Happy New Year to my Family and Friends!

I wanted to take a minute to wish everyone a very Happy New Year! May the new year bring you hapiness, peace, prosperity, love and lots of cool geek toys!

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Tivo Now Offers its Own Wireless Adapter

Tivo LogoThis week, Tivo has silently released its own branded wireless adapter for Series 2 Tivo units. The adapter features 802.11b and 802.11g access, as well as some circuitry that offers “Optimized wireless performance with your TiVo® Series2â„¢ DVR“. Essentially, from what I read and understand, the new adapter is able to take over some of the duties which are normally done on the Tivo unit itself, thus reducing the load on your Tivo and increasing throughput on the wireless side. A good discussion on the new adapter can be found at http://www.zatznotfunny.com/2005-12/tivos-wireless-adapter-arrives/

The adapter is currently available directly from Tivo and sells for $49.99.

UPDATE: The first review of this adapter is out and shows a performance increase of 60%!

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Face Transformations

Another great link from my good friend Dan, who seems to have way too much time on his hands to be able to find cool sites such as this one…
The St Andrew’s Face Morpher is a site which enables you to upload a shot of your face (or anyone else), set a few data points, such as the location of eyes and mouth, and transform the face into over a dozen different styles. The Java applet works amazingly well, producing some of the funniest, and in some cases almost eerily accurate, transformations of one’s face that you’ll be able to find anywhere… Definitely worth a look.

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Promising New Webmail Application

Just noticed this new webmail application called Hula. Here’s a excerpt from their project site:

Hula is a calendar and mail server whose goal is to be fun and easy to use, while scaling effortlessly from small groups to large organizations with thousands of members.
Hula is an open source project led by Novell

I’ve been using Squirrelmail for years now whenever I had the need to install any type of Webmail functionality. It has great features, it’s proven, and it’s actively maintained. The interface/GUI on the other hand has always seemed unsexy to me though. Hula actually looks very nice. It also seems to have some calendaring features as well as an integrated address book. While I haven’t installed it or even used it, it does look promising as an alternative to Squirrelmail…

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The CSS Cheat Sheet

Came across this CSS Cheat Sheet (http://www.ilovejackdaniels.com/css/css-cheat-sheet/) tonight while looking up some information to edit my stylesheets. I know my friend Scott will be VERY interested in this, unless he turns around at work and says “Time Machine!”, our code-word for situations when one of us already knew about the information in question.

This site also has a few other Cheat Sheets for web developers, such as a MySQL Cheat Sheet, a PHP Cheat Sheet, an RGB Hex Color Chart, and a personal favorite of mine, the mod_rewrite Cheat Sheet.

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Access Websites Without Registering

Google LogoEver run a search on Google for some information you were interested in, only to find that after you click on a result you are taken to a site which required registration in order to access the full article? I sure did, on many occasions. Ever wonder how Google was able to index something that can only be accessed by registered users? That thought occurred to me on my ride home today as I was listening to some podcasts. I do some of my best thinking while driving and listening to something totally unrelated to the problem I’m trying to solve. And that’s when it struck me…

There’s no way that the Google bot happened to have ‘registered’ an account on some of these sites and thus had access. Even if it did, the bot just follows links, albeit in an intelligent manner. So, it had to be something else. And that’s when it hit me; the Google bot has a unique browser ‘User Agent’. When one of these sites sees that Google is spidering their pages, they just give it free reign to all their content. After all, it’s important to get as much of their content indexed, and as such, get more people directed to their website from search results. When you and I go to the same site, our browser transmits a User Agent header indicating if we’re using Firefox or IE or another browser.

I decided to test my theory tonight. I fired up my Firefox browser and grabbed an extension which would enable me to customize my User Agent value. I downloaded the “User Agent Switcher” Firefox extension, set my User Agent to “GoogleBot/2.1” (no quotes) and I was ready to go. I needed to find a site that was indexed by Google, but that needed ‘registration’ to be able to view its content. Take the following URL for example: http://www.windowsitpro.com/Windows/Article/ArticleID/46980/
Try going to it without modifying your User Agent and you’ll notice you need to be a subscriber to have access to more than 2 paragraphs of the full article. Now, modify your User Agent and Presto! You have access to the full article!

