Category Archives: freedbacking

motorola support jungle


Last time I was in need of some Motorola support I found out they have tons of channels available on the internet, but hardly any where you get some actual answers to your questions. The user support forum for example is just that. Populated by users trying to help out, but mostly you run into complaining & whining users claiming it’s the last Moto phone they bought. Ever.

I did run into another channel over at the GetSatisfaction site where I did get a quick and correct response when trying to find out how to remove the MotoNav app from my Android device. Good to know there’s a place where people seem to listen after all. It’s just too bad it’s so hard to find.

Photo by 96dpi, cc-licensed.

ie8 finally caught up

Did you see the puke commercial Microsoft has running to promote IE8? They pulled it already on their own site but it’s on Youtube now so it’s gonna stay out there for now. But the thing is that they are throwing some big bucks at it to promote their latest IE release which bring us the awesome novelty of… euhm… nothing I guess.

Microsoft has been playing catch-up when it comes to it’s browser of years and they finally built a new version which can compete with Firefox, Chrome and Opera. So basically now they also have tabs, crash protection, phishing protection, pr0n- euhm.. privacy-mode and can-you-fucking-believe it web standard compliance! Microsoft built a standard compliant browser! Amazing isn’t it?

Anyway they clearly feel like winning back some of that lost browser market share as they duke it out on a comparison page with a big ad campaign and some other browsers. I say “some” because they left out Safari and Opera which are at least equally big as Chrome right? But hey, I guess they wanted to stand face to face with their nemesis Google I suppose. Some of the comparisons are biased and funny. Like the security one. If you click through to that NSSLabs report it shows that IE 7 was scoring the worst of all. The tests also match IE 8 RC1 with Firefox 3.0.7 Not Firefox 3.5 which was also out around that period in beta form which is a pity and makes the report a tad incomplete IMO.
This item is particularly funny in another comparison:

Internet Explorer 8 is more compatible with more sites on the Internet than any other browser.

That’s not hard now is it, if most website builders had to make sure their site works on your older non-standard-compliant crappy browsers because 90% of folks where serving using IE back in the day.

The good thing however is that there is finally a safe IE version out there that non-techies can use to safely browse the web and not get their systems infected with malware, trojans and virii.
Cause when that happens it’s up to us geeks to go over there with our disinfecting USB-sticks and waste our time to to get that PC back up and running again.

Time we could spend better on writing cool Firefox add-ons for example.
I still recommend Firefox 3.5 though which now has tear-off tabs, the awesome bar, anti-virus software integration, massive customization possibilities, a spell checker, full zoom (images and stuff as well), support for hundred of search engine (or Wikipedia etc) and so much more.

Photo by Garry, cc-licensed.

openDNS is nice

I’m saying nice, cause it ain’t awesome enough to be… well.. awesome, but it’s nice. So what is it? Well you probably know what DNS is, and if you don’t this will probably not interest you, but openDNS offers an alternative to you ISP’s boring old and slow DNS solution.

OpenDNS is faster and more secure, or so they claim. I’m sure it’s more secure, and that’s why I’m using it in the first place. Second cause I’m a geek I guess. Anyway, it’s more secure because it blocks sites that are known to be malicious which your ISP probably doesn’t, blocks botnets and evil worms like Conficker. I’m not sure if it’s actually faster, I haven’t noticed really, but I do like the standard error page they give you if you entered an incorrect URL. That same typo-fixing logic Google uses finds the correct domain name in most cases, so you’re only a click away from what you where really looking for, which is nice.

Setting it up is a piece of cake with the detailed tutorials on their site. The vanilla edition offers basic phishing protection and a better DNS. You can also tune your DNS settings and have it block pr0n sites, illegal stuff (warez I guess) or even basic time wasting websites like social networks (nooo, not my twitter!!) which makes it a neat solution for anyone looking for a good net-nanny system for home, or even the office. You can add several networks, add more domains to block, check network statistics, and some more neat and geeky stuff with the advanced settings. If you have an internet connection with a dynamic IP address you’ll have to run a small client application that keeps OpenDNS updated on your IP changes, so it knows who you are and can still apply your settings. With fixed IP’s you don’t have this problem so for a smaller business looking to outsource it’s DNS and web proxy configuration this could be a good solution.

