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Font for email messages

While doing another useless web search, I stumbled across the question “What is the best font to use for email messages”.  It seems like it would be a controversial or ‘in the eye of the beholder’ type of selection.  Apparently it isn’t.  I even stumbled across a dissertation someone did on the topic.  I’ll admit I didn’t read the 624 page study, page 91 seemed to cut to the core of the top 3:  Arial, Times & Verdana.  According to the web community, Arial and Verdana are the top picks (mine has always been verdana, it seems the cleanest and easiest font to read) with Arial being the clear leader in the study.  Many respondents on the forums opt for plain text, but I think we’re moving away from that unfortunately.  What I did find interesting in the study was that #4 was Comic Sans, which the web regards as being one of the worst fonts for email.  I like the font for certain items, but I do agree that its considered an amateurish font you’d use for family when you want to send out that birthday invite or the latest chain letter you got.  Also notable in the study is that the top 3 least favorite fonts are Comic Sans, Times and Arial.  Using both charts, verdana might be the clear winner since it wasn’t listed in the least favorite font by any of the respondents.  In case anyone is wondering, 10pt seems to be the primary pick as well.

I’d be interested if anyone has any better recommendations.  Also, is there a particular color people prefer?  I think I’ve used navy blue in the past, I’m going to switch to black now and see how I feel about that.  It’s also possible that I’m just being OCD as well.  :)

Xbox 360 on DD-WRT Routers

So, this has been an expensive few months.  This month I wound up with an xbox 360 arcade edition which I wanted to use as a media extender.  Since I got it for about $100 new through some special, I figured it’d be a better investment than anything else.  I already run playon media server in my house, so this was the best route to go.  I may even try a game or two on it :).  However, during my research I discovered that the xbox not only does not come with wifi built in (eh?), but you need to use microsofts wifi adapter which sells for about $80 (talk about a huge markup!).

Of course, anyone looking this up on the internet can find a few alternate options.  The one I went with was using DD-WRT on a cheap router.  I picked up a new draft-n router Airlink AR670W on meritline for about $30, and decided to make my current buffalo WHR-G54s router into an xbox router.  Since the buffalo was already running dd-wrt, all I needed to do was put a different dd-wrt bin on it when it came (i didn’t need to, but I was using a special vpn bin that was probably overkill for this).  I found a pretty good website that explained how to configure the xbox router after you put dd-wrt on it.  There were a couple typos in that (line 15 and line 17 should be  192.168.2.1) and since I use MAC security, I had to use the routers WAN MAC address (the one printed on the outside of the router is the LAN MAC address), but other than that, everything went great.

Configuring the AR670w however was kind of a bitch.  Apparently the bin they mention on the dd-wrt forums and all over the internet doesn’t work properly (lan ports don’t work on some versions), so you are supposed to use a different bin (mentioned a few times in this thread, I’ve linked to one of the pages with a d/l of the correct bin).  Hopefully they’ll get that fixed by the time anyone else stumbles across this.  :)  Obviously I could have just used the AR670w as a xbox router, but the 802.11n (albiet draft) was going to be put to better use as a main router and my G router as the xbox connector.

On the media-pc project from a couple months ago, I’m waiting for a new version of Boxee that will come out in december…  Right now I’m still using my PS3 with Playon for hulu, since hulu dies half-way through shows on the Mac Mini I used for the living room Media PC.  I picked up a mac since I knew it did netflix, didn’t know about the hulu issue – the pc version appears to do hulu fine, but no netflix…  apparently theres some kind of comedian working over at boxee :)

Chrome with Lastpass and XMarks extensions

I’ve been holding out lately in using chrome since I pretty much rely on xmarks and lastpass.  I’ve recently found that some beta and dev builds of Chrome support extensions, however I was not able to get those to work.  Most of the information out there rely on people doing a registry hack and shortcut hack to get the beta and dev Chromes to use extensions, however none of that worked for me.  What did work was utilizing Chromium instead of Chrome, which is the open source version of Chrome.  For those interested, here is the simple steps…

