Archive for April 2009

Postcards from Miss Igorota

Postcards from Miss Igorota

ms-igorota

Miss Igorota

One of my favorite sites on the web is the blog Postcards from Miss Igorota. This site plays upon the roaming gnome photo concept seen in television commercials, but in particular to this site, the 2001 French film “Amelie”.

Postcards from Miss Igorota was started by two bloggers: Conniechiwa / Fortuitous Faery, “a Filipina turned Jersey girl”; and Gingmaganda, whom I assume is from and lives in the Phillipines. Ginmgmaganda gave Conniechiwa an Igorota doll. (The Igorot people are from the Cordillera region of the Phillipines island of Luzon.) Conniechiwa decided to make the doll her “travel mascot” and took her wherever she went, and thus the photo blog of Miss Igorota’s travels was born. The current Miss Igorota is the second doll to bear the name after the first became a bit smeared from a water bottle in Conniechiwa’s purse.

Mr. Iggy

Mr. Iggy

If you check out the site you may wonder how the girl’s manage to move around so fast, but the site actually features photos of yet another igorota doll named “Mr Iggy”. Mr. Iggy appears primarily in the Philippines and Asia, while Miss Igorota appears in photos from North America. Miss Igorota (pictured above has painted lips, while Mr. Iggy does not.

Started around May 2008, Miss Igorota is entering into her second year of travels. Take a look and browse around. You might be interested in reading her story/origin and the 7 random facts about Miss Igorota, or you can also read up on the bloggers in charge.

Conficker Virus Begins To Attack PCs

I was reading about the Conficker virus on Shawn’s Technology Blog. He says that a report from Reuters says the Conficker virus — which was supposed to activate on April 1st — has slowly started activating on computers by installing spyware and turning them into spam servers.

Conficker is also known as Downadup and Kido, and it also installs a second virus called Waledac.

Reuters mentions how the computer worm began spreading late last year, and how it was designed to respond to commands from a remote server. This army of slave computers infected with the worm controlled by a remote server is called a botnet.

Furthermore, Vincent Weafer, a vice president with Symantec Security Response, makers of Norton Antivirus, has reported that recently the unknown controllers of this remote server have begun using a small percentage of the computers they control to upload ‘malware’ and ‘spyware’. One such piece of malware is the Waledac virus which installs itself on the infected computer, and then uses the computer to send out spam email messages promoting a fake anti-spyware program.

Meanwhile, Shawn’s technology Blog is very wisely recommending that computer owners keep your Windows software up to date by visiting the Windows Update web site. He also recommends you install anti-spyware software such as PC Tools Spyware Doctor. I strongly agree with his recommendations, and have done so frequently in this blog. I also recommend you install an antivirus program such as Alwil’s free Avast! antivirus program. Yes, you read that correctly, Avast antivirus is free. I have been using it on all my computers for several years now.

http://www.pctools.com/free-antivirus/

There is a free version of Spyware Doctor available from Google which does a good job of removing spyware, but for real time protection against spyware you should purchase Spyware Doctor. If you don’t have an antivirus program, you might also consider downloading Spyware Doctor with AntiVirus.

Have a question about spyware or viruses? Then why not post a Comment or Question with the link below.

Keep up-to-date with Skylarking: By Email or RSS Newsfeed or on Twitter. You can also send questions with Skylarking’s email form.

Flutter and other Twitter Humor

Some time ago I found this bit of humor from Slate magazine and SlateV.com on YouTube. The description read, “As Twitter-mania reaches new levels, Slate V presents a mockumentary about a company that wants to take microblogging to the next level.”

If you’re not familiar with Twitter, then check out my last post.

Here’s some other bits of Twitter related humor from around the web:

Got any Twitter humor of your own? Please share with a comment below. Links welcome.




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What is Twitter all about?

tour_1

A few weeks ago, someone asked, “Twitter. I don’t get it. How does it work? And what’s the point?”

I’m not going to pretend to be any sort of expert here but here’s what I had to tell them at the time. Perhaps I’ll elaborate more later, but I’d be happy if those of you who use Twitter would post your thoughts and answers to this question in the comments area below.

