Wednesday, December 09, 2009

It started with a piece of string...

string Then evolved into a short elastic strap with a set of snaps at both ends. This was my solution to a problem.

What problem was that?

When my daughter was just a baby, back in the mid 80's, she kept throwing her pacifier out of the stroller and then would holler like hell, and I couldn't give it back to her to shut her up because it was now dirty. So I tied a string on it and attached it to the stroller. It didn't stop her from throwing it, but it did keep it from hitting the ground and getting dirty or lost.

But the string didn't work well for bottles, and untying knots was a real hassle, and something that couldn't stretch restricted her from being able to drink her bottle while lying down in the stroller. A string only worked well while she was sitting up.

Elastic and snaps...it was perfect. Other mothers saw what I had done and wanted one for their kids' bottles, too. I made a bunch and kept them in my purse, individually sealed in little zip-lock bags. They cost me less than $1.00 to make, and I sold them for $2.00 each.

Then a good friend of mine suggested I get a patent for it and find a company to mass produce them and make mad amounts of money on royalties.

He put me in touch with a company that supposedly specialized in helping inventors get their products patented and bringing them to market.

Word of advice: Don't deal with these companies. They will do nothing to help you. It will cost you a lot of money and you will get nowhere.

After paying $400 for a rather poorly written "market study report", they managed to talk me into paying another $5000 and entering into a 5 year contract with them, promising to contact manufacturers and pitching my idea to them, and if a company was interested, they would get them to pay the cost of patenting it in my name, and I would get a royalty on every single copy of my invention that they manufactured, regardless of whether they actually sold any.

They convinced me that it was far cheaper to let them handle it, since they had offices all over the world and could set up meetings with company executives. They said my cost in air travel alone would exceed the $5000 if I tried to do it myself, nevermind hotels, paying for expensive lunches, drinks, etc. They also said they were experienced and knew what to say, so I would have a better chance of getting a deal. And they had their own contract lawyers, specializing in royalty agreements, to protect my interests.

I fell for it, hook, line, and sinker. I took out a personal loan to cover the cost, from a financing company that turned out to be owned by them. It took me 2 years of high monthly payments to pay it off.

And what did they actually do for me? Did they contact all the big name baby product companies like Gerber or Fisher Price? No, they contacted publishers, like the one that produces Parents magazine.

They mailed out form letters to the editors of magazines targeted at the consumer that would be most interested in my product. They never contacted a single manufacturer. Those "inventors help" companies do this all the time, for any and every product idea that comes through their doors, no matter how good or bad the product idea is. The magazine editors are used to it and know it's all crap and toss every letter in the trash without ever opening them.

And they tied my hands for 5 years, preventing me from doing all the work myself, otherwise I'd still have to give them a large cut of my royalties if I succeeded in finding a company willing to manufacture it, on my own.

So I decided to wait till the contract expired. There was no way I was going to let these swindlers have another dime.

Before my 5 year wait was up, a conversation with someone made me realize that my great little invention had no hope and would cause the death of many innocent babies that had idiots for parents. The more popular my invention was, the greater the potential for it to kill, because stupid people that don't watch their kids properly and don't follow instructions, would end up using it in cribs and playpens and leaving their children unattended for hours, or using it in car seats while they were driving and unable to pay attention, resulting in strangulation deaths.

It was perfectly safe for use by parents that actually watched their kids and only used it in a stroller where they could watch what was going on.

If my invention had made it to market, I would have no control over it and no way to stop stupid people from buying it and killing their children with neglect. My product would be blamed and not the neglectful parents, and if it became a popular product the CPSC recall could have been huge, costing whatever company that produced it enormous amounts of money in recall costs and defending lawsuits, and ultimately, cost me a fortune, too.

And I would have these deaths hanging on my conscience for the rest of my life. I would never get a peaceful night's sleep ever again.

So that is why you can't buy my invention and why I never became filthy rich.

 

 

Photo credit: außerirdische sind gesund

Friday, December 04, 2009

Free FTC Disclosure Graphics from Louis Gray and Jeannine Schafer

Ever since the FTC announced new disclosure rules for bloggers, which went into effect on December 1st of this year, many have been wondering how do it in an easy to handle manner.

