I’m attempting to be more diligent in my shopping habits. Instead of simply going out and buying whatever the local big box has on the shelf I’ve been looking into various manufacturer’s websites and shopping around online for the best price. Today I bought the Sony SA-VE367T for my new receiver.

It dawned on me that I spent about 20 minutes searching manufacturers’ websites, searching Google for reviews/prices and then purchasing exactly what I wanted for about 50% less than retail. Simply amazing.

What are your shopping habits online? I use manufacturer websites to get model numbers and specifications, Google for finding user/expert reviews and pricing and then usually check out Amazon.com since they often have the best pricing and free shipping. What about you?

CERT and Dept. of Homeland Security issue IE warnings

anti-IE campaign logo
It looks like the tide is finally turning against Microsoft’s browser IE. Both CERT and the Department of Homeland Security have issued warnings to users to NOT use Microsofts Internet Explorer web browser. The reason? Other than being a pile of donkey crap that hasn’t been updated in over a year, it has numerous serious security flaws that Microsoft has yet to fix.

Users should find and download a replacement browser as soon as possible. Most Apple users out there probably use Safari, but Windows users do not despair! You can download Mozilla, which is a great browser that is, for the most part, immune to the virus attacks that IE is. It’s also updated frequently with new features, bug fixes, etc.

Help fight terrorism! Don’t use Internet Explorer!

Recent Side Projects

Over the last month or so I’ve been working with Cameron Barrett of camworld.com fame to create a few interesting new blog related websites.

  1. Today’s Papers – Today’s Papers is a website devoted to aggregating news discussions. It works by pulling from over a hundred RSS news feeds, aggregating them by category and allowing users to both trackback and post comments to each news entry. It’s a great way for people to find out meta information and centralize discussions on the latest news.
  2. FH911.com – FH911.com is an online community for Michael Moore’s much anticipated and much debated new movie, Fahrenheit 9/11. We don’t take sides, but merely allow for a forum to discuss Moore’s new movie, the controversy, his books, etc.

Feel free to check out the new sites and send me ideas, complaints, comments through the contact form on this site.

A Review of Google Mail (aka gmail)

Thanks to a friend I was recently invited to take part in the closed beta of Google Mail (aka gmail). As soon as I logged in the first thing I noticed was that Google’s email had a simplistic interface, which I like. I had been hearing lots of things around the Internet about how Gmail didn’t have traditional folders and how it had keyboard shortcuts, etc. This all turned out to be true. The UI of Gmail is drastically different than anything I’ve ever used for email before. It’s foreign to me and I’m not sure I really like it. At any rate, here are a few screenshots and some explanation as to what is going on.


Gmail introduces the notion of “Conversations”, which are groupings of messages that were replies to each other. There are rules in the RFC that allow for such relationships to be built, but are completely dependent on whether the MUA replying uses the correct headers (In-Reply-To if I recall correctly). I can only assume Google uses these headers to relate messages into conversations. In this screenshot you can see numbers next to names – those are the numbers of messages in that conversation. Many who have used the famous MUA mutt will think this is simple threading, but it’s not. Google takes it a step further and lays out your conversation in reverse chronological order with all of your messages inline too. This is there response to removing the traditional Sent folder – simply put your replies right under the messages you replied to. Gmail ConversationI’m not completely used to the notion of conversations. It’s a highbred of threading and message boards that I’m not sure I really like yet. I can see it becomeing difficult to navigate, but with a Google indexed INBOX searching should quickly take care of that.

The other thing Gmail introduces is the notion of Labels. Labels are very much like folders, but messages aren’t moved into these psuedo folders. That’s one of the strange things about Gmail – everything stays right in your INBOX unless you move it to your Trash or Spam folders. As you can see in the first screenshot I have a few things labeled “JCS Solutions”, etc. that are sitting right in my INBOX.