Anyhow, on to my answer.

Tweetdeck

Tweetdeck

There are many ways to use Twitter. One great thing is it is free to use. You can use it to keep in touch with friends or you can use it as a simple business communication tool. You can SEND and RECEIVE short messages either with your cell phone (SMS Text), from the Twitter web site, or from stand alone tools such as TweetDeck.

Twidroid

Twidroid

The mobile phone option is great if you’re on the go and can’t get to a computer. Some people worry that they’ll get too many text messages, but Twitter allows you to control who can contact you, what sort of messages get through, what time of day they are sent, and what’s the most messages you want in a day. Personally, I find SMS aspect to be too slow, so I use the Twidroid app for Android on my T-Mobile G1 smartphone. On the iPhone, Twitterific is a popular choice.

Twitterrific

Twitterrific

Plus Twitter allows you to receive messages through an email account in addition to or as an alternative to your cell phone.

Another advantage is there’s no address book to manage with Twitter and no need to update addresses. Twitter coordinates the connections between you and your followers for you. And people can opt in or out whenever they like. And your contact info is private.

Services like TweetLater.com allow you to have a summary of your daily messages and replies emailed to you.

Using the friends and cell phone option, let’s imagines you’ve registered your cell phone with your Twitter account. Then your friends could choose to “follow” your Twitter account. So let’s say you’re meeting a group of friends one day, and you have a change of plans, you could send one text message to your Twitter account, and then Twitter would forward a copy of that message to all your friends.

Or let’s say you’re producing a play, and you want to create some “buzz” about your latest production. You could tell people to “follow” your Twitter account to receive updates about the show on their cell phone or by email. So let’s say 300 people are following your Twitter account, you send out one message to Twitter and it forwards it to all 300 people. And if all goes well some of them will forward or “Retweet” to their friends and followers.

There’s more to it. You can send messages to everyone or to specific people.

But you can only communicate with people who chose to follow you, and whom you permit to follow you.

So if you want to talk to strangers, you can, but all they know about you is your user name and what you say in your messages. Even if you are sending messages from your phone, no one sees your phone number.

Some celebrities use Twitter to let their fans hear what they are up to. Many of them setup their accounts so their fans can receive messages from them, but can’t send messages to them.

So readers and Tweeters, what have you to say on the subject?  Please comment below or send me Tweet. List your Twitter address, if you like.




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Do I have wireless on my laptop?

A reader sent the following messages the other day on Twitter:

I am almost certain my laptop doesn’t have a wireless card.
How can I check whether I have a wireless adapter?
If I don’t, which one should I purchase?
Tell me how to check if there’s a wireless card internal.

My first suggestion was to go to the manufacturer’s web site and look up the model number of the laptop, but once they asked how to check the laptop directly, this is the approach I suggested:

Assuming you have a Windows computer, try this:

  1. Click Start > Control Panel > System
  2. Click Hardware > Device Manager
  3. Click the “+” by “Network Adapters”
  4. See if a “wireless” device is listed.

The common wireless designations/varieties are B, G, and N. G being the oldest form, and N the newest. (No, N is not for New. At least, I don’t think so. Anybody know?) Many of the newer ones are backwards compatible, so a G can receive B and G, and many N’s can receive all 3. N adapters are a little expensive, and if the wireless router/transmitter isn’t using N, then there is no advantage. So, I usually recommend getting a Wireless G adapter.

Most wireless adapters are about the same in price. I’d recommend getting one that supports Wireless B and G. You can either get them with a PCMCIA connection or a USB connector. USB is the most versatile. Linksys and D-Link are good wireless adapters. They cost about $40 to $60 at Best Buy or Staples.

Optional:

I am an avid proponent of wireless security. I also prefer wired connections over wireless connections. In urban and suburban areas there are too many sources of interference from other wireless devices, neighboring wireless networks, cordless phones, Bluetooth devices, and microwave ovens. So if you intend on using wireless frequently, I recommend installing Network Magic from Pure Networks (A Cisco company) on your laptop. If you are using wireless at home, you can install it on any other computers in your household. I have seen Network Magic solve countless problems with home wireless networks.