If you are still fretting over exactly how to go about disclosing your relationships to the companies and products you write about and review, and do it with style, you can stop now.

Louis Gray and Jeannine Schafer have come up with a great tongue-in-cheek set of FTC Disclosure graphics that you can use for your blog posts.

A couple of examples:

ftc_gadgets_250 ftc_book_250

To see the rest, the best, and download the entire collection (in various sizes), visit Louis Gray's blog.

 

And while you are at it, follow Louis Gray on Friendfeed and Jeannine Schafer on Twitter for lots of interesting news, discussions, and other cool stuff.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Free PSP Vector: Puzzle Piece (CC-BY)

sample

This is a simple puzzle piece vector in PSP7 format that can be used in a variety of creative ways. You can use it in logo art, or other projects. As a vector, you can easily change the colors and it can be enlarged as much as you want, without losing any quality.

Released under a Creative Commons Attribution license (CC-BY), it is suitable for personal, non-commercial, and commercial use. All you have to do is link back here to give credit.

Here are a few quick examples of use:
logo

funky creative

This item has been moved to my art site.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A question to ponder

I picked this question out of a list of 140 Google interview questions and thought I'd post it along with my answer.

village

Every man in a village of 100 married couples has cheated on his wife. Every wife in the village instantly knows when a man other than her husband has cheated, but does not know when her own husband has. The village has a law that does not allow for adultery. Any wife who can prove that her husband is unfaithful must kill him that very day. The women of the village would never disobey this law. One day, the queen of the village visits and announces that at least one husband has been unfaithful. What happens?

My answer: The queen is executed.

Here is why...

Each woman, including the queen knows this truth: If all the men that they know about die, (assuming the innocence of their own husband) there will be at most only one man left in the village. They also know it is possible that all the men in the village will die, leaving no men at all for any of them.

Each woman in the village is faced with this question: Knowing that at least 98 husbands have cheated (the queen doesn't know about the king's infidelity and the women all assume the innocence of their own husbands), why would the queen announce this unless she wanted all of them to die? Would it be better for the village to kill off so many men or for the women never to tell each other about what their husbands have been doing?

In the end, they come to the conclusion that the only woman that deserves to be alone for the rest of her life is their evil queen. But if they all go and tell her who her husband, the king, has been sleeping with, she will see that they will not tell each other the truth and have instead plotted against her. And after killing the king, in retaliation, there is a strong possibility she may tell them all that their husbands have cheated.

To save their village, they decide not to tell each other and not tell the queen about the king. Instead they tell their husbands what evil plans the queen had in mind for the village. Then angered, knowing their queen is dangerous and unfit to rule, the whole village gets together and kills her. The king, knowing the entire village has just saved his life, doesn’t try to stop them and is forever grateful to the women of the village.

Do you agree with my answer?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Forget getting more Twitter followers, here's how to keep the ones you have

bird-blue How to annoy people on Twitter (or at least me).

Don’t do these things and you will be more likely to keep the followers you have and get more followers by being recommended by them.

1. Copy & paste quotes from famous people instead of letting your followers read what you have to say.

2. Send them an automatic DM with a link to your crappy site, a free gift, or some valuable secret info you want to sell for the low price of $49, as your very first communication with them.

3. Send them a DM thanking them for following you when you are the one that just followed them first.

4. RT every link posted by Robert Scoble ASAP. Since we are all following him already, it's not likely we saw it when he posted it 30 seconds ago, right?

5. Tweet links to pages that look like a bad ebay ad, selling some new method of getting millions of twitter followers overnight, how to get your site on the front page of Digg, how to get tons of traffic for your website, or how to make a fortune on Adsense.

6. Do searches and tweet people you are not even following, attempting to sell them a $100 mini flashlight, just because they mentioned a flashlight in one of their tweets.

7. DM people unsolicited links to photos of your hairy scary ass or other equally ugly body parts that you really should keep covered.