Labels are cool, but when combined with Filters they are extremely cool. These are simple procmail type rules that allow you to add labels to email that match certain criteria (ie. subject has [PEAR-DEV] in it). This allows you to automagically apply the Label “mom” to email coming from your mother. You then have a list of Labels in the lower left hand side of the screen that show you how many new messages for each Label you have in your INBOX. You can then click that and view it as if it was a folder. The combination of Labels and Filters are VERY much like the auto-updating playlists found in iTunes, which I find to be extremely cool.

The two other cool features in Gmail involve crazy ass amounts of JavaScript. The first are keyboard shortcuts, which follow closely mutt’s keyboard shortcuts. This makes browsing a much quicker process. The second is type-ahead searching of people’s name in your INBOX. It works just like Outlook where if you type in a part of an email address it pops up a list of email addresses that match the text you have typed in so far.

Gmail is still beta though. I expect them to polish the interface quite a bit before they make it publicly available for consumption by all. For starters you can’t define a signature, which I found odd. Also, it appears that if you receive a message and then create a filter based on it Gmail does not apply the filter to the message once received. In other words labels and filters are applied as the message is received. My other worry is how I could backup or archive my own email. My only hope is that this either becomes a paid service or publicly available to download your email as an mbox file.

And, yes, I have 1000MB (1GB) of space available.

Why I'm an ITMS Whore

For those of you who don’t know ITMS stands for iTunes Music Store. It’s the online music store that Apple’s visionary Steve Jobs launched about a year or so ago. It features single tracks for 99 cents and full albums for $9.99. Lately, I have become increasingly reliant on ITMS for all of my music needs. In fact, I’ve gone so far as to accept ITMS Gift Certificates as payment for services rendered. Combine this with the Pepsi caps giveaway and I’ve gotten a lot of mostly free music over the last few weeks.

My purchases range from Guns N’ Roses Greatest Hits to Billy Joel and Michelle Branch. I’ve also been trying to buy legal copies of the music Lauren insists on downloading illegally. I’d rather she just use my ITMS account, but there doesn’t appear to be any reasoning with her.

The reason I like ITMS so much is the obvious: it’s on demand. If I have a tune stuck in my head and I forget how it goes I click on the ITMS tab and download it. I also like the fact that I don’t have to go anywhere, which facilitates my already abundant laziness. If you combine this with the fact that Lauren can play my tunes across the network through her iTunes and, with my amazing 40GB iPod, I can listen to my tunes at the gym and through the radio in my car you can easily see why I use ITMS all the time. So let’s recap:

  1. ITMS is on demand – purchase whatever you like, whenever you like a’ la carte.
  2. You don’t have to go to the record store anymore.
  3. With an iPod you can take your tunes anywhere.
  4. It’s cheap and legal.

Yup, life is good with ITMS. In fact, I would say I’m enjoying music much more now that it is around. I listen to more music and find myself actively seeking out music much more than I did before ITMS invaded my life.

A new blog

Thanks to http://www.debris.com I’ve found a new blog that I plan on keeping up on. You can read up on it at http://beyondthepale.us/. This is big news in my world as I, currently, only keep track of exactly three blogs on a daily basis (http://www.debris.com, http://www.simplebits.com and http://www.rumblestrip.org). These blogs are part of the elite, in my opinion, of the blogging world. I used to be a big CamWorld reader as well (http://www.camworld.com), but he is currently on hiatus working on Wesley Clark’s campaign.

All of the above blogs are witty, fun to read and generally cover topics of interest to me. I read debris.com because Matt has an uncanny ability to make the most trivial things seem funny. He’ll take an offhand thought you usually don’t tell anyone or even remember and make it a hysterical blog entry. Rob G. at rumblestrip ranges from funny as hell with his fixation with his PVR to sincere with memories of his grandfather. I follow simplebits.com because he pushes the CSS evenlope that I’ve barely even opened.

Today’s newcomer is witty. Funny remarks and fairly wide open discussion covering everything from his youth to his battle with weight. He also makes a good point in his about section that having an anonymous blog is a good idea – I couldn’t agree more, which is why you may not see me blogging here anymore.