Saturday, December 10, 2005

Ch33r B0t

Microsoft WindowsOneCare Beta, CopyScape Blog Piracy Checker, Make your Gmail a storage drive--and more Tech madness! But first--Claus gets into the Holiday Mood!

Lavie was kinda surprised to find I was in a "scrooge" mood last post regarding the Christmas season so far. I didn't mean to say I was bummed out; only that it seems to take me a longer time to get up to speed. So I have started a mental conditioning program: I have turned off NPR during the day driving between network service trips and have been iPodding out on Christmas music. My favorite right now is HearMusic's Holly Days and Mistletoe Nights. I am going by Starbucks later today to try and pick up two more CD's (#1 and #2). This points out an interesting (to me) revelation: I prefer jazzy, croonie Christmas music. One of my co-workers was playing some Frank Sinatra holiday tunes in the dungeon level cubes we inhabit and I felt pretty seasonal.

As I was driving home last night, I passed a house that fit my image of Christmas perfectly. I told Lavie we had to stop by tonight and see if we could snag some picture for you all. It is small, white and decorated with dark green garlands and deep red bows. The only thing it was missing was snow packed up around. My heart pitter-pattered in Christmas cheer! I also saw a clip on GMA of the White House all snowed up with the "Holiday" wreaths and such. It was pretty. I did a quick search and found the White House website has a posting about all the Christmas decorations (this year and previous). Very beautiful stuff. (Nice to see our tax dollars hard at work! I guess I'll let this one slide...)

Last night, Lavie, Alvis and I gathered around our digital fireplace (the tv) and watched "I want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown" Next week "A Charlie Brown Christmas" comes on: That's a perrenial favorite in our home. Now if I can catch "White Christmas" with Bing, Danny and Rosemary, I'll be set! Of course, for the anime loving crowd, there is always "Love Hina X'mas Special." Kawaii!

This time of the year, down here on the Gulf Coast, things just seem so brown. Not at all like the white and evergreened images in my mind that Christmas should look like. The grey skies don't really bother me. At least it has been cooler. Last year's snow on Christmas day was really special. I've also noticed that there doesn't seem to be any consistancy with Holiday decorating around our area. You may hit some areas of town that have gone all out, but drive through most neighborhoods and many houses look just as plain as ever while others are all decked out with lights. Maybe that's where my problem lies---Christmas to me seems like it should be a community and family wave of togetherness and celebration. Not just some token decorations here and there. (And I'm not talking about the community and family wave of togetherness we call the holiday shopping crush. That doesn't count!) Maybe I'll just blow the savings account and hop a plane to Japan and hang out with these folks, sipping some Bailey's. Pretty!

Christmas Factoid: Did you know that hamsters can get seasonally down as well? Yep, it's true! My guess is that it's either because all they keep getting is that stupid ball to be terrorized in by the dog for their gift, or they were forced to watch this thing all day.

In other related animal cuteness....I've been jonesing out on the newborn Panda cub in the Washington zoo. But now there is this cute otter baby at the Seattle Aquarium!

