this one stuck out for me:

broadband feb

What I'm wondering is where is the next generation?  From looking at this graph, it is obvious that some next-generation high-speed connections are being lumped into the "Broadband" category.  I'm guessing that fiber connections represent the next generation of broadband though ultrawideband and some other methods show similar connection speeds.  What's the name for the next generation?  "Ultrabroadband," perhaps?  Or perhaps the next generation so next generation that it doesn't really even have a name yet.

In any event, my guess is that it will be increasingly harder to shrink the 20% of narrowband subscribers -- eventually providers will stop offering dial-up as an option and force dial-up consumers into broadband, but at that point chances are good that the prices of low-speed broadband will be the same price as dial-up (I actually think that some DSL plans are there now).  What is meaningful is that you can now make the general statement: "Most of the homes in the US have a broadband connection."  In other words, broadband penetration in US homes is good enough to drive new (or previously not-conceived) bandwidth-intensive businesses and perhaps force existing businesses to reach consumers in a bandwidth-intenive way.

Interesting stuff.

Link -- US Broadband Breaks 80% Among Active Internet Users

Morning multitasking workout

Generally I set aside 40 minutes every morning to work out.  Most days (i.e., the days where I am not lifting weights) I hop on the TreadClimber in the bedroom and perform a multitasking workout routine.

tc5000My goal in 40 minutes is to exceed 2 miles on the TreadClimber with not less than 2,000 vertical feet -- due to the fact that the TreadClimber moves the independent treadmill components ("treadals") up and down while also maintaining forward velocity, the machine calculates both mileage and vertical feet.  While on the TreadClimber I always read either a book or magazine -- magazines are the best as the lay perfectly open on the control panel, hard cover books are second best as most will lay close to flat on the control panel, and paperback books are the worst as they normally require 2 hands to make them readable -- and have CNN Headline News on in the background.  Once I settle into the groove on the TreadClimber, most of my attention is focused on whatever I am reading while I have the ability to look up at CNN if I hear something interesting.  Due to the fact that I work out in a period of 40 minutes, regardless of when I start during the course of any given hour, I will always get the full 30 minute digest of news that Headline News constantly re-broadcasts throughout the day.

Although you could definitely do a similar routine to mine on many pieces of exercise equipment, I like that the TreadClimber gives a slightly better workout than a traditional treadmill.  I've been fairly happy with the TreadClimber and even though some parts have needed replacement, they have all been covered by warranty and the repairs have been done without the machine needing to be removed from my house. 

Link -- TreadClimber 

Sunday, March 18, 2007

I'm done with faxing

office space smashI've been paying since the late 90s for a combined voicemail, fax, and e-mail service with uReach to the tune of about $10 per month.  In reevaluating some of my monthly costs, I realized the following:

  • I don't use the e-mail at all; it just forwards to my Gmail account

  • I don't use the voicemail at all -- everyone has my cellphone or GrandCentral number for voicemail

  • I haven't used the fax service for years

In deciding to cancel the service, which, by the way, doesn't even have a $10 per month plan available anymore (I was grandfathered in), I did look at some internet faxing alternatives such as eFax .  What happened?!  The cheapest eFax plan that allows me to send and receive faxes is $17 per month, which is unreal!  Aren't these services supposed to get cheaper over time?

The end result of my endeavors is simply this: I'm not using faxing as a medium for personal communications.  Certainly there are cases in business where faxes have a place, but for me personally, I will no longer be retaining the ability to send faxes or receive faxes.

By the way: at the time that uReach launched it was one of the coolest unified messaging products around and was nearly untouched by spammers on the fax and e-mail side.  Over the years uReach has added many features that would be awesome for small businesses and possibly even for some individuals.  I never had any problems with the service at all, rather I am simply using other services to achieve the same outcome and have made a conscious decision that I am no longer going to use one of the primary services.  If you have a need for a unified messaging solution with e-mail, voicemail, fax, and a toll-free number, I highly recommend uReach.


Friday, March 16, 2007


imifiedI hadn't really previously played around with IMified, but decided to give it a spin today.  The ides of IMified is that you can interact with web-based programs through your IM client, allowing you to not have to open other applications, web browser windows, etc. in order to populate and receive information.

To start off with, I added "IMified" to iChat as an AIM contact and . . . nothing happened.  Even though the main IMified page showed that their AIM client was online, it wasn't showing up as online, so I deleted the contact, tried it again, and then just gave up.

