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Preview: Tux in the Midwest

Tux in the Midwest

A personal blog on the life of a late-twenties computer geek. I talk about news and events in the technology world, as well as anything that I find interesting in the blogging community.

Updated: 2018-01-12T23:27:58.411-06:00


Flirting with Androids


So yeah... I was told that the organization I work for will buy me a new phone a few weeks ago. This is like taking a three year old to Toys R Us and telling them that they can only... have... one. So, naturally I spent the next few days (okaaaay... next week) looking at the phones that were out on the major carriers, and took a look at the phones that were expected to be released in the coming weeks, both rumored and confirmed.

I settled on waiting for the newest Android phone coming from Sprint, the Samsung Moment, because of what looked like a nice side sliding keyboard, and a best in class 800Mhz processor, but wanted to hold it in my hand before I took the plunge. It turns out that waiting to test this bad boy out was the right move.

With all due respect to Android, the problems that you may have read about it in regards being a little slow to respond at times are true. Even with that monster processor, Android had noticeable delays while handling simple tasks, an issue that you don't see in either Windows Mobile 6.5, or Palm's WebOS (or the iPhone for that matter). We will find out in a few days whether this will be less of an issue with the upcoming Verizon Droid, which comes with a much slower processor (550 Mhz) but is the first phone to come out with the revamped Android 2.0. Regardless, the phone that I had considered as a backup ended up exceeding my expectations, and I'm not waiting any longer to get a new phone.

While I lust after the future possibilities of Android (give me a sleeker version of the Droid, with one of those 1Ghz snapdragon processors and an OS thats a bit snappier... I'll be in line on opening day) Samsung's candy bar (shaped like a Blackberry) Windows Mobile phone has everything I need and then some.

Enter the Samsung Intrepid...

I owned a side slider with an older version of Windows Mobile a few years back, and I'll tell ya, WinMo 6.5 is an enormous improvement. It has everything I'm looking for in a phone, as there are literally tens of thousands of apps you can download for WinMo, both paid and free, its snappy, stylish and does everything I need it to do.

Most importantly, it has one of the best keyboards on any phone I've ever played with. Some reviewers have called it cheap feeling, but I thought the clicks were solid, the keys were huge in comparison to phones with similar layouts (the phone is quite wide and the keyboard covers the whole width) and the keys had a bit of a rubbery feel to them that reminded me of my old Palm Treo. I text, update, email and even occasionally blog from my phone... so they keyboard is the most important thing for me. I was typing away at nearly the same speed as I can on my Treo now in a matter of 3o seconds once the Intrepid was in my hand. Besides... and maybe this is because I was a bit of a Trekkie when I was a kid... I like the idea of being able to say my phone is called an 'Intrepid', hahaha.

If you're wondering why I am just looking at Sprint phones... Verizon is great and all, and has measurably better service in my experience, but isn't worth the extra cost (even when the company is paying for it). On top of that, Verizon just decided to double their early termination fees. As if the world isn't nickel and diming us enough... I have never made it the whole two years before upgrading to a new phone, so this is no small deal for me. Hopefully this shady move wont spread to Sprint, AT&T, T-Mobile and the like...

So! Keep flirting with Android kids. If you're more concerned with the cool factor than function, then maybe its for you. But if you're like me (aka... your smartphone doubles as an extension of your brain) and don't have the patience for the quirky issues they're still working out, then I'd say stick with the Palm Pre (if you're fingers aren't too big, like mine). iPhone (if you don't need a keyboard at all) or a nicer WinMo phone.

Another website launched with Drupal


I just got done putting up my second website using Drupal as the CMS.  The site can be found at  This site is home to my band, Maywood.  It includes both public and private forums, picture and video galleries, and a customized theme.  And it took me only two days of work to get running.  To anyone who says that Drupal is hard to work with, I say: Two Days.  Not bad for a “steep learning curve”.

Drupal Notes – My Project


So I’m posted a boatload of entries about Drupal, but why am I learning all about it? Well, first of all, it’s friggin’ sweet, but that’s not why I got interested to begin with. I’ve got a project, and I want to get it to the web quickly.

Enter Drupal.

One of my good friends, and occasional contributor to this blog, Sol Kleinsmith, turned me on to the idea of open source content management systems. He chewed my ear off one night over beer and wine about Drupal, I did some research, and was immediately hooked. Ha! Hooked! I’m making Drupal jokes already! (see some of the other posts about Drupal to … well… see how big of a nerd I just was.)