While this won’t work with some of the larger sites like the New York Times or Washington Post, it does work with some of the smaller sites which rely more heavily on Google to route some traffic to their site. For now, anytime I hit a site which requires me to register before I can view the full article, I’ll switch my User Agent just in case. I have a strange suspicion this might work on many, many sites…

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Patient Cats

Came across another one of those “Why didn’t I think of that!” kind of sites…
You’ll understand; just go to http://www.stuffonmycat.com/

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Star Wars Episode 4 – in ASCII!

I’m not sure exactly what to think about this; is this an incredible feat of programming patience, or the creation of a developer with absolutely no social life? See for yourself; fire up a command line in either Linux, Mac OS X, Windows, or whatever you love to use. Type the following:

telnet towel.blinkenlights.nl

Enjoy the show!

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More Fun With GMail

GMail LogoMy friend Dan approached me at work today relating a story he had read on someone’s blog regarding some interesting GMail tips. The one he brought up was how you could take your GMail address and ‘append’ additional words to the account name. For example, if you had a GMail account of ‘nasal43087@gmail.com’, you could give out an email address of ‘nasal43087+amazon@gmail.com’ when buying something from Amazon. Now, if Amazon emailed you, you would get the email like you normally would. You could filter on the appended ‘+amazon’ to automatically move the email into a folder, but more importantly, if you were to receive an email at that ‘address’ from anyone else, you would instantly know that Amazon had given/sold your address and to whom. This would be a quick way to determine who’s selling your information off to spammers…

The GMail Tips website also has lots of other interesting tips/ideas to try out with your GMail account. The tip above was taken from their GMail Tip #5.

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Building a NAS Using Old Hardware

I have a bunch of extra computer equipment just sitting around, including computers, hard-drives, etc. Well, I had a lot more before cleaning out our garage recently, but that’s a different story :-). While listening to one of my many podcasts, I heard the mention of a ‘software-based’ NAS that someone could use with old hardware.
Take a look at NASLite from Server Elements. They offer some streamlined distributions which are free to download, as well as paid versions with more features.
Basically, you grab an old computer, even an old 486, stick some hard-drives in it and boot from the floppy. A couple minutes later, after less than a minute of configuration, you have network attached storage. All your drives are now shares on your network, accessible by any other computers. Instant file-server, low maintenance. Beautiful!

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How iTunes Changed the way I Listen to Podcasts

PodcastingMy good friend Matt introduced me to Podcasts a few months ago, telling me how they had totally changed his listening habits, to the point where he had stopped listening to regular radio except for the occasional traffic report now and then. As is always the case, when Matt starts preaching about something, I start listening, since many times, he’s onto something. So I started looking into this Podcast phenomenon and at first couldn’t really understand what the big deal was.
To me, it just seemed like a bunch of people simply recording shows of specific interest into MP3 files for people to download and listen to. A couple shows piqued my curiosity so I listened to them a couple times on my laptop and thought it was kinda cool. One afternoon, upon entering my car leaving work, I realized that I had left my satellite radio at home. Desperate for something different to listen to on the way home, I realized that I had synced my iPod with my PowerBook and had 3-4 Podcasts sitting on it that could be listened to. So I pulled out my old cassette tape interface, plugged the iPod in, started the first Podcast and drove home. A few minutes later, I realized what this whole phenomenon was all about; it’s not just the fact that you can download these shows and listen to them. The magic is that you can listen to them anywhere and anytime!
At that point, I became what I now call a “Podcast Junkie”; I subscribe to 13 different Podcasts which I listen to religiously. Some of these are released weekly, others are released every other day or even daily. This gives the whole thing a level of variety that makes it a little difficult to listen to the same old thing everyday (unless that what you want!).
With the advent of iTunes 4.9, podcast listeners have been taken to another level in regards to the simplicity of finding, subscribing, listening and syncing their Podcasts. Prior to iTunes 4.9, I used another client which worked, but was clunky and didn’t provide the seamless integration/experience I wanted with iTunes. Now, everything is done from one interface in a clean and simple fashion.
If you’re interested in some of the Podcasts I listen to, take a look at the list on the right of my site.

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Comparaison Shopping using your Cellphone

The folks at Amabuddy.com are on the right track with their site. Say you’re at a store and come across a book or CD you’re interested in buying. It’s on sale, but you would like to know if the price is still better than online stores. Simple. Pickup your cellphone and call Amabuddy, type in the ISBN of the book or CD and listen as Amabuddy gives you the current prices for that product on Amazon! Great concept!

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