A few hours later, I noticed the IMified logo in my buddy list, so I sent an IM to the client.  One of the disconcerting things about IMified is that there is no account setup page on the main IMified page -- you need to send an IM to the IMified contact in order to get to the setup process.  As soon as I sent an IM to the IMified client, I received an immediate reply back with the Main Menu.  Typing back the number "4" got my some URLs for configuring my account, so I clicked the "Account Settings" URL and . . . got a note that said that I was not on IMified's buddy list and that I needed to delete the IMified entry in iChat, add the entry again, and refresh the page.

Slightly frustrated and feeling stupid, I noticed that the IMified icon was again not available in iChat.  I did add the IMified GooglTalk address through Gmail, which worked fine, but IMified still did not show that I had been added to their buddy list -- I assume this has something to do with not using the standalone Google Talk client.  In any event, I added IMified one more time in iChat, and this time it stuck, so I was able to edit my account settings.

The first service I wanted to add was a Blogger service that would allow me to do quick blog posts from iChat.  Unfortunately, IMified does not support the new Blogger API, so I was unable to post.  Endeavoring to get IMified to work for something, I added the Google Calendar and Backpack services -- both of these services worked great, and I'll probably use them extensively to quickly add calendar items and to-do items.

Sure, IMified is a little buggy, but they're very upfront that it's a free service and that they are learning along with everyone.  Although I haven't had a chance to test it, I'm very anxious to see how productive IMified will be on my mobile phone.


Vonage sucks at customer service

vonageYou've probably heard that Vonage lost a $58Mil lawsuit to Verizon over some VOIP patents -- if you haven't, you can read the article here.  I would think that when you are losing so much over a process that you can't entirely control (I would guess that Vonage wasn't specifically operating under the assumption that they were violating patents) that you would focus your efforts on things you can control like customer service.  Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be the case.

I called to cancel my Vonage service today that I've had for 3+ years because it's just not being used and the extra $20 per month in savings can pay for lots more minutes on cell phone plans for my wife and I.  Below is the text of an e-mail that I sent to Vonage detailing my experience -- I have deleted out names and account numbers where appropriate.

Ms. [deleted],

Although you may not be the correct contact for this
e-mail, yours was one of the few e-mail addresses at Vonage that I
could find on the web -- please feel free to forward this to the
appropriate person.

Today I called to cancel my Vonage account simply due to the
fact that I was not using the service; up to this point I had been a
customer for 3+ years and not had any sort of problem with the
service.  After getting through to a customer service representative, I
explained that I wished to cancel the service, gave all of the account
information, and even provided some reasons why I would not be
continuing the service.  When the representative asked me specific
questions about my cellular service plans, I refused to give him the
information and asked that he simply cancel the account.  Instead of
completing the account cancellation, he offered me a $9.99 plan for 100
minutes, which I refused, and then asked me if I had children in the
house.  At this point I very politely thanked the representative for
trying his best to keep me as a customer and explained that I felt I
had 2 options: (1) cancel the account today with him, or (2) call my
credit card company and explain to them that I had attempted to cancel
the account, but Vonage refused to do so and I needed to dispute the
charges.  Following my explanation of my options, the representative
tried to explain the benefits of a home phone and again asked if their
were children in my house.  I responded that I had already declined to
answer his question, that I had already made several requests for
cancellation, and that I now wanted to speak to his supervisor.  The
representative responded that he was a supervisor as he was in "account
management", asked if there was anyone I would recommend Vonage to (to
which I responded that I would have prior to my interaction with him),
and then began speaking sarcastically about me to someone else in the
call center, making comments about my wanting to speak to someone
above. than him -- these comments were followed by his disconnecting
the call.

called back and spoke to a different representative and she was able to
not only help me cancel the account, but provided me with the last name
of the first representative: [deleted].  She did suggest that if I wished
to file a complaint that I contact the corporate office and provided me
with the corporate office number, but I felt that filing the complaint
via e-mail was a more effective method.

My former telephone number was [deleted] and the former account number was [deleted].

Please let me know if you need any further information from me.


Ross Hollman 

Amazingly bad customer service from the first representative, although I will admit that the second representative not only quickly closed my account, but did provide me with the information I needed to make a complaint.  Note that I did have to do a Google search to find an e-mail address at Vonage because they don't provide an easy way to get in touch with them via e-mail; perhaps they should look at either having a form for "other" complaints on their website or simply providing a generic customer service e-mail address that is checked periodically.  By the way: I'm not making this complaint in the hope of receiving anything from Vonage, it's just that if I were in a management position over there, I would certainly want to know about stuff like this.