One of the things I was looking for was the ability to extend functionality. My project involves storing, retrieving, and comparing information about different computer systems. Obviously this is pretty specific, and there’s no built in functionality that can be used to achieve this in Drupal. Custom Modules are going to have to be written.

So if you continue to read these posts, you’ll learn how to put together a new custom Module that takes in and stores information in a MySQL database, makes it searchable, compares like information, and displays it in a readable, customizable fashion. Pretty much anything and everything you can do with Drupal, I’m going to try to do.

If you want to check out my work, click on the link below:

Side-by-Side Geek

And if you’re feeling brave, sign up and start posting in the forums!

Drupal Notes – Modules – Creating the Files


Creating a new Module is as simple as creating a handful of files, as long as you know what to call them and where they should be placed. Oh, and you have to know PHP. Details, details…

If you’ve explored the directory structure of your Drupal installation, you might have found a few directories of interest. Specifically, there’s a modules directory in the root of your Drupal installation, which holds the Drupal core modules. You might have also found the sites/all/modules directory. This is where you want to work when writing and installing custom Modules.

When creating a new Module, there are a handful of standard files that are generated. When you write a new Module, the first thing you do is give it a short but meaningful name. For this example, we’ll use the name “modulename”.

The first time you create a new Module, you’ll need to create some directories in the sites/all/modules directory. In order to make changes and updates to downloaded Modules easier, you’ll probably want to create a custom directory. Then, inside the custom directory, create a directory, named after the Module, for each custom Module you’re creating. So, in our case, we’ll be creating a modulename directory. So we end up with:


Once you get the directories all set up, you’ll create the following basic files:

Readme.txt . . . This file describes what your Module does, just in case someone else has to take over maintenance. . . . This file provides information to the Drupal Core about the new Module. We’ll get more into the use and structure of this file later.

modulename.module . . . This is where the meat of the module will reside. Hooks are implemented here. This is another that we’ll get into in greater detail in a future blog entry. Just know for now that you’ll be spending a lot of time in this file. . . . This file isn’t mandatory, but if you have any kind of configuration in your module, you’ll probably me creating this file. It holds information about administrative forms. Stay tuned for more on this file.

So there really isn’t too much to creating a simple Drupal Module. I’ll get much, much deeper into development in future posts. Keep reading and learn as I do!

Drupal Notes – Terminology


Before we get started with development, there are some terms that need to be defined. It’s important that we keep these concepts straight, because it can get pretty confusing if we don’t. So here are some terms and concepts that we’ll need to know before going any further:

Modules . . . The most fundamental concept in Drupal development is the Module. A Module, to put it simply, is a container of code that introduces some sort of behavior to the system. For example, there is a Module that handles Ad Sense publishing. There is a Module that allows you to run forums. There is a Module for blogging. Modules can be enabled and disabled (except for certain modules that are required to run the basic Drupal framework). Custom functionality is added to Drupal by way of custom Modules.

Hooks . . . In order to let Drupal know about newly added functionality, we use Hooks. If you’ve done any event-based programming in the past, you’ve probably heard of callback functions. For those new to the idea, basically what you’re doing is letting a control loop know about functions you’ve written to handle certain events. That’s what Drupal’s Hook system is all about. When you define a Hook function, you’re letting Drupal know you’ve written a function that handles a certain circumstance. I’ll get into a lot more detail in a future entry, but just know for now that Hooks are how you integrate your code with the Drupal core code.

Themes . . . When it comes to presenting information on the web, there are really two parts to the story. There’s the information you’re presenting and then there’s the format you’re presenting it in. That’s where Drupal Themes come in. Themes can be thought of as the presentation part of the system. They define, through HTML markup and CSS code, how the data is displayed on your users’ browser. Again, more detail to come, but know that you should have a good working knowledge of HTML, CSS, and PHP in order to effectively work with Drupal Themes.

Nodes . . . If Modules contain code for dealing with events, hooks define those events, and Themes define presentation, then Nodes define the actual types of content Drupal can deal with. I know this can be a little confusing, and you’re probably wondering why the designers of Drupal would take this approach. Basically, it allows content types to exist independently of functionality, and allows you to apply any functionality to any content you like. Believe me, it’s very cool, and after you get past any confusion, you’ll really like it.