8. TWEET IN ALL CAPS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!11111

9. Tweet the same message 10 times in a row.

10. Make sure at least 1 tweet per hour contains the words "FREE LAPTOP".

11. Tell every Windows user to "just get a Mac"

12. At least 50% of your tweets should be about how great your iPhone is.

13. Have your ENTIRE lifestream feed into twitter from friendfeed, then go on a huge "like" spree with every LOLcat posted there in the last 6 months.

14. Follow and unfollow the same person repeatedly.

15. Publicly welcome every new follower you get.

16. #Make #every #word #in #your #tweets #into #hashtags #and #toss #in #a #few #extra #popular #but #irrelevant #ones #just #for #the #hell #of #it. #Don't #forget #to #finish #by #making #one #up #that #is #complete #nonsense. #ljhgliu

17. Use URL shortening services to make links that point to links already shortened by other shorteners.

18. Beg for retweets.

19. Post many tweets in a row for #followfriday with just a bunch of names and no explanation of why anyone should follow them. Every childless person on twitter should follow that stay-at-home mom that tweets diaper changing and toilet training tips, right?

20. Use a service that auto-tweets spammy paid ads from your account.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Good Faith is Not for Sale

I recently came across an article on the company blog of Backstage Technologies, written by Russ Ovans, their CEO.
Here is what he had to say:

We were recently in negotiations to be acquired. Talks lasted about five minutes, but during that time, the VP of Business Development from the prospective acquirer kept warning us not to divulge any of the ingredients in our "secret sauce", lest the deal fall apart (which it did) and we ended up suing them for stealing all our invaluable intellectual property (which hasn't happened... yet).
Every time he used the phrase (which was often) I found myself becoming more and more amused. What the heck is a secret sauce? I assumed he meant competitive edge, or intellectual property, but being a marketing type, he liked using that buzzword instead. Wikipedia tells me that it means any component of a product that is closely guarded from public disclosure for competitive advantage.
So, what is our secret sauce? Do we even have one? We certainly do, and the primary ingredient is the knowledge regarding how to design and build a social game (and its underlying virtual economy) that is both engaging and monetizes well. That certainly constitutes a fair portion of our secret sauce.
But our special sauce (i.e., our sauce that is not a secret to any of our competitors) is our commitment to customer service. Anyone can steal that, but it takes a huge commitment.
This is what makes certain applications and services a joy to use...that human touch by an approachable team.

Without that, your customers will drop you like a hot potato for the first clone that comes along that provides what you do, AND goes the extra mile by listening to them and being approachable.

good faith That human touch makes the customer feel like they are part of the team. It is one of the reasons why services like Friendfeed and the applications from DonationCoder have been as enjoyable to use as they are.

Excellent customer service creates loyalty. Anyone that has made good customer service the corner stone of their business, no matter what line of business they are in, and is considering selling their company to another, should think about this long and hard before making that decision.

There is one thing you can not sell along with the company, and that is good faith. Your customers gave that to you because you earned it. If you sell out to another company that doesn't take customer service as seriously as you have, your customers will jump ship after the sale, and the company you sold out to will run what you have built into the ground.

It might not happen in a day, week, month, or year, but it will eventually happen. The customers will eventually take back that good faith and give it to someone else that deserves it.
Do you really want to see that happen to something you built, something you made such a commitment to, and put a lot of effort and hard work into? Do you want to end up having seller's regret somewhere down the line, wishing you had found a better buyer that would have done the right thing with what you created, by providing the same level of service that you did?

Money isn't everything.

Before you sell out, make sure your prospective buyer is as serious and committed to customer service as you are. It will benefit you in the long run by allowing you to retain the good faith and loyalty you earned. Your former customers will be more likely to trust you in your next venture and be first in line to be your customers again, if they don't feel like they were somehow cheated in the sale.

Sell out to the wrong company and you will very likely be bad mouthed by the very people that once loved you, and they may never be willing to trust you again.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Adding RSS Feeds for Labels on Blogger

Multi-column labels with feeds If you take a look at the bottom of this page, you will see that in my Labels section (I called it Categories) that each one has its own feed icon, and that it’s set up to be displayed in multiple columns.