Network Magic 20% Off NMEASY coupon code spring banner 468x60



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Need a Web Host? WebHostingRating.com

webhostingratingdotcomwebhostingrating-logoEveryone likes to get a second opinion. People and companies in need of web hosting services are no exception. If you find yourself in such a position where you need to find a source for web site hosting, then you might take a look at WebHostingRating.com. Read on.

WebHostingRating.com has lists of web site hosting services to choose from, and they provide detailed information about each hosting company they mention. Some of the details they cover include whether a host supports any particular content management systems (CMS) such as Drupal hosting, WordPress hosting,  or Joomla hosting services. They also mention whether or not a service provider has backup services, multiple domain support, Frontpage extensions, Windows or Linux servers, secure data connections, SSL (secure socket layer) certificates, and SQL database support. If you’re in the market for a web host then you may already be familiar with some of these terms.

Some categories are under supported. I found their 2009 lists for top Resellers, Windows, and Managed Web hosting to be empty at this time, but their 2008 lists had a few mentions in each category. There was no explanation for this, so I couldn’t tell if it was an editorial decision, or if there was a lack of guest input for 2009.

Another oddity on the site was the case of user reviews. Supposedly users of the various services could leave their own reviews and comments regarding the various hosting services. Each reviewer has a link attached to their name, but, strangely, on the few occassions I clicked on a hyper-linked name I found they only returned to the WebHostingRating.com home page.

I also found out that the address for WebHostingRating.com is owned by Dmitry Nekrasov.  (To find this out I went to Google.com and searched for “whois webhostingrating.com”. You can try this on any web address to find out who is the registered owner of the address.) Dmitry also owns the domain for WebHostingGeeks.com which I reviewed in an earlier post. WebHostingGeeks provides a similar service. I don’t know if Dmitry is the designer or manager of either of these sites. Regardless, I found the WebHostingGeeks.com site had more articles and more focused user reviews, but WebHostingRating.com had more detailed information about the companies thereby saving you a click or two per company listing.




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Storage Device Failed? Need Data Recovery?

drg-logoheadacheIt can happen to anyone. Your hard drive can fail, and all sorts of precious data — files, documents, photos, music, videos — can be lost. It happened to me once several years ago. I was preparing to backup a hard drive, and mere seconds from starting the backup process, the drive failed and three years of personal digital photography and 40 gigabytes of music were lost. Back then, data recovery from a failed hard drive was a very expensive task. Too expensive to consider. Today, thanks to companies such as Data Recovery Group (DRG, www.datarecoverygroup.com), data recovery need not be too expensive.

Founded in California back in 1987 by Patrick Ahern the company has now grown and and now has offices in Chicago, Illinois; Southfield, Michigan (their headquarters); Charlotte, North Carolina; and San Leandro, California.

Of course, in the past 22 years since the company was founded, hard drive usage has spread dramatically, and now there are so many more different types of hardware and media that store digital data. Back then the common storage device was the hard drive and the floppy disk, but today we have laptops, external drives, network storage (NAS), digital cameras, smartphones, Flash or USB thumb drives, and more.

17inchmacbookpro2Data Recovery Group can recover seemingly lost data on just about any operating system you can think of. They even handle Apple and Mac data recovery (oh, yes, as dependable as Macs are, their hard drives are just as susceptible to failure as in any other computer system) and server data recovery for networked systems.

Data Loss Sources

Data Loss Sources

To paraphrase Shakespeare’s Hamlet, data storage can be fragile and subject to “the thousand natural shocks that digital data is heir to”. Data loss can result from so many different commonplace calamities: dropped laptops, virus attacks, electrical failure, and bumped external drives. Then there are the not so commonplace sources of data loss such as accidental drive formatting, file system corruption, and, my personal demon, mechanical failures (Is your drive making clicking, knocking, or buzzing noises? If so, failure and loss could be minutes or days away). DRG can even recover files from disasters such as fires, floods, and more.