Blocks . . . So how do you take all that great information in your Nodes, press it through the code in your Modules, and display it on the screen? Through Blocks, of course! Well, maybe it’s not that obvious, but that’s how it’s done. Blocks are regions where information is displayed. An example of a block from the Drupal Core would be the Login Block, where you enter your login information. The Block displays a login prompt when no-one is logged in, then displays a menu of options that is dependent on your level of access.

Drupal Notes Series



Over the past few months, I’ve been working on a website project in my spare time.  In order to speed up deployment of the site, I decided to use Drupal.

While Drupal, with all it’s addons and plugins and themes, is a very complete system for people making community portals, e-commerce websites, internal intranets, and many other flavors of website, it doesn’t quite handle the concept of my project.  Because of this, I’m going to be learning how to extend Drupal’s basic functionality.

In order to make my life a bit easier, I purchased a copy of Pro Drupal Development, Second Edition.  I’m hoping the book can help me figure out how to properly and cleanly add the functionality I’m looking for.  I thumbed through it, and things look promising.

So, in the spirit of sharing, I’m going to be posting my personal notes on Drupal development.  I’ll post one installment every week, Monday morning at around 8am.  I’m going to cover everything from how to set up your initial installation to how to add custom modules.

Zune HD – And Drool All Over my Keyboard


As the release date for the new Zune HD (September 15th, in case you’ve been living under a rock) closes in, I thought I’d provide a link to Engadget’s Zune HD Hub. It’s full of videos, articles, and all sorts of Zune eye candy. Enjoy!

Robot Hands Will Rule the World


This is the most amazing video I've ever seen in my life. I'm not even going to write about it, except to say that it perfectly illustrates exactly how our robot overlords are going to grasp the whips some day. Seriously, though, check this out. It's incredible.

High-Speed Robot Hand Demonstrates Dexterity and Skillful Manipulation

How to Buy a PC


I recently wrote my cousin a little how-to on buying a PC laptop.  She’s getting ready for her first year in college and needs a computer.  Not to sound like those PC commercials, I do think that you can get exactly what you need out of a computer without paying extra for the Apple name (now now, I’m a HUGE Apple supporter, so please extinguish your flames).  Here’s what I told my cousin:

Shopping for a PC (Macs are WAY easier) can be pretty daunting. There are so many choices, it's tough to figure out exactly what to look for. It took me a couple of months to settle on the machine I bought, and it was only after learning some of the nomenclature that I finally figured out what I wanted... so to cut to the chase, here's a quick guide to buying PC laptops:

1. More memory... this one's obvious. Memory is the single best upgrade for a computer. Buy one with as much as you can. 4GB is about right.

2. Dedicated Video... if you can afford it, dedicated video is the way to go. Basically what this means is that there is a seperate bank of memory for the video card, as opposed to "integrated" where the video shares memory with the rest of the computer. If you see "Intel GMA 45000MHD" or something similar, it's integrated video. If you see "NVidia" or "ATI", it's dedicated. If you don't play videos games much, and don't see yourself doing so, this is less of a concern.

3. CPU... Here's where it gets tricky. There are so many different CPU's out there (we're going to stick to Intel stuff, just to simplify. You don't want to get into the comparison between Intel and AMD) it's tough to know you're making a good choice. In order to make things simple, here's a tip: CPU's are categorized using a letter then a four-digit number. Only worry about the number. The higher the number, the better the CPU. You'll see clock speeds... GHz speeds... don't sweat that, as there's a lot more that goes into performance than the speed. Shoot for the highest number you can (anything 6400 or over). should be your best friend. If you go to their homepage, in the PCs & Laptops area, you'll see a link for "Laptops / Notebooks". Go there, and you'll find along the left side of the page, a search system. This is how I found the laptops I'm going to link to you. I searched under CPU Type for "Intel Core 2 Duo", Memory for "4GB", and various different screen sizes. I looked mostly at HP (my personal preference, feel free to check out others). Here are the ones that I thought were decent...

The first one (the HP DV6-1050) definitely has the most horsepower for the $$$, but is a touch large. The other two would be very good machines as well. I would suggest playing around with the search on newegg, and reading the reviews.


So, Are There Any Questions?


I spend my entire working day answering questions and giving tips on how to use computers more effectively, both at work and at home. So I was thinking the other day, why not do that on Tux-Midwest as well? I've got decades of information stored in my head on subjects ranging from how to interface with a MySQL database using C++ on a Linux box to how to most effectively clean a laser printer. I think it's time for me to start sharing, don't you?