If you would like to know how to have feed icons like mine, with or without multiple columns, I have recently written an easy to follow tutorial to explain how.

What is especially nice about having individual feeds for your labels is that it allows your readers to subscribe just to the content they are interested in most and nothing more.

It also allows each individual author of a multi-author blog to each have their own personal feed, if you tag the posts with the author’s name.

http://appsapps.info/tutorials/rss-labels.html

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Most Powerful of All Human Rights

iranian_protest_election_results_26

The heroic photojournalist that is responsible for this incredible iconic photo
has been missing since Wednesday. He is believed to have been arrested.
UPDATE: He has been released!

There is one right that every human being on this planet has, that can only be taken away by death.

This one right, at it's most extreme, takes the most courage to exercise but can cause the biggest changes. It's powerful and those with power fear when people feel compelled to use it.

It is the right to say "No", a word that exists in every language and is usually among the first words a child learns to speak. It is a word more powerful than tanks, or guns, or bombs, and when combined with the voices of many others, shouting it in unison, it is possible to wage war and win, without ever striking or attacking with any other weapon.

Citizens of Iran, keep saying "No"!

Whatever it is that the government wants, keep saying "No", unless and until it is what YOU want.

You can and will win, as long as you keep saying "No".

Do not allow yourselves to be silenced.

Keep saying "No"!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Free Buttons: Top Ten (CC-BY)

A long time ago I created a set of buttons for use on my old art website, to number pages.

Back in those days, I was kind of careless and stupid concerning saving the original templates for my artwork. Instead I saved one blank button with a black background, to match that site, which means I can only use those buttons on sites with black backgrounds.

I really liked those buttons a lot, so I recreated them from scratch today, in much better quality than the originals.

sample: Top Ten buttons

(shown actual size)

With transparent backgrounds, they can now be used on any color website. I also made a set with a slight drop shadow, so they would stand out more on lighter backgrounds.

Released under a Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution license, suitable for both personal and commercial use. Just give credit by linking back to this site on any page that you use them, or in your about box if you use them in a desktop application.

Besides using them to number pages, I think they would be great for numbering items in all those “Top 10” lists that so many bloggers seem to be fond of.

And in case you want to do a top 20 list, I have included .psp and .psd source files of both versions, so you can edit and make more buttons (or change the font).

This item has been moved to my art site.


font used on buttons: Adorable

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Free Bird Icons (CC-BY)

Perfect for linking to your Twitter profile or any other purpose in which you’d need a bird icon.
In 16 assorted colors, so you can dare to be a little different and match the colors of your website.

birds-sample

Also included in the full set, are the original Paintshop Pro vectors (.psp).

Released under a Creative Commons 3.0 Attribution license, suitable for both personal and commercial use.

This item has been moved to my art site.









Sunday, June 07, 2009

Free Website Buttons: Black Chrome (CC-BY)

preview
(shown actual size)

A set of 12 buttons in PSD, PNG (with and without shadow), and Paintshop Pro PSP and TUB formats. (They should work in any version of Paintshop Pro, v7 and newer.)

Set includes:
  • light bulb
  • contact
  • information
  • awards
  • about (male)
  • about (female)
  • home
  • help
  • rss
  • privacy
  • news
  • one blank button for you to customize in any way you choose
Icon images on the buttons were created by Yusuke Kamiyamane (from his Fugue Icons set). Chrome bezel buttons were made by me.

The entire button set is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license and can be used free, for any personal or commercial projects.

This item has been moved to my art site.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Stories Of Big Lottery Jackpot Winners


Have you ever wondered what kinds of people have the kind of luck it takes to win the lottery?

Over on Stories Of Big Lottery Jackpot Winners you'll get to satisfy your curiosity.

You'll get to read plenty of stories about people that won large lottery prizes, from Rebecca Jamison, a woman that won but almost lost when someone claimed the ticket was really theirs, to Max Matthews, a guy that received his ticket as a birthday gift from his son.

And they come from all walks of life, from Beverly Palmer, a woman that had recently hit hard times and lost her job, to Iorworth Hoare, a convicted rapist that not only won, but found "love" when a golddigger became attracted to his new riches.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

How do you move an entire country?