Now for the tech....Gee, it's been a busy week....
  • Windows OneCare Beta--available for (free for now) download for XP users. This product seems to combine enhanced firewall and anti-virus products into an integrated product along with some other pc maintenance items like defragging, backups, system tune-ups, defrags, and file cleanups. Blog buzz on the web has been generally light but favorable. I personally will pass--beta or not. While it might be good for your non-tech parent's pc's, I prefer my more pragmatic approach. Different products for different needs. Futhermore, I haven't had good experiences with security suites. I do more than a few home-support calls where the suite isn't playing nicely with its components. Besides. Different products mean (maybe not logically) different code so a single exploit would be harder to take down the entire security package operation.
  • The next greatest time-waster after crossword puzzles...Suduko has hit the web!
  • CopyScape. Ever wonder if someone is lifting your blog content and posting it as their own. Pirates! Plagerists! Prepare for a broadside! This is a must have bookmark for bloggers. Put your blog address in and the site will find content matches in other blogs. Monitor where your content is going! Think it doesn't happen? Check out this post from over at Kaonashi Ga Kuki blog for more details. Girl got caught making her blog almost entirely out of other's blogs--total cut and paste--and claimed it was her own. Uncool! Of course, just because it finds a match doesn't mean the site plagarized it. It could be a credible block-quote from your site (or your's from theirs). Just play nice folks, and give proper linkage or credits!
  • First there was the cardboard pc case (Japanese). Now you can get some matching cardboard pc speakers. I kinda like the idea--in an enviromentally friendly way.
  • Then there is this custom Sangaku Japanese Case Mod. Wow! This thing is a masterpiece!
  • Paul Stamatiou blogs that the next Thunderbird email client will have Tabs like Firefox now does. Neat!
  • Speaking of Firefox, TechSpot has a nice user guide to tweaking Firefox. Good general guide for users looking to "kick the fox up a notch!"
  • Want to really put all those GB of G-mail to work? Convert your GMail account into a storage drive! Check out this Gmail drive shell extension. If you still have some extra unused "invitations" for gmail, maybe you could set one up for storage only so you don't bomb out your main email account. Looks really neat. I'll let you know what I find out when I finish setting it up.
  • Spotted on slashdot: 10 really bizarre USB drives. The drives are pretty normal, it's the cases that are freaky (Oh, those wacky Japanaese designers!) . This one is really tiny!
  • Neat bird's eye satelite images of LasVegas (and a few other places) via Microsoft's Live.Local (Virtual Earth) (NOTE: seems to like IE not Firefox--imagine that. Open link in IE or (even better) use IE Tab for Firefox). I've been spending hours combing the pics trying to find Grissom and Catherine. No luck yet. Oh, here they are: G and C. Maybe Microsoft's camera's are better that we knew....what a babe!
  • Icon Workshop 6.0: I'm an icon junkie. I collect icon packages bigtime. So when I hear Vista is going to support 256 x 256 PNG quality icon depth, I get excited. Mac Users have been swimming with gorgeous icons for a while. Now we Windows users can enjoy them also. This application promises to let icon artists for Windows up to Mac level quality (well, almost...). Free 30-day trial download. It's cheap enough I can afford it, and they have a free lifetime upgrade policy, nice.
  • Z-zip has a new version release. It's a small and fast (free) file compression program. Yeah, I know XP comes with that built-in, but I like this one and carry it on my USB drive for those 2000 and 98 boxes we still support. Others I like with slightly nicer interfaces are TUGZip and ZipGenius.
  • SmartFTP: Free, nice interface. Handy. (My primary FTP application remains FireFTP.)
  • Video spotted over at Drawn! blog: Le Papillon. You just have to see this BEAUTIFUL asian film done in Quicktime. It's illustrated work over a heavy watercolor paper background. Wow!
  • Also from Drawn! blog: illustrator Mickey Duzyj work is featured. If you like hard-edged graphics this is for you.
Special Bonus Linkage for you Harry Potter Fans!
  • MuggleNet has done some tweaking on their site layout. It's looking a little more polished and they have some new site-skins with the HP-trio a little more grown up. This is the first place Lavie, Alvis and I get our HP news.
  • One of the reasons I finally got broadband was to be able to cruise "Galadriel Water's New Clues to Book 6" forum. This is a monster place that may be one of the largest forums on the web. It is my idea of how the perfect forum should be. Heavy content. Heavy postings. Great and active moderation. Very insightful postings from a devoted fanbase. There was so much stuff here in the HP Book 5 forum that dial-up just couldn't handle it. Now they have opened it up for HP Book 6. If you consider yourself a HP fan, you have to bookmark and visit this place:
  • HPL: Timeline of the Wizarding World--If you have difficulty trying to keep up with just where all the key events in the HP world fall, this is the site for you.
  • The Leaky Cauldron: Our number 2 site for HP news and updates.
  • And of course, there is the site of the grand-dame herself: J.K.Rowling Official Site. Very nicely done. Have fun playing around on her desk. Great ambient sounds.
Finally, a big thanks to Dwight Silverman over at the He alerted me to Grand Stream Dreams being listed on the Chron's Opinion page under their BlogWatch section this past week. Neato! Thanks again Dwight! You can't see it now and Google's since recached their page, but I managed to snag a screen capture of it for posterity. This is heady stuff for a new blogger!

See you in the skies!

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