So if you have a question concerning technology, any technology, post it in a comment right here. I'll do my best to answer it in a future post, and if I don't know the answer, I'll do my best to find it. So post your questions here! I look forward to reading them!

World of Warcraft... the Movie?


Direct from, I bring you rumors of a World of Warcraft movie.  Yes, that's right... a movie.  Actually, this shouldn't come as too big a surprise to the roughly 11 million subscribers who pay to play the world's most popular MMORPG.  It was really only a matter of time before somebody decided to exploit the popularity of this Guiness Book of World Records-holding triumph of time-wasty-ness for their own personal gain.

But don't get me wrong... I'm just jealous it's not me.

According to Miss Tanya Gupta of, Legendary Pictures, Blizzard Entertainment, and Warner Bros. will be working jointly on the film, and Sam Raimi of Spiderman fame has been hired to direct.  While no specific timeframe is set forth by Miss Gupta, she asserts that Raimi is slated to start work as soon as he's finished with Spiderman 4.

This could rock, or this could suck.  I, for one, will keep an open mind.  I like the Warcraft series.  It's got some great plot potentional.  I just hope that Raimi understands he's going to be dealing with some real fanatics, so staying true to the background of the game is going to be pretty important.  I say to you, Mr. Raimi:  Good luck!

Windows 7 is Beautiful


Anybody who knows me knows that I'm pretty much Linus Torvald's bitch.  I've been running one flavor of Linux or another since 2000.  I've written some pretty serious code on it.  I've hosted a couple of websites on it.  I've lived it, breathed it, and annoyingly evangelized it.  So the title of this post is, well, very out of character for me.But it's true.Microsoft's latest offering-to-be in the operating system world is, well, beautiful.  Based on Vista code, it's no great technological departure from where they were headed anyway.  Realistically, they've just taken the lessons learned (read as: sour grapes) from Vista and applied them to Windows 7.  For those out there who are thinking "Well crap, doesn't that mean Windows 7 is just the same pig with fresh lipstick?", I'll get to that in a few minutes, but for right now, let me just say... "No".  When you see the OS in action, it becomes quickly apparent they've taken people's complaints very seriously.My Little ExperimentSo what would possess me, a self-proclaimed Linux guy, to take a chance on Bill's latest OS?  Well, I've got a handful of applications that I run under Windows.  They're things like games (World of Warcraft, Warcraft III) and applications that have life-critical data (MS Money) stored in them.  Things that wouldn't run well in WINE, or are too sensitive to trust to WINE (which is basically permanent beta software).  My wife and I also store our digital picture and music collection on Windows SMB shares.  Yes, I could build some on a Linux box, but I decided a long time ago that easy is better than cool, and I could set up a Windows file share a lot easier under Windows than Linux.  Anyway, I've got a couple of good reasons to run a Windows box, so there we are.A few months ago, my Windows XP home-brew desktop machine started acting up.  It refused to fully load web pages.  It didn't matter what browser I used, images and CSS would refuse to load, leaving web pages an unreadable mess, at best.  So instead of sweating it out trying to figure out what was going on, I decided to just reformat and reinstall the OS.  That's when I heard about the Windows 7 Release Candidate.  I decided to give it a shot.Chrome, Chrome EverywhereThe interface guys over at Microsoft had a good time with this one.  The first thing you'll notice is the taskbar.  It's been completely revamped, showing only icons for opened applications.  At first I was skeptical about whether this would be enough, but I found the new organization easy to use, especially since all application names (and an active screenshot) are shown when the mouse cursor is placed over the application's icon.  The taskbar application shortcuts and the active applications sort of blend together on the taskbar, which creates an interesting, and very function, integration of active and available applications.And speaking of organization, Microsoft introduces what they're calling "Libraries" in Windows 7.  A library is a collection of like-typed media, all sorted and organized for you.  This media could all be in once directory, or spread all over your heard drive.  The library brings it all together, sorts and organizes it, and makes it available to you from the left side of any Windows Explorer window.  While I find the added layer of abstraction a little annoying (as in: where are those files REALLY?), this feature will be extremely useful for every-day users.Most of the interface is almost exactly the same as Vista, so anybody out there who has been using Vista for a while will feel right at home in Windows 7.  The Windows Explorer, file copy dialogs, and other syste[...]