I'll let you know when and if anyone ever gets back to me.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Virtual lunches

takeout sushiThe [non]billable hour has a great post about buying someone a virtual lunch for a meeting.  Essentially, the virtual lunch concept boils down to having the person with whom you are trying to meet with give you the name, number, and favorite dish at their preferred takeout restaurant and your calling and having that lunch delivered during a specific time period (I think it can go unsaid that you are paying for the lunch, but maybe not, so I'm saying it: you pay).  Once the lunch is delivered, both of you hop on the phone for an hour and have, well, a virtual lunch.

I'm still coming up with ideas about why this is a great strategy for many different functions within a business (salespeople, leaders, managers, etc.), but regardless of your function, you can always be there in person to have a lunch meeting and I think that this is an amazing alternative.

The original idea was posted by Scott Ginsberg and is actually part 2 of a series that endeavors to help you keep your network alive (part one is here).


Optimize your Mac performance

Low End Mac has 11 tips you can use to optimize the performance of your Mac -- some of them are simple and some of them seem a little advanced (i.e., the one that tells you to use a software application to strip unnecessary processor-specific code out of your applications).

Check it out.


84" GigaBall

This will fit me and it's ages 4 & up, so I think I qualify:


I could have way too much fun with one of these things, but I probably would be better served spending $200 elsewhere.  Unless I could figure out a way to rent them out to recoup the investment . . . hmmm


2007 Digital Outlook Report by Avenue A | Razorfish

Avenue A | Razorfish just released their 2007 Digital Outlook report, which is a worthwhile read for anyone engaged in digital media.

2007 report cover

Hat tip to Guy Kawasaki for providing the PDF available through the link below, the graphic, and the original post


Google Apps mail notifier for OSX

So, a lot of people wrote in to tell me that Google Notifier does not work with Google Apps regardless of the platform.  If you run OSX, you can rejoice in the fact that someone has addressed your need with the Google Hosted Mail Notifier, which does exactly what its title implies for OSX machines.


I'm sure there some equivalent for Windows machines.

Link -- yeah, it's "free," but if you use it you should donate so that it stays free and the developer keeps it updated

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


PodZingerPodZinger is a search engine that allows you to search within audio and video content on the web.  As is farily obvious from its name, the technology can be used to search for keywords inside of podcasts, which is pretty cool, but now PodZinger has a specific YouTube search function that allows you to do keyword searches on audible content inside YouTube videos.  I'm sure that you see the irony like I do: Google, a search company, owns YouTube, but does not have the same search functionality for its YouTube content that PodZinger provides.  What is more ironic is that PodZinger uses Google AdWords to monetize its search product -- search results pages on PodZinger feature Google advertising.

Link -- PodZinger

Link -- PodZinger YouTube search 


imeemimeem is a pretty cool site that I just stumbled across.  Essentially imeem allows you to create a playlist that you can share with the anyone visiting the site.  One of the things that makes imeem unique is that you are not limited to just adding music to your playlist; you can add music, videos and photos to your playlist, in effect creating the playlist of your life.

Playlists creators can organize join their playlists to specific groups and these groups have familiar social community functionality such as blogging and forums.

I went to a forum post in the imeem Feedback group and also discovered the imeem has lots of social tools, one important feature to note is that you can create a private group that is accessible only to those people that you invite.


Saturday, March 10, 2007

Amazon Unbox with TiVo trial part 3

Amazon unboxThe movie finally download last night around 8:15PM -- that makes it about 8 or so hours to download an 84 minute move (Amazon lists the movie size at around 1.5GB).  I still have no idea if it was issues on my network or something else, but that seems like an awful long time.  However, with that having been said, if I were to set up the downloading prior to leaving for work and not be able to check it until I got home from work, then I probably wouldn't have noticed or even known how long the file had taken to download.

The movie itself was of good quality: about the same quality as recording a program on the TiVo at the best quality setting.  I was happy that the movie launched directly without any added advertising, which is definitely an improvement over purchased DVDs these days; my guess is that it won't be long before the studios and/or Amazon realize that they can insert ads, but I strongly hope that it doesn't happen.

One of the great advantages of the Amazon system is the fact that I can delete the movie from the TiVo device and the movie is still stored for me in my Amazon Media Locker with the ability for me to send it back to the TiVo at any time.

