Easy Tech Talk

Technology, Games, Gadgets, and Geekery

Premium vs. Discount Cables

Before I moved out to California I worked as a home theater installer for Magnolia Home Theater and the salesmen there would try to sell expensive premium cables to each customer that they helped.  A lot of the premium cable manufacturers would claim extra features like EMI (electromagnetic interference) shielding, or Uni directional electricity flow, which by the way is a load of garbage.  The biggest problem with these premium cables is that most people are not educated on what cables are made of or how they work.

Most cables are made out of wrapped pairs of wires, which you can imagine can’t really vary that much from one cable to the next.  Now each of these wires will be wrapped in some sort of insulation that prevents them from touching each other when they’re inside the main cable.  This is where some cables might have a thicker insulation than others, but they are still basically the same wire.  Now there is a way that some cables will differ from others in that they will have a shielding wrapped around them to protect from electromagnetic interference, which is static that comes from electrical components.

Recently I received an HDMI cable from www.optimization-world.com and I can tell you that this cable is just as good as some premium brands that will remain unnamed (mainly because they feel the need to sue everyone) I put it through a little bit of a rough test banging it around and forcing it into and out of the connectors on my T.V. and it still worked fine.

If you were to cut open premium cables and discount cables you’d find that inside they are almost identical.  The only thing that really separates premium from discount cables are the type of connector on the end.  And that can only go so far as HDMI cables all have the same type of connector.

Now throughout the course of time that I worked for Magnolia, I had several premium cables fail on me right out of the box some of which cost upwards of $100 or more.  The cable I got in the mail costs $9.99. Why would anyone want to pay so much for a cable they can get for a fraction of the price?  I’m not just saying this because they gave me a free cable, as I have plenty of cables that I already use and this is just a bonus one for my next T.V. purchase, but this cable is just as good as the others.  It feels sturdy, it’s got some of the same features as premium cables such as gold connectors and being certified HDMI.

Do you have a preference on what cables you use?  Do you stick to one brand or do you shop around and look for good deals?  Let everyone know in the comments section.

Changing the wordpress “Howdy” greeting

Have you logged into your wordpress account lately and noticed that lovely “Howdy” greeting message near your name at the top of your admin page?  Have you ever wanted to change the default wordpress greeting message to something a little more exotic or personal?  This can be changed with a simple edit to one file in your wordpress directory and I’ll show you how.

  • First, open your FTP program and login to the account where you want to change the message.
  • Navigate your way to your wp-admin folder and inside you will find a file called admin-header.php
  • Now you’re going to open the file using your favorite text editor, not MS word but a good one like Notepad++ and you’re going to find line #108 which reads “<p><?php printf(__(‘Howdy, <a href=”%1$s” title=”Edit your profile”>%2$s</a>’), ‘profile.php’, $user_identity) ?>

Now all you have to do is change the “Howdy” to read something more exotic like bon jour, or buenos dias.  Or maybe leave a message for one of your authors like “post more!”  Just remember that this will change the message for anyone that signs into your blog whether they are an admin or an author.

And there you have it, you’ve given your admin page a little personal touch and you won’t have to see the ugly wordpress “Howdy” greeting again.

Mac Keyboard Shortcuts

To follow up my post about Windows keyboard shortcuts, and to appease my mac readers out there I wanted to put up a quick reference guide for the most useful Mac keyboard shortcuts.  Remember, keyboard shortcuts will make your life so much easier once you start using them on a regular basis.  Below you will find my list of the most useful Mac keyboard shortcuts.

Now keep in mind that when using these shortcuts that you have the proper menu at the time. For example, if the keyboard shortcut you want to use is listed as a Finder Menu shortcut, then you must make sure that the menu at the top of the screen says “Finder”, otherwise you will be using a shortcut that might not be available at the time.