Why the Zune HD is better than the iPod (for some)


The talk that resulted in Tux offering me a slot on here revolved around his being in the market for a new top of the line pocket media/MP3 player. For his birthday last year a few of us got him a new Zune, which he loves, so he was thinking about getting a nicer one. I had to tell him to put it off for a bit, as the next generation of bad ass was coming soon.For some the iPod is king... but its not for everyone. Below is my description as to many of the reasons why people would choose the Zune HD, which comes out Sept 8th, over the iPod line.#1 - Look at the damn thing! I can't speak for the world here, but I really can't stand the swoopy, curvy soft lines of the iPod, and most Apple products in general. When I have the option, I go for cool factor, something that has the feel of a machine rather than an artsy paperweight. This mean puppy has the look of a serious device, and as you will read below, its all business when you get past that killer venier. Past the esthetics, there is less space between the edge of the screen and the edge of the device. This actually means that you get the same size screen in a smaller overall package.#2 - Its not just the size of the screen that counts... but its the motion of the ocean... right? I've always been a fan of the size AND motion of the ocean strategy, and Microsoft agrees with me here. They decided to kick Apple in the shins and replace their old screen with a 480 x 272 OLED, which in English means it'll be uber sharp and bright, more so than the oh 'so last month' iPod Touch.#3 - Under the hood is perhaps where this puppy shines the most. Its got the brand spankin' new Tegra processor from NVIDIA, meaning this bad boy will rip through your video faster than anything out there now, and... get this... will be able to port out to your TV, with an HDMI cable, with full HD video. Until the interwebernetz connects everything to each other, you can bypass those ancient circular plastic pieces of junk DVDs, keep your movies on your harddrive and just hook your good old Zune HD up to your flatscreen and watch Firefly with abandon... thats what I'll be doing anyway :)#4 - Other killer features that the Zune has over the iPod line include HD radio reception, wireless sync, and for the gamers among us, the unique ability to view content you buy for the Zune on your Xbox or home computer. This mixed with the Zune Pass subscription service, which lets you download all the music you want onto your Zune for 14.99 a month. As their ads say, compare this to the literally tens of thousands of dollars you would have to pay to fill your iPod with MP3s, and the victor is clear for me. The Zune pass can even be used on up to three computers and three Zunes.I'm no Microsoft fanboy, as a matter of fact I'm fairly anti-Microsoft on a number of fronts, especially Windows vs Linux, Microsoft Office vs Open Office, Hotmail vs Gmail and Explorer vs FF and Chrome. But here we have a qualitatively better product, with a handful of better features and, in the eyes of this beholder, a better design. I've gotta tip my hat off to them for this awesome piece of hardware. I've been holding off on getting an MP3 player, just keeping a few on my netbook and smartphone for the last few years for when the radio gets boring, but this puppy might pull me down off the fence.[...]

Windows 7 Discount, Available for a Limited Time


Windows 7 is slated to be released to the general public on October 22nd, 2009 (well, sort of… 14 languages, including English, will be available on the 22nd, the other 21 languages will be released on the 31st.), but if you pre-order, you can nab yourself a 50%+ discount.  Not bad, Microsoft, not bad at all.

As Wilson Rothman reports on Gizmodo, this pre-order period will begin tomorrow and only last a limited time.  Also starting tomorrow, if you purchase a new computer, you’ll be entitled to a free upgrade to Windows 7.  Again, not a bad deal, considering Windows 7 is supposed to be leaner than Windows Vista, so it should perform rather nicely on just about any modern hardware.

Ars Technica has a really killer article that lays out all of your options as far as purchase of and upgrade to Windows 7.  I would highly recommend checking it out, especially if you’re considering going directly from XP to 7.

Windows 7 Pricing (from Ars Technica):

Purchase Type Home Premium Professional Ultimate
Retail Upgrade $119.99 $199.99 $219.99
Full Retail $199.99 $299.99 $319.99
Discount Upgrade $49.99 $99.99 N/A

Please Welcome Solomon Kleinsmith



Recently, I was back in my home town visiting with friends, and the subject of mobile technology came up.  I myself lack extended expertise in the subject, so I was talking to my friend Sol Kleinsmith, who I knew had a strong and growing interest in that area of technology.  Well, a few strong drinks later, we were examining his new Acer netbook and talking about the future of cell phones.  Needless to say, I was very impressed with his level of knowledge.  By the end of the night, I’d asked him to join this blog as a contributing writer on mobile technology, and he accepted.