Storage Failure? What To Do.

It’s important to note that if you experience one of the disasters listed above and you suspect that you have lost data as a result that you should stop using the device, turn it off immediately, and contact Data Recovery Group. If the device is still functioning, normal usage could cause the further or irrecoverable data loss. DRG reports that 85% of all unrecoverable data loss occurs when an inexperienced technician attempts data recovery. Never assume that your data cannot be recovered.

Data Recovery Group can be contacted at their toll-free number (888) 421-2464.




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Zappos: Top 100 Companies to Work For

fortune-zapposI was just looking over the February 2009 issue of Fortune magazine, and saw that Zappos — the web site I reviewed on Wednesday — was listed as No. 23 in their list of the Top 100 Companies to work for. Check out your local library to find an issue to read.

The articles notes a few of Zappo’s “Core Values”, but here’s all ten of them:

As we grow as a company, it has become more and more important to explicitly define the Zappos core values from which we develop our culture, our brand, and our business strategies. These are the ten core values that we live by:

  1. Deliver WOW Through Service
  2. Embrace and Drive Change
  3. Create Fun and A Little Weirdness
  4. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded
  5. Pursue Growth and Learning
  6. Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication
  7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit
  8. Do More With Less
  9. Be Passionate and Determined
  10. Be Humble

Zappos is more than shoes

zapposTweet! Tweet! Skylarking is back!

While I was on the mend, I was still watching and reading the news, surfing the web, etc., and amidst it all I watched as all the things I could write about piled up on my desk, my night table, and in my head. Where it piled up more I will not say, but it didn’t take me long to decide that Zappos.com would be blogged about.

Perhaps you know Zappos? It’s a play on words for “zapatos” — Spanish for shoes. Indeed, Zappos.com rose to fame as the shoe site that had them all, and with a fantastic return policy, too: 365 days from the date of purchase so long as the item was in the condition you received it in, and in the original packaging. Not bad. Not bad at all.

Perhaps you saw Zappos on Nightline last July? The segment gave you an inside look at the company, the staff, the culture, the policies, the young CEO Tony Hsieh, and, of course, the web site itself. You can see it here at right. I highly recommend watching.

zappos-diesel-underwearEither way, if you’ve heard of Zappos, shopped at Zappos, or not, I recommend checking them out today, or very very soon because Zappos has grown to be so much more than shoes. Now they carry clothing, handbags, sunglasses, and even Diesel underwear. (Hey, it’s not everyday you get to read a technology blog that talks about underwear. Is it?) I’m not talking about Vin Diesel’s underwear (he’s the star of all those tech action films like Hitman, XXX, and the new The Fast and The Furious. Did you see those links? Yes? Yes, you can get Vin Diesel on DVD at Zappos, too. Now, back to my topic.)  No, this is men’s and women’s underwear from the popular and trendy Diesel brand. Not just the bottoms, they sell the tops, too. The whole family can get in on the act, because Diesel makes clothes for kids, too.

Okay, I must confess, some friends heard I was ill last week and they thought to cheer me up with a little gift, so they bought what you would buy anyone who was sick in bed and needed to be cheered up. Yes, you guessed it, they bought me some Diesel underwear from Zappos.com. They found them among the gift ideas on the site. Admittedly, boxers are more my style, but who can turn away a gift from friends when one needs it most. Regardless, I have a little less than 365 days to send them back.

You can also check out the upcoming, new and improved Zappos site which is being called “Zeta“. Zappos knows, and now you do, too.

Oh, and I’m still on the mend if you want to cheer me up…  (Suite 46, 27 Merrick Ave, Merrick NY 11566). Tweet! Tweet!




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Skylarking on the mend

birdfluHi, folks! Sorry, I haven’t posted anything new this week, but I’ve been ill with a terrible head cold, and have been able to sit down and write anything. Hopefully I will be well soon, and I hope to be back and writing again on Monday. Sooner, preferably.

Have a great week!