For Those of you who are unfamiliar with Mac keyboards, the command key is the one that looks like this:mac-command-key

  • Shift-Command-Delete     Finder Menu     Empty Trash
  • Command-Delete     File Menu     Move to Trash
  • Shift-Command-N     File Menu     New Folder
  • Command-N     File Menu     New Finder window
  • Command-O     File Menu     Open
  • Command-S     File Menu     Save
  • Command-P     File Menu     Print
  • Command-I     File Menu     Get Info
  • Command-D     File Menu     Duplicate
  • Command-L     File Menu     Make Alias
  • Command-R     File Menu     Show original
  • Command-E     File Menu     Eject
  • Command-F     File Menu     Find
  • Command-Z     Edit Menu     Undo
  • Command-X     Edit Menu     Cut
  • Command-C     Edit Menu     Copy
  • Command-V     Edit Menu     Paste
  • Command-A     Edit Menu     Select All
  • Command-T     File Menu     Add to Favorites (Mac OS X 10.2.8 or earlier), Add to Sidebar (Mac OS X10.3 or later—use Shift-Command-T for Add to Favorites)

So there you have it, Easy Tech Talk’s list of most useful Mac keyboard shortcuts.  Do you have a shortcut that you use often that isn’t listed here?  Leave a comment and tell me about it and I’ll update my list with it.

Windows Key Shortcuts

When I am at work I try to find ways of getting certain mundane things done faster.  In most cases it has to do with finding my way around my PC and searching through folders or running a certain program.  In my journey’s to find quicker ways of working in Windows I have found that the Windows Key on the keyboard is a lifesaver.  Below is a list of my top Windows Key Shortcuts that will enhance your productivity and in some cases hide your web browser game from your boss 🙂

In case anyone is wondering which key I am talking about, it’s the one seen at the right.  So without any more delay, here is the list of windows key shortcuts that will make your Windows browsing experience a little better.  In case anyone doesn’t know, to perform these shortcuts you need to hold the Windows key and then press any of the letters shown below.

  • Windows Key + E – Opens the Windows Explorer window.  This will allow you to find that folder you are looking for faster than double clicking your way through My Computer and the C: drive.
  • Windows Key + R – Opens the Run: command window.  This is useful if you run certain programs like msconfig or sysedit.  This is mainly for advanced PC users
  • Windows Key + D – Instantly brings you to the desktop.  This can be a lifesaver if you are surfing the internet and you see your boss walk by and you need to be back at the desktop screen fast.  It also helps if you load something that takes a while to load, as this will allow you to get to the desktop and cancel the program that is freezing.
  • Windows Key + F – This will open the Window Search window.  This can be helpful if you are looking for files on your computer that you can’t seem to remember where you left them.
  • Windows Key + M – This command will minimize all of your windows to the Taskbar.  This is similar to the Windows Key + D shortcut.
  • Windows Key – Pressing just the Windows Key will open the start menu.

So there you have it, all the Windows Key shortcuts you need to know to help you be more productive at work, or in the case of Windows Key + D, a little more sly about your web surfing 🙂

Interview with Frostwire Lead Dev

Here ya go folks, after posting about how bad Limewire is, I was contacted by Frostwire’s lead developer Angel Leon and had the chance to ask him a few questions about Frostwire and open source development.

Easy Tech Talk: What made you decide to get into open source projects?
Angel Leon: Ever since I was in school in Latin America, I always felt that we could do a lot more by sharing our knowledge instead of hiding our code. Then the whole open source movement got more and more advocates, and I started using a lot of it to solve day to day problems, and also being in a position as a student  that couldn’t afford to buy expensive software licenses it was a great option having all these projects available for free with such high quality standards.

ETT: How did you get into programming?
A.L.: From a very early age I was using computers and video game consoles, it was mostly the inspiration of video games that got me to write very simple programs in Basic on my old Apple //c. Back then I had no manuals or connectivity of any sort, so I’d learn the syntax by listing the code of existing programs that came with the apple. Then the web came, and I learned HTML, JavaScript, and then in Computer Science school we started with Haskell, Modula, Pascal, C, C++, Java, PHP, … and so on.