A number of small island nations are in danger of disappearing, as they sink into the sea due to global warming induced rises in sea level. This is not if, it's when, and it's soon.

These tiny countries need serious help and they need it now.

Over 500,000 people from Bhola Island in Bangladesh permanently lost their homes when half of the island sank in 2005.

The Carteret Islands will be fully submerged by 2015. It's 10,000 residents need a new home now, but their government can't afford to move them off the island.

Tuvalu will be gone by 2050. Where will its 10,000 residents go? And what will become of its .tv top level domain? GoDaddy is recommending people not to buy one, because the island is sinking. The island needs the revenue generated by the sale of those domain names if they ever hope to be able to afford to buy a chunk of land big enough to relocate. But if the island disappears, there is a good chance that the .tv domain names will disappear with it, leaving anyone that bought one holding something worthless. It's considered a risky investment. The only real reason for buying one of their rather expensive domain names is to help them, not to actually use it.

flooding

And speaking of relocation, the UN doesn't recognize climate change as a qualification for official refugee status. This means no official international aid to help these small disappearing countries find a new home, people that are in danger as a direct result of the actions of those living in industrialized nations. Technically, nobody has to take these people in and all countries have the right to turn them away and tell them to go back home to a place that doesn't even exist.

It's our carbon emissions and green house gasses that are responsible for permanently taking away the homelands of all these people and while you may not personally agree with it, it's our collective agreement as industrialized nations, that they be left with no place to go and no help. Think about that the next time you go for a nice leisurely drive.

So what are we going to do with all these people? It's not like they can just buy a chunk of land from private citizens in Texas and set up a new country within the borders of the US. Neither the US or any other country would ever willingly allow something like that.

No country wants to give up any of their land to another country. This fact has been the basis of many wars throughout history. It's seen as a hostile invasion, even if it is attempted peacefully. Look no farther than Israel and the Palestinian conflict if you want to see how it works out in the long term.

school What is the alternative? Split everyone up and scatter them around the world and make them assimilate to living in a new country, destroying everything…their culture, national identity, and perhaps even their native language in the process? That doesn't seem right either.

While I would personally be willing to temporarily take in one of the displaced families and help them adjust to their new life in a new country, I know in my heart this isn’t what is best for them.

 

Whatever solution we come up with better happen soon, because we don't have time to waste. The islands are sinking and their residents need our help.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

OpenCandy: A New Kind of Adware/Spyware


They claim to be doing something noble, but the only thing sweet about OpenCandy is the sales pitch to naive developers that might just fall for it, tricking them into thinking it is somehow different than the typical common adware/spyware.

A lot of developers do seem to be biting the bait, but no matter how you slice it, it's still adware/spyware, and to me it stinks worse than the old fashioned kind.

In OpenCandy's own words, this is what they do:

Recommendations are made to users during the installation process. Utilizing the install process creates a user-friendly experience and offers optimal engagement for making a software recommendation. The user is presented with a screen that describes the recommendation, at which time they may choose to install the recommended software.
That makes it adware!
We then provide analytics back to the creators, so they can see how their software and recommendations are performing. This way they can better understand how to build and recommend great applications.
That makes it spyware!
We've also provided our technology as a platform to a handful of software creators who are utilizing an offer screen during the install process as an advertising unit. Some creators are already monetizing their distribution by offering apps like browser toolbars, so we're helping them improve their user experience and optimize the effectiveness of their offers.
That makes it your typical spyware/adware we have always known.

Actually, this is much worse, because instead of big companies like Sun & Opera making some software and offering it for free and advertising Yahoo's toolbar in the installer, we have a lazy predator company backed by venture capitalists that doesn't want to bother with or take the risk in developing a ton of software of their own to push toolbars to make their millions. They want to use the software of naive developers to accomplish it.

An ad is an ad, and to me there is no difference.

There is no difference between showing an ad for some other product by some other developer in the installer of my software, no matter how much I might even like that software myself, and popping up an ad for CocaCola or Viagra on a user's screen during the install process.