Just for kicks, I tried to use the TiVoDecode Manager to access the TiVo box and see if the Borat was listed in the program list . . . it was not, meaning that there is probably something at the operating system level that prevents the TiVo from displaying Amazon Unbox titles (as opposed to it just being something in the TiVo desktop software).  Never hurts to try.

I'm still waiting to compare and contrast the Amazon and TiVo service with the AppleTV, but I still haven't received an sort of further update from Apple regarding the actual ship date (the Apple Store shows an anticipated ship date of March 20). 

Friday, March 09, 2007

Amazon Unbox with TiVo trial part 2

Amazon unboxWhy haven't I posted sooner?  Well, it's because the damn movie is still downloading.  When I go into the Now Playing screen it says that only about 30 minutes of the movie have downloaded, which is totally pitiful.

Possible reasons (it's important to note that I downloaded 6 30-minute episodes from iTunes the other day in about 2.5 hours):

  • DSL speed.  I have the 1MB download package from Qwest though I rarely seem to be able to sustain the 1MB speed.  With that having been said, I download movies and tv shows from iTunes all the time and am not that affected by the amount of time that I want to either switch back to cable or upgrade my DSL speed.

  • Network traffic to the internet.  The only thing running simultaneously is basic web browsing on 2 machines and AIM text chat.  I suppose there might be a little bit of an effect, but I can't imagine it's too extraordinary.

  • Internal network traffic.  I'm not doing any massive file transfers and I know that the TiVo has a strong connection to the wireless network (the Airport Express doing WDS is in the same room) -- generally even with other network traffic it only takes me about 2 hours to download movies from the TiVo and convert them.

  • TiVo overload.  I have to admit that I don't really know how much processor power the TiVo needs to download.  The TiVo has been on, but not recording since I started the download; I believe that some previously recorded content has been viewed within the time period.

  • Something wrong with the connection to the download location.  Sure could be, but there's not a whole lot that I can do about that; the only progress display that I have is on the TiVo, which shows me how many minutes in the episode have downloaded.

Bottom line: A little bit less than 3 hours later I've got about 30 minutes of the film.  Total run length of the film is 84 minutes, so by extrapolation that means that I'm looking at it being late this evening before I can watch the movie.

If anyone has any tips, thoughts, etc. please feel free to share them.

Link -- Amazon unbox 

Amazon Unbox with TiVo trial part 1

Amazon unboxOk, so I just purchased Borat using the $15 credit that I got for registering for the Amazon Unbox service with TiVo -- time of purchase was 11:40AM MST and the system says it can take up to 15 minutes for the movie to show up in the Now Playing on my TiVo.   At 11:55AM it appeared in the Now Playing list with a little blue dot in a circle next to it, so I'll assume that's the new color-based symbol for something that's downloading or transferring to the TiVo.  I'm actually not sure how long it had been in the Now Playing list because I had left the list where Borat should have appeared and it didn't appear until I paged away from the listing and paged back.  I'll assume that it arrived there not later than 11:55AM, so I'll check back every 15 minutes to see how long the download takes.

Stay tuned for updates.

Link -- Borat on unbox 

Need to convince IT that Macs are good in the enterprise?

appleSeth Weintraub over at ComputerWorld wrote a pretty lengthy article on the subject today -- I printed it and it's a full 2.5 pages long (it shows up as 5 pages if you just read through it on the site).  There's not a lot of surprising information in the article for those of us that are fans of Macs, but some of the major points are:

  • Consumer-grade (i.e., Mini, iMac, and MacBook) models are excellent machines for the enterprise and while the Pro-level machines might be right for specific functions, the consumer models are perfect for most.

  • Development and deployment of applications and internal systems that are web-based and operating system independent.

  • Full feature set of Mac systems, even the $599 Mac Mini.

  • Use of Intel processors making virtualization viable, cost-effective, and easy.

  • Interoperability with Active Directory not only on the desktops, but also on the server side.

  • Suite of administrative tools, including the "ghosting" software that is not hardware dependent (a ghost image for one Intel processor machine can be used to image all Intel processor machines from the Mini all the way up to the Pro).

  • Leopard, when released, will be Universal and will offer the same feature set for PowerPC-based systems and Intel-based systems.

Anyway, read the article and then forward it to the head of your IT department.