  1. Install Chromium from:
    http://build.chromium.org/buildbot/snapshots/
    (chromium-rel-xp, scroll down to latest snapshot, run mini_installer.exe)
  2. xmarks bookmark synchronization:
    http://beta.xmarks.com/program/chrome
  3. lastpass password synchronization at:
    https://lastpass.com/download.php

Hope this helps…  folks interested in learning how to write extensions can look here:

Trolling for Comments…

<rant>

So, I started this post because I have this eternal annoyance with forum and blog commenters throughout the years.  By that, I don’t mean here (I don’t get any), but on other sites… useful sites.  I, like all of us, use the internet for research since, well, thats one of the reasons it was founded.  So, I look up a topic and apparently the first answer is always a retard.  Here is the most recent example that got me annoyed…

Blog Post:  How to build your own wifi for the xbox (rather than paying for the $80 MS device)
Commenter:  Throw out your xbox and buy a PS3, it has built in wifi
Me:  Umm… how is that cheaper than $80?

However, this isn’t the only time.  Back in the day I used to do Desktop Support for large corporate enterprises.  Many times a client would have some issue on their pc and I was stuck fixing it.  I can’t tell you how many times I tried to research a solution on an IE or MS Windows problem where I’d finally find the same issue and some retard without fail would find the post and respond: “Use firefox instead” or “Use Linux!”…  umm…  thanks, I’ll let management know that.  I’m sure that brilliant solution will certainly get me a raise.  What if you had a problem with your car and the mechanic told you not to fix it but to just buy a new car?

Anyway, this was more of a rant than anything, but there has got to be solutions for these people.  I have seen some social networking resolutions for this such as ‘rating’ up and down comments, hoping that there are more intelligent folks participating then trolls, but is that true?  Maybe intelligent folks are just too busy to post?  Another option is for blog and forum moderators to just delete stupid posts, but that poses its own set of issues, such as…  who determines the value of a post?

Thoughts?

<end rant>

TR.IM and URL Shortening

With this weeks news about the new URL Shortening service TR.IM closing down, many folks have started to wonder which URL shortening service they should be using to guarantee that they won’t lose their old shortened URL’s.  The quick answer is that their is no guarantee.  No URL shortening service has really come up with a good monetization technique, if one is really even possible.  The closest, of course, would be bit.ly, but even that is iffy at best.

So what are the options?  Depends, how important are your links?  If they’re just for Twitter and it’s time relevant, it might not be that important that your URL redirects to original link years later.  If it’s for business purposes, perhaps you should either not use a URL redirect, or use your own.  It doesn’t take much these days to buy a relatively short domain and install your own URL redirect script.  You’ll most likely need a foreign domain of course, don’t expect a .com – why not use that .net or .info of your domain everyone talked us into buying.  The advantage of this method is that your URL’s always redirect as long as you’re in business.  The disadvantage is that automated twitter clients will not automatically parse the url, so people might be less trusting to click on the link (except your regular customers, of course).  If you’re  a big news site, this is definitely the way to go.  We’ve seen this approach done with the digg.com site recently.  If you’re hosting a wordpress blog site, like I do here, the answer is really simple.  In your settings – permalinks section, change it to Custom and enter /%post_id% .  This creates a short url with your own domain.  The down side is that you no longer have the pretty SEO friendly links.  Since it hasn’t been truly proven that these so called ‘SEO friendly URLs’ are truly applicable these days, that most likely is not an issue.  Other sites have implemented their own variations of short urls.  The site Populate.net creates a shorter (admittedly not short) URL of every article submitted to their directory and retweets them with the short url.  Here’s a great blog post I found while researching scripts, if you’re technically inclined.