So if you’re looking for a free way to control your internet traffic without having to install client-side software and have some added protection thrown in as a bonus, OpenDNS is worth checking out.

Photo by miss blackbutterfly, cc-licensed

your website sucks in so many ways

Well, maybe not yours, but if it qualifies for the following rules, it does. So check em out.

  1. You can’t store my name. My name contains something called an umlaut which is used in Germanic languages like German (duh) and Dutch for instance. My name either turns up with a missing letter, or I get a funky character instead. It sucks. It means you can’t handle unicode or encoding properly. It sucks.
  2. You send me my password in plain text email right after I register. Well, ok, the email used HTML encoding, but that doesn’t make it any better. Email is not safe. Really, it isn’t, so I’m glad I didn’t use a password that looked anything like a password I use anywhere else. This makes me think your coders don’t know what they are doing.
  3. You chopped off my password after n characters and didn’t even warn me about it. Yep. As soon as I’m done registering I get this error message that my password is wrong. I just gave it to you silly twat, and it’s still in my copy buffer dammit, so it can’t be wrong!? Guess what happens when I do that password recovery thing by the way. Oh yeah. I get my password in plain text again, in my mailbox.
  4. I find out there are some privacy settings in my account settings which where not presented to me when I created my account. How odd? Not really. Apparently I automatically opted-in on a bunch of possibilities to commercially exploit my info. Nice… not. I hate spam. It sucks.

Most of these are so easy to come by that it’s sad to see these practices still in use. Try any good web 2.0 service and you’ll see how to avoid these pitfalls, and learn about encoding dammit. Also if you’re registered to the Belgian newspaper site of Het Nieuwsblad, make sure you check your privacy settings, and skip on some of the spam-features they have. They suck.

Photo by Sinsong, cc-licensed

still a windows geek

Originally this post was called “I’m a Windows geek”, and was about how I installed Ubuntu after not being able to reinstall Windows XP because something was making the hardware detection lock up. Using Ubuntu I did manage to get through the hardware detection, and eventually diagnosed the problem to be able to reinstall the Redmond OS.

I spent a few days in Ubuntu back then, as it was the only running OS on my machine, and I thought that was a good time to find out if I could do everything I did on my Windows machine. At first I was impressed. Ubuntu installed without a glitch, basic software was installed and the UI was slick. Problem was I had to find replacement Linux tools for all the stuff I was used to in Windows and then I started noticing I’ve gotten quite used to the WinWorld apparently.

Little things ended up being very frustrating though. Shortcuts that work different in FireFox, mouse wheels that didn’t work at all… A lot didn’t feel intuitive coming from an MS system.

Eventually I managed to reinstall XP, and I totally gave up on the Ubuntu setup. A number of months ago I retried the Ubuntu path, upgraded it to the latest version and give it another shot. I Just noticed that it has been a few months again since I even booted it…

No matter how much Linux pwnz the Windows OS according to some, when you’re used to it, you kind of expect the same features. It sucks having to give up your favourite programs for alternatives that aren’t quite the same. Some of them are in essence equally good, but it doesn’t have to be that different to start sucking compared to what you’re used to.

WinAmp for instance totally rocks. I haven’t seen anything quite as good on Linux (or on Windows for that matter). Maybe I’m wrong though. I haven’t spent quite as much time searching for software tools on Linux than I have on Windows, I have to admit that. But luckily things are getting better at that front. Since I used a lot of FOSS software, and a lot of that is being ported over both platforms, I don’t have to stop using my beloved FireFox, GIMP, Open Office or VLC, which is great. So migrating is becoming a lot easier because of this, but not quite easy just yet.

One other huge frustration is that in Linux some things simply don’t work. ATI video cards anyone? Dual head displays? In fact, one of the differences between Windows and Linux in my eyes is this:

On Windows I’m surprised if a new piece of hardware I got doesn’t work.
On Linux I’m surprised (and happy) if it does.