ETT: Why did you choose the frostwire project?
A.L.: After leaving limewire I still wanted to somehow keep in touch with the code and learn more Java. The frostwire project was almost dissolved at some point and I was invited to contribute to it.

ETT: Since open source usually makes very little money, what else do you do to make ends meet?
A.L.: I’m a software engineer with over 7 years of experience in web development, I used to work full time for a company, but now I’m an independent consultant and a full time funding partner at MyBloop.com (We’re looking for investors!)

ETT: Do you think that P2P programs encourage more people to pirate software?
A.L.: I don’t think P2P encourages pirating, what encourages pirating is the lack of access to software. Some people do it because they really have no choice. Does the CD burner on your computer encourage you to pirate? I don’t think so, but it could certainly serve you to pirate. Does having a car encourage you to run over people on the street? P2P is just the next technology out there to distribute media, there were also crusades against the VCR’s, Tape Decks, The printing press and so on, it’s just part of the growing pains of evolution in media distribution, eventually big media will open their eyes and work side to side with projects like FrostWire to make their content available to as much people as they can.

ETT: What other projects are you working on?
A.L.: I’m currently working on MyBloop.com, a website that wants to offer free unlimited file storage to the world. I’m also trying to form an internet video game company with some friends, I’m very interested also in learning a lot about the Android platform.

ETT: How long have you been on the frostwire team?
A.L.: Hmm, I believe since the end of 2006, I’d have to see the repository to see when I first started doing commits.

ETT: What can you tell people out there who are interested in getting into software development?
A.L.: The best way to learn is by creating something, don’t just read about developing, actually try to get yourself to build something, the problems you’ll solve will teach you a lot. If you’re trying to pick a language to start, I’d recommend Python, it’s simple to learn and it has a lot of power.

ETT: How did you become the lead developer on frostwire?
A.L.: After the initial java developers left, we sort of divided responsibilities, managing the site, the builds and most of the code changes are some of the things I do when I work on FrostWire. My previous experience with java and software packaging pretty much put me on that role, it’s something I enjoy very much doing, and it allows me to be creative in ways I probably can’t be in my day to day job where development and decision making are more strict.

Creating Strong Passwords

I’ve come to realize that in today’s world people are worried about identity theft and invasions of privacy, but they fail to protect themselves on a very basic level… their passwords.  The password you use for your credit card site or bank account login is just as important as shredding your credit card statements after you’ve looked through them. I’ve seen too many people recently that use their address or pet name in all lower case letters as their password and it drives me nuts.  It’s time to take that extra step in protecting yourself and create yourself a strong password.

Creating a strong password is a fairly simple process that most people seem to skip over for the convenience of having an easy password to remember.  Now your password should be pretty easy for you to remember but it should be hard for someone to guess.  You should stay away from making your password something that can easily be found out about you such as your address or birthday.  Passwords are supposed to protect your information so it would be in your best interest to make you password something that someone can’t just type in because they know you and guess the correct password.   So here are a few things you should consider before making your password or changing your already existing password.

Use a combination of upper and lowercase letters in your password.  Thes should be spread out and not follow the normal way that grammar teaches us.  Put a capital letter in the middle or end of the word to spice things up.

Use numbers in your password as well.  You should put numbers in the middle of your password, not at the beginning or end.  This will make it more difficult for someone to guess whatever word you use for your password because the number in the middle will throw them off.

If the website you use allows it you should also put a symbol somewhere in your password.  Any symbol will do as long as it is allowed by the site.  These can be placed near the end of your password as an extra step in making sure you’ve got a strong password.

A good rule for strong password creation is to use numbers as letters and to add the letters of the website you’re using to ensure that you can remember what site each password is for.  You can use a similar password for each site you use, just make sure to change the letters relating to the site for each password.  For example, if you were to make a password for this site, you could do something like “t3Chn0logy!Ett” or “e@SyTecHt@lK”, notice how both passwords have upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols in them.