Do you remember what you parents told you about not taking candy from strangers and why? Well, these guys are not really strangers, they are known preditors. The founders of OpenCandy are the same guys responsible for the inclusion of the spyware/adware in DivX.

Now, before you call me a hypocrite for bashing adware installers while having ads on my blog, let me explain the difference:

Any visitor to my blog can turn off Javascript and not be exposed to ads. Or they can use a noscript plugin, or an ad blocker. They have that choice before they land on my site.

I even offer an ad-free RSS feed.

If I want to recommend software to my users, I put it on a separate page of my site and not in my software or installers.

When the ads are in an installer, the user can't install the software without seeing the ads. They have no real choice. That's the difference. And I seriously doubt that developers are going to offer two different installers and give users the option to see or not see ads or be exposed to spyware.

So now that I have told you what I think, what is your opinion on OpenCandy, as either a software user or developer (or both)?

 UPDATE Saturday, February 19, 2011:
The following applications have been found to install OpenCandy:

  • aMSN
  • Any Video Converter (last freeware, OpenCandy free version 1.21 available here)
  • ApexDC++
  • ATI Tray Tools
  • aTube Catcher 
  • avast! Free Antivirus 
  • AxCrypt
  • CDBurnerXP Pro
  • Cheat Engine
  • CNET TechTracker
  • Connectify
  • CrystalDiskInfo
  • CrystalDiskMark 
  • CutePDF
  • Daemon Tools
  • DarkWave Studio
  • Dexclock
  • Dexpot
  • DoubleTwist
  • Driver Sweeper
  • Duplicate Cleaner
  • DVDStyler
  • DVDVideoSoft products
  • eRightSoft products,including Super
  • ExtractNow
  • Ezvid
  • FL Studio
  • FreeFileSync
  • Free YouTube Downloader
  • Freemake Video Converter
  • Freemake Video Downloader
  • Free Music Zilla
  • Free Video Dub
  • Free Video To Flash Converter
  • Frostwire
  • GameHouse
  • HappyLand Adventures
  • IE7Pro
  • Image Tuner
  • ImgBurn
  • IZArc
  • kantaris
  • KMPlayer
  • Launchy (when not downloaded from SourceForge)
  • Media Info
  • MediaCoder
  • MediaInfo
  • MiPony
  • mIRC
  • Miro
  • MyPhoneExplorer
  • Office 2010 Trial Extender
  • Orbit Downloader
  • PDFCreator
  • PeaZip
  • Photobie
  • PhotoScape
  • Power Plan Assistant for Windows 7
  • PrimoPDF
  • PSP Video
  • RealArcade
  • RedKawa
  • SIW
  • Soldat
  • Soft32 Updater
  • SPlayer
  • Startup Manager
  • StepMania 
  • SUPER
  • Super Mario Bros X (Level Editor)
  • Super Simple Photo Resizer
  • Sweet Home 3D
  • TechTracker
  • Trillian Astra
  • Tubetilla
  • True Burner
  • Unlocker
  • uTorrent
  • Veoh Web Player 
  • Videora
  • Vistaglazz
  • WebShot
  • Winamp
  • WinSCP
  • Xfire 
  • YouTube Downloader HD
This is not an exhaustive all inclusive list. This is just what I have found with a quick Google search. If you know of any other applications that should be added to this list, leave a comment and let me know.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Fix: Can’t access HTML of my template after adding a frame busting script

oops You do not want to use a frame busting script in the template of a Blogger based blog.

It will disable your ability to use the upper toolbar in the layouts mode, and you will not be able to access the HTML of your template without a bit of "URL hacking" to get to it.

If you have added it and can't access the HTML of your template, just change the layout URL, replacing the word "display" with "html".

Example:

change this: http://www.blogger.com/display?blogID=12345678
to this: http://www.blogger.com/html?blogID=12345678

Now you can find and remove the frame busting script and everything will work normal again.

Free Header Graphic: Peachy

Just messing around again, and created another graphic for you to use.

The sample is shown at 50%. Click to see it full size (800x250).

The font used is Aldridge Script SSK.