During President Obama’s campaign, Solomon was a grassroots organizer for the state of Nebraska, running several political groups in Omaha.  During this time, he learned how to leverage technology to mobilize his groups and organize activities.  Since he worked mostly without an office, he learned very quickly which technologies work, and which aren’t worth the time.

I’m extremely glad to have Sol as a member and writer of Tux in the Midwest.  I think he’ll be able to fill in a huge gap here on the mobile technology front.  Please welcome Solomon Kleinsmith!!!

My netbook aspirations - HP Mini 5101


This being my first post on here (heyo!), I thought it appropriate to make it something about my most recent purchase of gadgety goodness. Like many people, I have a home desktop thats pretty beefy, but most of the things I do are relatively light running, so I don't need something with a lot of horsepower very often. So when my old laptop went kaput, I knew it was time for me to finally enter the heavenly world of netbooktopia!

Had this happened many moons ago, I would have gone for something nicer, but I ended up going for the cheap and popular Acer Aspire One. I really can't complain about it, and as a matter of fact I love the thing. I love being able to pack it in my knapsack and barely tell I added anything to the four or five books I seem to have to have with me at all times. It does all the things my old laptop did (seemingly faster, even with a slower processor and less RAM), has better battery life, and you seriously can't beat the pricetag. I got the puppy for a whopping 304 dollars, including shipping... which was the kicker for me since I'm living the poor sad life of a Masters student.

But my heartstrings were plucked the other day when I came across this work of netbook sexiness. The HP Mini 5101 is where HP, who's pretty blah HP Mini 1100 (now with an extra 1 at the end! wheee!) was one I skipped right over in my recent search for its lack of anything to make it stand out what so ever, decided to go for the lovers of the sharp lines and edges of my breed of gadget heads. I'm not down with the Apple brand of design, with swoopy and smooth and blah blah blah... nay my friend, give me your dark colors and sharp edges. Make my gear look like a machine, not an art deco paperweight.

Engadget got some pretty sweet pics here and here. Underneath the slobber slobber design, the specs are standard top of the line for netbooks these days, with some nice upgrades like a 7200rpm HD, with 80GB or 128GB SSD options, a 2.0MP webcam... and of course a fancy shmancy magnesium and aluminum chasis. Dude... my laptop is made of magnesium and aluminum, how about yours... punk? Wouldn't that be nice to be able to say when the leader of the pack at the local coffee joint peers through his emo flop hairdo at your snorg tee and jeans from Target? Yes Timmy, yes it would.

Vineet Nayar says US Tech Grads are Unemployable


In an interesting twist of I-don't-know-what, CEO of Indian IT services vendor HCL Vineet Nayar stated in a speech in New York City in front of 50 customers and partners that the reason his company doesn't employ more people here in the United States (HCL currently has 21 offices in 15 states, employing over 3,000 people) is that US tech grads are "unemployable".

This probably comes as a swift kick in the shorts to anybody who has ever dealt with "overseas" tech support, however Rob Preston of InformationWeek quickly put Nayar's comments in perspective. Preston explains that Nayar was driving at the fact that "...American grads looking to enter the tech field are preoccupied with getting rich..." and are less inclined to "...spend their time learning the 'boring' details of tech process, methodology, and tools...". This results in the American grads being more expensive to train than their Indian, Chinese, Brazilian, South African, or Irish counterparts.

Having never personally experienced education from an Indian perspective, I can't vouch for how true or untrue statements made concerning American versus Indian education are. I have only my personal experience to build from. I can say that my own education did, at times, trade low-level hands-on experience for a higher-level, creative problem-solving approach. Whether this was a good or bad thing is debatable, however I do feel that it does offer some benefits over a brute-force approach.

In my dealings with overseas technical support (HCL included, as they are contracted by my current employer), I've found that the individuals I've worked with, while very knowledgable concerning the product they are employed to support, lack basic problem-solving skills and tend toward trial-and-error when it comes to fixing issues. While this can work in a lot of situations, it's not nearly the cleanest or most efficient way to get the job done. On more than one occasion, it has actually made problems worse, because the technician made changes that he couldn't remember how to undo, changes that made matters worse.