I’ve gotten used to my OS to just work for me. I don’t feel like spending most of my time figuring out how to get something basic to work. It can be fun digging into configuration files and advanced settings if you have the time to do so, but in most cases I just want to run Setup.exe > Next > Next > Done and start using the damn app. By using Ubuntu I rediscovered how easy it can be to setup a Windows system.

So I guess I’m still a Windows geek for now.
Vista here I come? Oh crap…

Photo by Andrew Mason, cc-licensed

how to resize or reallocate space on disk partitions

When initially setting up my PC I decided I’d go with the trusty old formula of keeping my operating system, my installed software and my data separated. So my C became my OS partition, D is where the software goes and E holds all my precious data like mp3’s, pictures, code etc.

This works fine, until at some point it turned out that I underestimated the amount of disk space greedy Windows and all of it’s components need. For instance if you want to send your PC into hibernation mode, you need enough space on your C drive to take a full memory dump (sounds nasty doesn’t it).  Sometimes, when installing software, some simply don’t let you choose where you want to put it, and they arrogantly nestle themselves on your C drive. Yes, I’m looking at you Google. Oh and the .NET framework also takes quite some space, just to name another one. If that isn’t enough already, some apps also store their settings on your C drive, in the folders provided by Microsoft of course, and that can also take up a lot of space. Picasa for instance stores it’s thumbnail database on your C drive. Google Earth also takes up a lot of space there.

So lately I kept seeing that annoying popup telling me I was low on diskspace on my C drive, but I had spare space on partition sitting next to it. How do I designate those free gigabytes to my C drive I wondered? And while I’m at it, some to my data drive as well, which is also getting kinda stuffed. Archiving all your CD’s to high quality mp3’s will do that.

Well, the GParted live CD is all I needed, and it’s free too. Awesome! Together with this step by step guide, you can easily resize and reallocate space from one partition to another by moving them around a bit. The whole process of moving a good 160 GB around did take about 8 hours to complete. So make sure you can leave your machine running for that long if you’re planning an operation like this.

But I don’t mind if my PC has to churn data for a few hours. It saved me from wasting even more time having to reinstall the whole system from scratch to get a larger system partition. In the meanwhile I could just enjoy a lazy Sunday, watch a movie, eat some pie and surf on my spare laptop. Not bad for a free tool right?

Photo by Daniele Muscetta, cc-licensed

photodropper wordpress plugin

CC logo on an orangeI checked out the new Photodropper WordPress plugin lately, which looked like the gem of a plugin I have been looking for recently. It allows you to search Flickr’s vast pool of Creative Commons pictures straight from WP’s writing page, and insert the chosen pictures complete with attribution links and all.
Sounds sweet as pie right? Well don’t go jumping around naked in glee just yet, there’s more to it than that.

For one the provided attribution is flawed. Instead of doing what’s said in the CC license legal text they only provide a link back to the original author. The original name of the work is not mentioned, and there is no link to the original CC license used either.

Here’s what the CC FAQ says about it:

the proper way of accrediting your use of a work when you’re making a verbatim use is: (1) to keep intact any copyright notices for the Work; (2) credit the author, licensor and/or other parties (such as a wiki or journal) in the manner they specify; (3) the title of the Work; and (4) the Uniform Resource Identifier for the work if specified by the author and/or licensor.

They actually link from the Creative Commons icon links back to a page on their own site, instead of the original website. I’m not sure why they did this, and it surely strikes me as odd.
Another weird thing is that the plugin is copyrighted for some reason, and not published under an open source license as is the case with most WordPress plugins. That’s their choice of course, and perhaps they are quite liberal about changes to the plugin, but there is no way to tell if you’ll get your arse suid if you alter the code…

I’m hoping the next version will fix these shortcomings though. For now however, I’ll have to resort to tediously crafting my CC attribution links myself.

(Picture “CC on orange” by yamabobobo, some rights reserved)