Thursday, March 08, 2007

SpanningSync tips and tricks along with new beta

SpanningSyncSpanningSync has posted on their blog about how to use the SpanningSync application to view multiple Google Calendar accounts.  Essentially it boils down to sharing calendars from your non-main account with your main account and then rebooting SpanningSync.  While it's not as elegant as some people would have hoped, it's very functional and probably applicable to several of the other Google Calendar sync programs that I've written about today.

Also, if you are using an older beta of SpanningSync, they did release 1.0b16 on March 6th with some bug fixes, etc. -- always a good idea to install the newest version when using beta software and to back everything up before installing the new beta.  Unlike previous beta versions, if you quit and relaunch the SpanningSync preferance pane, the update should download automatically. 

SpanningSync is certified to work with Google Apps Premier.

Link -- SpanningSync blog about multiple Google Calendar accounts 

Link -- SpanningSync 1.0b16 


GooSyncSeems like I'm on a Google Calendar sync roll this morning, so I might as well talk about GooSync as well.  GooSync allows over-the-air sync of your Google Calendar with your mobile phone provided your mobile phone provides SyncML support (there are a lot of phones with this support and the GooSync site provides downloads for certain phone operating systems like Windows Mobile that require a SyncML client install).  This is a 2-way sync, so information entered into your phone calendar will be sync'd back to your Google Calendar.

GooSync offers a free option and a premium option for around $38 per year -- full feature comparison here.  Regardless of the plan that you choose, both the free and premium plans are listed as having support for Google Domain, which makes me assume that this would work for Google Apps Premier, but if anyone can verify that, it would be awesome.

The GooSync FAQ states that they are working on a Google Contact sync service, which would be pretty awesome as well.  Imagine using either the Gmail Mobile Java app or Gmail forwarding for e-mail along with GooSync for calendar and contacts -- that would be pretty powerful Blackberry comeptition at a very low implementation cost.

As with a lot of these services that run your information through their services, you should definitely read the privacy policy before signing up.




gSyncit is a free, 2-way sync solution for Windows Outlook users.  The software does limit you to 365 days in the past and 365 days in the future, but that wouldn't be a deal-breaker for me.  The 2-way sync is supported for the default Google Calendar, but you can bring in data from other Google Calendars (i.e., shared calendars) into Outlook using this utility.

If anyone gets the chance to try this with Google Apps Premier, please let me know as this is the kind of solution that is important for users that are married to Outlook and are not interested in web calendaring. 

As with all programs of this type, you should probably back up your Outlook calendar and Google Calendar before starting to use it. 


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Airplane toilet tips

airplane toilet

Gadling has a listing of airplane toilet tips, which is sort of worthwhile, except for the fact that they forgot the most important one:

If you remove your shoes when you fly, do not EVER go into the lavatory without putting them back on!  (you get double negative points if you are wearing no socks and go into the lavatory) 

Anyway, read the rest of the tips, but do not forget the one above.


Amazon Unbox on TiVo is now live

Amazon Unbox on tiVo

The title pretty much says it all.

Ok, a few more points about the service:

  • The service is using the standard Amazon 1-Click system for either purchasing or renting

  • Movies are available for purchase the same day they are released on DVD and start at $7.97

  • TV shows are $1.99

  • Back catalog movies start for purchase at $1.99

  • Movie rentals seem to run $3.99

  • Purchased items are stored in your Amazon Media Locker

  • When you are browsing Amazon Unbox, you want to look for the little TiVo logo for items that are compatible with TiVo (see below):

Also works with:

So I signed up and it was pretty easy.  You do need to have your TiVo connected to your LAN (wired or wireless), have an account on, and have your TiVo registered on  Assuming that all of the aforementioned things have been done, when you register via the Amazon site, you simply input your TiVo username and password, accept that terms and conditions, select the TiVo in your account, and finalize your acceptance.  Also, if you sign up by April 15, you'll get a $15 credit that can be used for TV shows or movies.

I'm going to give it a try over the weekend -- I've got that $15 credit burning a hole in my pocket --  and I'll post about it next week. 

Link -- Amazon Unbox

Link -- TiVo site about Amazon Unbox 

Monday, March 05, 2007

iTunes 7.1 and Quicktime 7.1.5 available for OSX via Software Update


So the version of iTunes that supports the AppleTV just got released -- this wouldn't be the reason for the hardware delay, would it?  Anyway, you can download if for OSX by simply running Software Update.

For Windows I'm hearing that there are still some Vista issues with the 7.1 version, but if you're still running XP, you should be fine downloading the nex version either through the Apple Update software or direct via from the Apple site.