Facebook Privacy – How to lock down your profile

Not being into the “social” online setting, I’ve managed to avoid having a facebook profile all these years.  However, more and more people have been creating facebook profiles and doing their emails and events through it that I’ve started to get left out of the family and friend loop.  No big deal, I have lots of other things to do.  However, in order to eliminate the Hermit label, I decided to set up a Facebook profile.  Sure, I’ve used the other social sites out there in the past, more as a techie geek to see how they work and less to actually set up anything I use.  Since my intent was to use Facebook, I have a very strict set of requirements.  I have different groups of “friends”.  I have family, i have close friends and I have work friends.  Each one has a certain criteria I want to configure and restrict from different items.  My family I want to share those family photos with.  My close friends I am willing to share tagged photos with and maybe a different set of photos.  My work buddies, well, they just get the basics in case they need to contact me. Everyone else?  I don’t want to share anything with them, they need to add me.

So, It appears that Facebook has these options.  In an effort to document all the settings I did in case the “cloud” goes down and I have to re set up a profile, or more likely, someone else wants to know how to do this, I’ve created this post.

  1. First things first, we need groups.  To set up groups, you need to create lists.  From your home page, after being logged in, you’ll see on the left hand tab the “create” button.  Click on create, then create the groups you want to use.  I created three: Family, Buddies, and Work.  As an fyi, you can have people in more than one list.  In case, for instance, you have family who you like enough to be buddies with.  :)   By the way, I originally called my buddies list, friends, but do to the confusion of them using the term ‘friends’ in other places for your global friend list, i switched to the term ‘buddies’.
  2. Next, you need to categorize your “friends”.  Click on Friends at the top, then under the lists tab, click on Friends.  This will bring up all your friends. Next to each friend you’ll see a dropdown.  Go through each dropdown and categorize your friends.
  3. Now for your privacy settings.  I’ve done them with images to help out…  Privacy Settings, Privacy Search and Privacy Applications
    Facebook Privacy Profile

    Facebook Privacy Profile

    Facebook Privacy Search

    Facebook Privacy Search

    Facebook Privacy Applications

    Facebook Privacy Applications

    As an aside, for applications settings, you can click on the Applications hyperlink on the Application Privacy section “Applications Authorized to access your Information” and customize which groups can see which applications.  As mentioned, i’ve set it up so family can see Flickr, but no one else.  I’ve also set up Google Latitude box on my facebook page and restricted it so only Family can see my location in case I’m abducted, but not Work or Buddies since they’re the ones most likely to have abducted me.  You’ll also notice on the Privacy Settings section is where I restricted the ‘tagged photo’ feature to buddies only as well as how I’ve set it so that ‘only friends and friends of friends can see anything (vs. everyone). This way NO information shows up to the general public.  The reason I set ‘friends of friends’ vs. just friends is that seems like it would be the most appropriate setting to allow friends who I have not found yet to contact me (since they’ll most likely have linked to other friends of mine).

  4. Finally, under Privacy – Profile – Contact Information is where you can restrict what contact information people see about you as well as which emails show up.

Hopefully that’ll help lock down your profile.  One final suggestion is that you should not link your work email address, if you have one, to your facebook profile.  The reason is someone technical to explain, but it involves applications such as xobni (previously mentioned) and their ability to announce the existence of your profile without anyone searching.  If anyone has any additional ideas that I may have missed or any corrections, please leave a comment below.

Google Chrome OS… Who Cares?

So, apparently Google decided to expand into the OS market or at least show the intent to do so by posting about their upcoming Google Chrome OS.  I’m not entirely sure why this is new or exciting.  Cursory review of their plans show that they are creating a minimalistic version of another Linux Distro essentially with a Chrome Browser front end.  While I do think the concept is intriguing as far as size and speed goes, who prey-tell would actually want a 1+ ghz processor pc running this, I don’t know.  The netbook internet cafe pc is a proof of concept idea without the back end infrastructure out there to support it.   We don’t always have Wifi internet, sometimes I’m actually at places without internet, and I need to work.  Maybe in 10 years with technologies such as WiMax expanding over cities, this might change.  As of now, most people want a desktop based OS with Cloud Synchronization.

How this does effect us is how it expands Chrome to another platform.  With a Windows, Android and it’s own OS version, developers should consider getting on the ball and making extensions that will work with it.  Password managers, Bookmarks Sync (real bookmark sync, not that lousy google bookmark label system) and other tools people use.