I'm not going to be rough on the Indian folks I've worked with over the years, because, while some of them have been occasionally frustrating, a lot of them are some of the most intelligent, creative IT people I've had the pleasure of working with. And believe me, the same holds true for the American IT staff, both positive and negative. The reality is that the American and Indian IT educational systems aren't perfect, and can learn a lot from each other. It's just a bitter pill to swallow when the criticism is pointed back at you.

Microsoft Enters the Free Anti-Malware Arena


Hot off the presses...err, the Intarwebs... published a little gem giving the details on Microsoft's new free anti-virus / anti-malware software, dubbed "Microsoft Security Essentials".

The new software, which is targeted mostly at those who don't already have a security suite installed on their computers, will be available for free from Microsoft. The software, like its direct competitors, will stay up-to-date via auto update features, and will protect against current and new virus threats, as well as rootkits.

Microsoft Security Essentials is slated to replace the Live OneCare suite. Microsoft Security Essentials will not include features such as a firewall, performance tuning, or backup and restore. Security Essentials is intended only as a free, simple, bare-bones security solution.

Click here to read what Elinor Mills from CNET has to say about the matter...

Twitter and Iran

2009-06-24T10:26:03.598-05:00 just published an article last week that does a very good job of explaining the phenomenon happening on Twitter surrounding the Iranian election. Until today, I'd not had a chance to really learn much about what's going on, and I found it very enlightening.

In the past, I've been pretty hard on Twitter. While I'm still of the opinion that day-to-day Tweeting is, well, mostly silly, I've got to say that what is going on in Iran is one of the best uses for this new technology I could never have personally imagined. I think what's going on is amazing. Technology can be used for social change, and to circumvent a corrupt government's attempts to deny freedom of speech.

So I raise my glass to the folks at Twitter. May your network be strong, and your servers never go down.

Dell Vostro 1220 Images Leak - Clean but Boring


There's nothing thrilling about Dell's latest budget offering, the Vostro 1220. Engadget has the scoop on images of a crimson version coming to a Walmart near you. With a Core 2 Duo T6750 processor, 4GB of RAM, a 320GB hard drive, an ExpressCard slot and even a fingerprint reader, it's actually pretty solidly spec'd. For those who value function over form, this little number might be right up your ally.

Click to check out Engadget's images of the new Dell Vostro 1220.

Windows Vista Service Pack 2


For all those proud Windows Vista users out there, Microsoft recently released Service Pack 2, the latest upgrade to their much-frowned-upon, but much-improved, desktop operating system. Incidentally, they also released Windows Server 2008 SP2 the same day.

So what does the May 25th Service Pack 2 release get you? Well, according to, a whole list of interesting goodies, including:

  • Windows Seach 4.0
  • Support for Bluetooth 2.1
  • Data recording on Blu-ray
  • Simpler WiFi configuration
  • Better resuming for active WiFi connections
  • Support for VIA's 64-bit CPUs
  • Better audio and video performance for HD streaming
  • 10% more efficient power management in some configurations
  • And the list goes on...

Also included is the usual list of hotfixes and security updates. According to Yahoo! Tech, the body count for fixes and updates is almost 700, however a good number of them "represent very rare bugs that only a small percentage of users will ever encounter".

Christopher Null (what a great name for a computer blogger) says, at the end of his entry, "I'm running the update and have encountered no problems to date...". Well, if it's good enough for Chris, it's good enough for you.

What Kind of Tech User are You?


You are an Digital Collaborator

If you are a Digital Collaborator, you use information technology to work with and share your creations with others. You are enthusiastic about how ICTs help you connect with others and confident in your ability to manage digital devices and information. For you, the digital commons can be a camp, a lab, or a theater group – places to gather with others to develop something new.

Yup, that’s me… a “Digital Collaborator”. I’d better be, since I work in IT. Find out what kind of tech user you are by visiting and taking their quiz.

Windows 7 on Your Old Computer


Hot off the presses: Michael Scalisi wrote a nifty little article for's Business Center dishing the dirty on Windows 7's older hardware support. According to the article, which can be found here, the minimum system requirements for Windows 7 RC are "a 1GHz Processor, 1 GB RAM, and 16GB of free hard disk space." So in true geek fashion, Mr. Scalisi grabbed the nearest almost-there (Intel P3 933MHz processor, 768 MB of RAM, and 80GB hard drive) old PC he could, and went about installing Win7 RC on it.