Also, you should make sure that you don’t keep your passwords with your login information written on post-its next to your monitor or keyboard.  That’s just making it too easy for someone to know all the information they need to get into your account.  If you are going to write the login and password on something, try to write them in random locations on the bill of the site you need them for, or write them in an address book under the letters of the website they correspond to.

Remember that your password should be easy for you to remember but hard for someone to guess.  If you are going to use something like a pet or car, try to mix up the letters so you password doesn’t resemble the original word.  You can check out this site for random password generation.

Defrag your hard drive to speed up your computer

Have you noticed that your computer is running a slower than it normally does?  Have you recently added a new program or saved a bunch of new pictures to your hard drive?  You might want to consider running a defrag program to straighten out your hard drive.

When you save files to your computer, it simply stores the data where ever it can at the moment as long as you have free space.  When the files are spread out out of order, it’s known as fragmentation.  It’s like throwing things in your room at random and leaving them lying around, sooner or later you’re not going to know where things are until you search for them.  That’s what your hard drive goes through when it isn’t defragmented often.  This clogs up your hard drive’s ability to find what you want and slows down the performance of your computer.

You can defrag your computer simply by using a defrag program.  Windows comes with a built in defrag utility program but I find that it doesn’t do a good enough job.  There are many programs out there that defrag your hard drive but the one I recommend is Auslogics’ Disk Defrag, it’s free and very efficient.

Now simply running a defrag program might work out for you but there are some things that you want to take into consideration before running a disk defrag program

First off, make sure you have at least 15% of your hard drive’s total space free.  This is very important to remember.  This ensures that the defrag program will have enough room to move all the data around.  Think about cleaning a room in your house, if you pile everything in the room and then try to clean it you won’t do a very good job.  But if you leave enough space to put things temporarily before moving them into their proper place, then you’ll do a much better job, and that’s why you want to have space available for the defrag program to do its work.

Secondly, you’ll want to avoid using any programs during the time that the defrag is taking place.  This will make sure that no program tries to place data on the hard drive while the defrag program is trying to move data around.  It will only cause more data to be fragmented and you’ll have to run the defrag program again.

The third thing to consider is how often to run a defrag program.  This depends on how often you save files and add new files or programs to your computer.  If you work on your computer everyday, then it might be a good idea to schedule a defrag every few days.  If you only use your computer to browse the internet and save pictures from trips you take, then you can safely defrag your computer a little less often, about once every few weeks.

So the next time you feel that your computer is running slow, take the time to run a defrag program and get your files back in order.

Blog Action Day: Poverty

Today is Blog Action Day and I wanted to write a little bit about how poverty has affected technology in my eyes.  Each year bloggers all over the world unite under one topic and post about it to hopefully make a difference in the world.

The most obvious and recent event that I can think about is the 1 laptop per child program. This non profit organization is striving to provide laptops to children in developing countries as cheaply as possible so the children of the region can learn with the benefit of a computer. Having a laptop is scarcely seen in these regions especially in the classroom since not a lot is spent on education in these third world countries and other areas where children have little education. There are several ways that you can get involved in this program and you can learn about them at the 1 laptop per child website

Although not directly related, I believe that poverty around the world has sparked companies’ interests in making computer more affordable to those who otherwise wouldn’t be able to buy a computer or laptop at the current price. This spawned the making of the Eee PC by Asus who created an affordable laptop that has all the basics one would need in a computer.  Making computers more affordable allows more people to experience new things with the use of their computer. Research can be done on the internet which beats going to the library and sifting through hundreds of pages before finding what you need. This also allows people to work more efficiently and provides them with the knowledge on operating a computer if they’ve never touched one before. You can read more about the Eee PC and compare the different models over at Asus’ website here

Poverty is unavoidable in certain areas of the world but if we can all take a little time and donate a laptop or cell phone or even some spare cash we could start a chain reaction that one day would alleviate some of the burden felt in areas where technology and education are scarce.  To read more you can go to Blog Action Day’s homepage.