Here's to hoping this means the AppleTV units will be shipping shortly.


Saturday, March 03, 2007

Xackmail and neverfuget


Xackmail is an e-mail-specific backup solution from Xackup that supports Outlook for Windows and for OSX.  When launched, Xackmail will be $2 per month for unlimited storage with simple backup and restore functionality.

Currently Xackmail is in private alpha (maybe beta, I'm not sure), but I'm very interested to know if it will allow Outlook users to archive e-mails that might otherwise wind up in PST files and/or backup and restore PST files.  


neverfurget is a Mac-specific program that allow you to sync and backup all of your iCal information with your Backpack account.  I'm not a Backpack user myself, but I could definitely see how this would be useful especially if you are a big ToDo user -- Google Calendar still doesn't have ToDo functionality, which bums me out as an active user.

Link -- Xackmail

Link  -- neverfuget

Note: in doing some more research, Xackup actually is the parent company of Bandwagon, which maes total sense now that I know.

Bandwagon changes in a major way


I did some comparing and contrasting of Bandwagon and MP3Tunes prior to the Bandwagon launch; you'll remember that Bandwagon was offering a free year subscription to bloggers, but I was traveling and missed on on the signup window.

Anyway, I was taking a look at the service again and realized that Bandwagon has changed their entire business model from a yearly unlimited storage fee to a monthly/yearly fee for using their service to back up to your own storage solution and/or to sync between 2 Macs.  Check this out:

  • $1 per month or $12 per year buys you backup and restore capabilities to your own storage service -- currently Amazon S3 is the only supported storage provider, but they will be adding support for any FTP-enabled site in 1 month and Omnidrive in 2 months.

  • $1.50 per month or $18 per year buys you the same backup and restore capabilities as the first package plus sync capabilities between two Macs -- storage provider support is on the same timeline as the first package.

I think it's very interesting that Bandwagon changed from a full-out storage solution with pretty slick OSX software to what now amounts to be a software provider with a monthly/yearly revenue model instead of a one-time purchase model.

You'll still want to do the math on the cost of using Amazon S3 and Bandwagon vs. MP3Tunes and the handy calculator on the main JungleDisk page can help you with that (link below). 

Link -- Bandwagon main page

Link -- Bandwagon product offering page

Link -- JungleDisk 

Remember that it's how you ask the question

Find X

I'm surprised that the teacher grading the test (indicated in the red ink) gave this answer a zero -- the person taking the test did answer the question correctly.  Perhaps the teacher meant "solve for x." 

Thursday, March 01, 2007

iTunes usage to surpass RealPlayer usage in 2007

Andy King shot me an e-mail that linked through to a post about the growth of iTunes usage in the streaming media player category in 2006 and projected growth in 2007. Here are some of the facts:

  • iTunes use grew around 47% in 2006 compared to single-digit growth for other competitors.

  • iTunes use is expected to exceed RealPlayer use by Q2 of 2007

Pretty interesting stuff. For those that are more graphically-inclined, here's the chart:

iTunes growth chart

I'm guessing that the introduction of AppleTV in March (hopefully) and the release of the iPhone in June will further increase the dominance and installed base of iTunes. Furthermore, if a non-phone version of the iPhone (I'm not sure how else to describe it) is released as an iPod upgrade prior to Christmas, the iTunes number one spot will be even that much greater than the closest competitor.

Link -- iTunes Popularity to Surpass RealPlayer in 2007

Cleaning like a maid

mr. cleanCleaning a house is a pain in the ass, which is why there is probably such a booming industry for maid services.  Curbly has a great post that reveals some of the "secrets" of maids that allow you to zip through cleaning your house.  My guess, although it's not stated in the post, is that you need to do a very thorough deep cleaning prior to using the tips in the post so that you are starting from a very clean basis.


Cool free online PDF file conversion tools from Adobe

Adobe Acrobat

Check out the link below that takes you to a bevy of free PDF conversion tools from Adobe.  The coolest is the ability to send a PDF as an e-mail attachment and to have Adobe e-mail it back to you as  either a MIME or HTML attachment.


2 more Joost tokens up for grabs


I figured I wouldn't be getting any more Joost tokens any time soon, but I had an e-mail this morning telling me that I have 2 more to give away.

Once again: first-come-first-served and I need your first name, last name, and the e-mail address you want the token sent to.

hollmanblogs [at] gmail [dot] com

UPDATE: I'm all out of invites again -- stay tuned for when they reload my supply.