Archive for June, 2008

I know the instructions but I can’t play the game

Wednesday, June 11th, 2008

When I was a child I was very good at playing the guitar. Well, that’s at least what everyone else believed except me. In the early 80’s I remember that two people were the best at guitar in the world. Oddly enough they were Charro then Eddie Van Halen. I idolized these guitar saints. I remember reading once that Charro (who was just know for saying “Couchie couchie coo” on TV and having big boobs) practiced guitar 8 hours a day. When I actually heard her play it was like music from heaven. I wanted to be that kind of guitarist. I was always the best musical student. I still hold it over my parents heads that they never paid a dollar for my training because in the 3 years that I took lessons I was always deemed by the music school to be the best and thus won their scholarship every year. I was also inspired to play guitar because of this girl at my school that could play great but graduated the year before I started.

Why, you may ask, do I think I wasn’t that good? The missing part of the story is my guitar teacher’s pleas. He was a great guitarist. I was very fortunate that I had him because he was in a very famous 70’s rock band as the backup guitarist and toured sometimes. Throughout my 3 years he would tell me that I learned my guitar very well. I practiced sometimes as long as 8 hours on the weekends. I bought sheet music of all the popular songs and I’d learn them and come back knowing them by Monday. I could play classical, rock, R&B, and Spanish at the drop of a hat. That was all great but I didn’t practice what he kept telling me to learn. My scales. He constantly told me that learning my scales would allow me to play by ear, make my own music, and improvise.

I never did get my scales down because I didn’t practice them enough. I knew the rules and instructions but I couldn’t play the game.

The same is true of so many people and so many things. College, for example, barely teaches our children the rules of many careers. I no longer just want to know the rules I always want to play the game. I learned this a long time ago.

Let Firefox help you search and study quicker

Tuesday, June 10th, 2008

I was recently at the house of one of my nieces. I was talking to her for a while about her homework and her grades before I came to an idea that I don’t think a lot of people do or even know about. It’s the search engine box in the upper right hand corner of Firefox. If you used to use this a lot keep paying attention because I might have some more info for you that might prove useful.

The box in the upper corner comes with a couple useful websites in the drop-down list. You’ll find: Google, Amazon, Creative Commons, etc. Well, I don’t know why but there was a lot more search engines that you could add just by clicking on “Manage Search Engines” at the bottom of the list. Well this has changed a lot! Now there is only a minimum of sites there and even most of those aren’t search engines they’re addon toolbars. I hate adding toolbars. They add extra gunk in most cases and reduce the amount of screen you can see on the websites you view. Add toolbars if you need to but for search I’d go to: . This site is pure gold for anyone using Firefox (and if you’re not using Firefox we need to talk).

So, on to my neice. She has to look for books for school. Cool. Type in the book you want in that search box, drop down to Amazon on the list and hit enter. Poof! Like magic you’re taken to the Amazon website where you can find your book new or used. She needed quotes from different sources. I looked on the website for quotes, clicked on one of the sites listed, Firefox asks you if you want to install this search engine, you hit enter and you’ve got it. Type in a word like “Stupid” and you’ll get qoutes from people using the word or variants there of. There’s all kinds of Internet goodness there and thousands of plugin search engines as compared to about 100 if you just click the “Manage search engines” option in Firefox. Search the list for all your favorite websites that you look for things. I have ones like: Youtube, Wikipedia, Digg, Mahalo, Sourceforge, and a dictionary. There are torrent search sites, shopping, images, video, music, etc. Almost anything you can think of. I haven’t found a subject that I can’t find one. The even cooler thing is some only search in certain countries. If you’re in Britain, for example, delete the Google search that’s in your current list and click on Google UK or Google Images UK.

The reason they are so much better are because they go to exactly what you want. Say you want to price something on Amazon, eBay, and Newegg. You type that item in the search bar, click the drop-down to Amazon hit enter, open a new tab, click the drop-down to eBay, and so on. You will instantly have what you want on all three tabs for easy comparison. For studying I’d suggest a tab for a dictionary, encyclopedia, Wikipedia (for understanding not quoting as a source), and Google News, CNN, and/or BBC News to get the whole story.

Studying done in less time with more info. Oh, and before I forget. Hit control+F or command+F on the Mac to get a “Find” box in the lower left corner of the browser. Typing the work you want in that box will zip you to the place in the page where that word is. You don’t have to read the whole page to find it.