Surprisingly, aside from a few hardware glitches, it seems that he was successful in Frankenstein-ing together a rather reasonably running box. Sure, there were some driver issues concerning older hardware, but those were quickly remedied by swapping those particular pieces (DVD drive, video card, and network card) for something a little more modern. You're also not going to be rocking Aero at all on a box like this, but if you're just looking at taking a peek at the OS in general, that shouldn't be a problem.

Michael Scalisi ran the machine through some real-world paces, launching a handful of tabs in Chrome, as well as IE 8, while playing some music on Media Player. He says it's a little sluggish, like you'd expect, but not so much so that it's unusable. He calls it "perfectly usable as long as your expectations are appropriately low."

So what does this exercise in geekery prove? Well, for starters it means that Microsoft has rolled back their inappropriately high minimum system requirements to a more reasonable level. The machine that Mr. Scalisi used for his article was built in 2001. It also means that business that have been waiting for all this Vista stuff to blow over and Microsoft to come out with a reasonable replacement for Windows XP might not have to upgrade their hardware after all. Did Microsoft think of this when they started hacking away at Windows 7? Ummm... we think so.

What's Your PC History?


The current generation entering the workforce today can't remember a time when they didn't have access to a personal computer. Whether it was at school playing "Oregon Trail" or at home playing "Maniac Mansion", computers were, in the late 80's and early 90's, starting to become as ubiquitous as televisions and telephones. I'm feeling a bit nostalgic today, so I thought I'd ask everyone out there: What's your PC history?Here's mine: It all started with a combination of the Apple II+ and Apple IIe. My father was, and still is, quite the computer hobbyist, programming in assembly language, C, C++, Visual Basic, and HTML/CSS. He's been his university departments webmaster for years, and continues to tinker and learn. His first machine was an Apple IIe, which he learned everything he possibly could about, and passed that knowledge on to me in the form of my first computer, the Apple II+, and manuals and technical articles. I got my start on that machine, programming in BASIC and assembly language. Those were the crazy, pioneering days of personal computer technology, when programmers were akin to magicians, and I was five years old.I rocked that machine well into high school, both programming on it and writing school papers. By the time I was finished with it, we'd attached a 20 MEGABYTE hard drive to it as well as a mouse, and I'd started trying to write a graphical user interface (ala Macintosh or Apple IIgs... remember GSOS?) for it. About mid-high school, my parents invested in their first Macintosh (circa 1996), the Performa 450. This what around the time Apple had released a myriad of confusing configurations. No one knew what any of the names or numbers meant. That computer lasted my parents until sometime when I was in college, when they upgraded to a second-generation iMac.As for me, when I entered college, I entered the world of the PC. I'd avoided it as long as I could, hearing horror stories of blue-screens-of-death and lost data. Fortunately for me, I purchased my first PC just before Microsoft released Windows ME, so I avoided a lot of the issues that my friends who bought computers saw later. My machine was a highly customized Gateway PC, with an 800Mhz Pentium II processor and 128 megabytes of memory, a 20 gigabyte hard drive, and a 15-inch CRT monitor. Looking back on it, it seems like such an underpowered machine, but it was state-of-the-art at the time.That machine carried me through college in pretty decent fashion. After graduation, I decided I'd also graduated to a laptop, which took the form of a Dell Inspiron 1100. With a 2.4GHz Celeron, 256 megabytes of memory, and a 40 gigabyte hard drive, it was a definite upgrade. I actually still use this box, rocking Fedora 9 Linux. It's been upgraded to 1 gigabyte of memory and a 80 gigabyte hard drive, but all the other parts are still original. My wife has the same laptop, and it still works great for her.A few years ago I tried my hand at system building, and ended up with a custom-built desktop designed around an Asus M2N-E SLI motherboard with an AMD Athlon 64 5400+ processor. It's loaded with 2 gigabytes of memory and over 1 terabyte of total hard drive space. It's a great machine, runs anything I throw at it, and stores and backs up all of my photos and music.My last purchase came in the form of a new laptop. It's an HP Pavilion DV7-1270us. It's got an Intel Core 2 Duo 8600 in it, rocking at 2.4Ghz, 4 gigabytes o[...]

Three Wolf Moon T-Shirt - Magic on Amazon


According to the many, many reviewers on Amazon, this shirt does everything from attract the opposite sex to cure cancer. It's HILL AIR EE US.

Seriously, check it out. HERE