Archive for the ‘Software’ Category

My Parrots Get Their Own pPod

February 4, 2009

I conceived of and then implemented an “iPod” for my parrots, all in under six weeks. I’m calling it a pPod. You can read all about it on my main web site:


Stop Using Internet Explorer!

December 17, 2008

If you’re still using Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, you really need to stop. Not only does it not work correctly with my main web site,, but it is dangerous. Read the following article (the meat of which starts about 1/3 of the way down the page).

Microsoft Sucks. Dell Sucks. Best Buy Sucks

December 12, 2008

Well. I suppose the title is a bit over-the-top. But hear me out.

A friend of mine asked for help, because his copy of Internet Explorer was no longer working properly. When I got to his computer, I saw that the Files, Send, Link menu entry was grayed out.

A laborious web search revealed a few articles about how to cure this, but none of those efforts worked. The situation was complicated because of all of the different versions of IE and Vista [yetch!].

On one of the web pages, I saw a phone number to call for Microsoft support. I was a bit suspicious, since I’ve NEVER gotten ANY support out of Microsoft, but I called the number.

As soon as I explained that this was a Dell computer, the guy from Microsoft could not get rid of me fast enough. He gave me a number for Dell Tech Support. That number was wrong.

I then called Dell on the phone. When they discovered that the computer had been purchased at Best Buy, they could not get me off the phone fast enough. They gave me a number for Best Buy.

When I spoke with the technician from Best Buy, as soon as I explained the problem, she hung up the phone on me. When I called back to complain, I was told that they would try to solve my problem, but only after I’d paid them $40.

I hung up on them.

I can understand how each of these companies cannot afford to provide support for their products indefinitely. But I don’t see why everyone on the planet should pony up $40 to solve a problem that should be explained and solved on a web site.

A word to the wise. There is no such thing as a bargain. When you buy a computer from Dell, you give up any support that Microsoft might have provided; and when you buy that “Dell” computer from Best Buy, you gave up all of your Dell support.

Anyway. IE still does not work. Like I said, they all suck.

fascinating geek fest

December 4, 2008

This guy shows how a PDF infected with malware actually contains a blow-by-blow history of how the malware was created. Highly technical, but also interesting.

Testing Thumb Drives

February 23, 2008

I bought an 8 GB thumb drive from Kensington, and was happy with it for a month or so, but recently, while trying to copy a whole mess of files over to a new laptop (yeah, I know: I should have used my network; but, in my experience, networks just don’t work at ALL with microSoft Windows), many (most!) of the files and directories were corrupted (something you almost never see with an NTFS file system).

I asked Kensington for software to test the thumb drive, figuring I didn’t want to bother them if I wasn’t sure that the drive was defective.  Astonishingly, they have no software to test their products.  I guess they just take them back and put them in a land fill if any customer has the slightest question.

So, of course, I wrote a test program.  It is not brilliant: it is “quick ‘n’ dirty”, but it does work.  Well. At least I think it does.  It says the thumb drive is not defective.  The program writes a series of large (2 GB) files to the drive, first writing patterns of all “1” and then patterns of all “0” and tests to verify that each of those patterns can be read back successfully. It’s slow, but at least now I have to look elsewhere for the corrupted files culprit.

If you want to try the program, go to and  click on the Software menu entry.

The end of privacy

June 13, 2007

I’m not telling you about this because I like the idea, but it’s out there, and you need to be aware that anyone with $50 can now snoop on your computer without you being aware of it. If you’re a mom snooping on her teen aged son, privacy and trust issues aside, I suppose this can be justified, but the potential for abuse is obvious. The bottom line is that if you let anyone be alone with your computer for more than a few minutes, you can be spied on in this way.

Run your Windows software on your Mac

June 9, 2007

I have admired the Mac since it first came out, and actually owned a few before it became clear that I did not have the energy or budget to keep both Macs and [IBM] PCs; I chose the PC because I could make a living on the PC. That said, Macs have a lot of advantages, including an operating system that is much better written, with fewer security holes; and, of course, a slick UI that Microsoft will never achieve, because of some fundamental internal architectural flaws.

I have kept my eye on the Wine project ( for years, and recently discovered (through my Mac friend Ray) that someone had created a slick wrapper for the Wine technology in a product called CrossOver. In a moment of weakness and boredom, Ray purchased a new Mac Mini ($600) and then tried to use CrossOver to install and run a variety of Windows programs. The published list of programs that work under CrossOver is fairly small (compared to the universe of all Windows programs), but almost all of the programs that he installed just ran on the Mac, without Windows. You just double-click on the Windows application, and it just runs, right there on the Mac.

If all you need your computer for is writing documents, email, and surfing the web, with an occasional foray into specialized Windows software, you might want to consider a Mac for your next computer. You would still be able to run Windows programs from time to time, without having to re-boot, and your chances of being the target of spy-ware and viruses would be greatly reduced. You can try CrossOver for free for 30 days by going to