Try it now no matter what you are doing.

Who are you going to believe?

Monday, June 9th, 2008

I recently heard this analogy and I was so excited about it because I always want to tell people something like this. On the financial podcast “The Moneyworks” the financial planner that hosts the show did a segment that warned people against following the advice of the guy you know or friend that knows about this stuff. His analogy was: “Who are you going to trust if you want to learn golf. The guy that works at the golf shop or Tiger Woods? Tiger is a professional that does this for a living!”

I get so upset with this sometimes. I remember one time when I went over the house of a friend of the family once. The lady had a computer issue and called me over. Just before I arrived her cousin arrived. The cousin was a know it all lady whose focus today was computers.  My initial thought was to battle for supremacy in computer knowledge with her but I didn’t. I let the person decide. Who are you going to listen to? A person that does this for a living and that people hold accountable for millions of dollars of equipment and revenue or a secretary on the ground flour of Joe Blow’s discount Inc.?  The way I figure it follow their advice now if you want. You will be back to me or (if you can’t swallow your pride) you will wander from random computer person to random computer person and then take on the belief that this stuff is just too hard anyway.

Luckily the lady in the aforementioned store patronized her cousin till she left and then said, “I could tell by your face she was all wrong from the start. Let’s get started.” Wise choice. If you don’t want to get a computer guy like me to solve your problem the next best choice has ended up being the tech people at Fry’s Electronics, Best Buy, Circuit City, etc. This is not always a bad choice and I will recommend it sometimes. However, just like with the financial consultant, even if you know someone doing this but they aren’t in your city and can actually do it, pay them a little something for some quick advice over the phone. I can diagnose most things over the phone without even seeing you in person. If you don’t you will go in there like sending my mom to a mechanic. They could tell her anything and get some commissions off the sales.

Service Pack 3 for all my friends

Thursday, June 5th, 2008

Let’s face it. Vista really isn’t making it happen for Microsoft or users. If you’re one of the people that is really enjoying Vista then more power to you. However, I’m finding that more and more people are looking to make their new PC purchase and asking me if I could install Windows XP on their hardware. At this point I tell them that I could go to the site that they are looking for thier hardware and find out if they could put XP on it instead. Dell has quite a few tricks to get this done on their hardware but they do realize that people do hate Vista.

This is where service pack 3 is a gem for me. If I have to be the one to install a new system with Windows (whether it’s an Service Pack 1 or 2 disk from the PC they’re thowing away) then the almost 90 updates from service pack 2 to present all being in one file is great.

Microsoft does recommend you to use Windows update unless you’re installing to multiple machines. I disagree. I’m big on going to www. then going to the “downloads and trials” and downloading the one big 350 mg file. Then I run it from the hard drive. Quick and easy.

I’ve heard a couple people say that they’ve had minor issues but I haven’t seen anything on this and I’ve installed it quite a few times already. Definitely run it if you’ve cleaned up a past virus/spyware computer. you never know what was effected that this will fix.

Save gas… Use the Internet

Wednesday, June 4th, 2008

I was watching CNBC and came to a huge revelation. The gas price increase really sucks! Now seriously everyone knows that. However, there are so many factors that really effect the common person. For example: Fishermen pay for the gas on the boats that they use to get fish even though they don’t own the ship. Take into account that now the price of gas has doubled since last year and the market price of scallops has stayed the same. Fishermen lose money thus spend less, etc., etc.

I don’t mean to gloat but I’ve been saving quite a bit on gas and here’s how. I stay at home. Yep, that’s basically it. Let me fill in some of the details for you though. I am a consultant and have found that it is very cost effective for me and my clients to do most of the work I do remotely. With tools like Virtual Network Computing (VNC), Secure SHell (SSH), Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP), and Virtual Private Networking (VPN) you can sit on the couch and telecommute to success. If you’re an employer then you should really look into using these at your office.

The other part of the save on gas equation is good for the economy but will hurt brick and mortar companies a bit. I live on Amazon and companies like New Egg. I used to be an avid Borders guy and just loved going there to look at new books but now I’m adopting a habit that may never change. I’m finding used books on Amazon that are like new (or actually new as far as I can tell) for under $1 plus shipping. Did you get that? Five dollars total for a book that goes for $30+. That’s putting money in my gas tank till I can afford that electric Telsa sports car.

I believe I will look into making some more of these tips that I use and go into a little more detail on some of the acronyms and how they can save you a little money.