GDGT opens it’s doors and other random updates

So I haven’t posted in a while.  Not because there hasn’t been anything to post about, but because there has been too much.  With all the news that’s come out lately, Palm Pre ~ Project Natal ~ iPhone 3GS ~ Bing.com ~ Google Wave, I’ve been inundated with keeping up on everything.  Plus, with news of this scale, there are much more qualified people (see my technology links on the side) who can write on these topics.  I prefer to write about either lesser known technologies, personal views, or ways to use existing technologies in a different way.  Just posting for the sake of posting is a waste of everyone’s time.

Today, however, I visited the finally opened GDGT site which I must say was worth the wait.  The site looks great and I can see a lot of great uses for it.  For a quick review of the site, I’d suggest being lazy and watching the video they produced.  This is more than just an engadget or gizmodo blog remake, this site also allows you to link the gadgets you have, had, or want to your profile and follow the discussions on those gadgets.  It’s still working out the bugs but I’ve traversed the site and have seen some good community feedback which will make the site better.  I’ve suggested one idea myself which would be to allow us to link our gadgets between each other to create relationships between the gadgets for use as a research tool (which headsets work with which phones, etc).  I’d also love to see a way to print out my ‘have’ list in case of an emergency.  Ya never know when you need to send a list off to your home or auto insurance carrier.  Ha!  Anyway, I’d suggest taking a look at the site.  I can see this idea they have used on other niche’s as well.

Provide a glympse of your location to Customers, Coworkers & Friends

You may be aware of Google Latitude which provides your location to a limited set of contacts, which is great for keeping in touch with Friends and Family.  However, what do you do when you want to share your location temporarily with Customers or Coworkers?  Glympse solves that problem, at least for G1 Owners anyway.  Glympse is a great tool to add to your business arsenal if you are in a customer oriented business or even on a limited basis for other lifestyle actions.  Basically, with Glympse, you provide your location to a recipient of your choosing on a limited basis.  Going to meet a client for lunch?  Send him a glympse when you’re on your way.  From his desktop (if he’s meeting you at his place) or his G1 (should he have one), he can see how far away you are and know when to expect you.   He, or she, can watch your location on your route.  Sure, this can be done with Latitude, but what this does is allow you to temporarily add a person, set it for an hour (or the time of your choosing) and during that time they can monitor your location via the link your device sends out. Afterward, the ‘location’ expires and they can no longer track your position unless you send them another invite.   This is a great tool for arranging meetings with people, they can come down to meet you when you’re close without you having to text or call (while driving).  Visit glympse.com for some other great uses.  They also suggest using it for your family so they can know when you’re on your way home.  I’m not so sure about that use, I still think you’d use something like latitude for that, or maybe an ‘always on’ location system. I for one wouldn’t want to have to send my location home every day.  But, maybe that’s just me.  According to the site, they’re making apps for the iPhone as well as the Blackberry, which should increase it’s business functionality.

Xobni Outlook Plugin improves efficiency with email search and analytics

Here is a great plug-in that will help you to improve your email efficiency with no work on your part.  After a simple install, Xobni adds a handful of amazing features to outlook.  Xobni’s handful of features include an email search functionality which is nothing new, but is not only incredibly fast and accurate, it is almost required for those of us using Outlook 2007 which is known to have inaccurate and in-concise search results or just stops working altogether.  Other functionality of Xobni is relating to attachments.  Click on a persons name and it will show in the Xobni panel all of the files you have exchanged between that person, in date order for revision tracking.  I have already saved tons of time with this feature alone, as I am always sorting by attachments to hunt down the attachment that was sent by a specific user.  Xobni has built in analytics, while not necessarily an efficiency saver like the rest of the features, sure is interesting to read.  Ever wonder how long it takes someone to respond, this’ll tell you.  I can see a use for this, if you’ve ever tried to convince someone that so-and-so never replies to you or takes forever, now you have the statistics to prove it.  For the sales types, you can also click on a person and find out their Linkedin, facebook or Hoover company results quickly.  If you’re interested, watch the video below and check Xobni out directly!