Zip file includes PSD, PSP, PNG (blank), and JPG (blank).

sample-peachy

Download link can be found on my art site.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Fix Firefox Not Remembering to Keep You Logged Into Sites

FirefoxLogo The Problem:

Lately, I have been hearing a lot of complaints from people that Firefox does not remember their preferences to stay logged into sites, after they close Firefox and run it again.

The Cause:

The cookie database file is corrupted.

The Fix:

WARNING: This will log you out of ALL sites till you log into them again!

You may also lose certain site preferences that depend on cookies. You may have to configure those again. These would not be settings that are stored on the site's server. They would be settings specific to your PC and not set if you used the same site from another computer. While it might be a bit of a bother to reconfigure them, it's not a common thing to store site preferences this way and it should only affect a very small number of sites, if any at all.

The only one I can think of off the top of my head is Google search. If you have configured it to turn safe search off for images, set it to show more than 10 results per page, or to open links in a new tab or window, you will have to set it again.

You will not lose any saved password information stored in the password manager. You will only lose all of your cookies.

Ready?

  1. Make sure Firefox is closed.
  2. Go here:
    • On 2k/XP: C:\Documents and Settings\(your name)\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\
    • On Vista/Win7: C:\Users\(your name)\AppData\Roaming\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\
    • On Mac OS X: ~/Library/Mozilla/Firefox/Profiles/ or ~/Library/Application Support/Firefox/Profiles/
    • On UNIX/Linux: ~/.mozilla/firefox/ 
  3. In that folder you will find a folder that has a bunch of random letters & numbers for a name and ends with ".default".
  4. Open that folder and find the file named "cookies.sqlite".
  5. Delete "cookies.sqlite".
  6. Run Firefox and log into all your sites again.

Firefox will create a new cookies.sqlite file with the necessary info and you shouldn't have a problem any more.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

It was a "Fizzbin" kind of day today.

I have a very high tolerance for stupidity when helping other people. I can guide even the the most brain dead along, explaining things 55 billion different ways till it clicks in their heads, without losing my patience.

But I have no tolerance for incompetence when I am forced to deal with a complete idiot, when calling a company with a support issue.

I had the worst tech support experience of my life with Verizon, today.

First, my internet went down at about 1:30 AM. I did the usual rebooting my router and PC, making sure my daughter's laptop was turned off (it was) before calling to complain, yet again. This has become a ritual I have had to perform an uncountable number of times since I ordered my DSL speed upgrade back in early December. I have been complaining about the flaky connection for months, with Verizon not doing a damn useful thing to fix the issue, which they have insisted is on their end and their fault, each time telling me they have fixed it and they really haven't.

Had I known that ordering an upgrade was going to give me such a flaky connection and crappy tech support at twice the price, I would have stuck with the slower stable connection and paid less, and kept more of my sanity.

So, I called Verizon and as normal, had to go through their automated menu crap and get put on hold to wait for a human. This time, I was on hold for more than an hour and a half.

jackassThen someone finally picked up the line, and it turned out to be the most incompetent idiot I have ever come across, at any ISP, beating even the AOL guy from some 3rd world country that told me to make a backup of all my husband's emails (since he had the smallest amount), delete the originals, and replace them with the backup copy, in order to fix my dialup. And when it comes to incompetence, that AOL guy is a hard one to beat.

The Verizon nitwit I had to deal with today, beat all of the AOL nitwit techies I have ever had to deal with, combined.

After doing a line test and saying that the problem wasn't on their end, and checking router/modem settings, and making me tell her what username I was using, and making me disconnect /reconnect just to make sure I was using the right password for that username, she finally "knew" what the issue was...

She seemed to think that Internet Explorer was broken, and because all applications that use the internet do it through Internet Explorer, if Internet Explorer is broken, then Firefox, Chrome, K-Meleon, Opera, and every other browser will not work...and she doesn't think there is such thing as non-browser applications like XChat, Filezilla, GTalk, etc and insisted they all use IE to connect to the internet too, and none of them will work, because IE is broken. Yes, she told me this crazy load of crap.

And how did she verify and make a final determination that IE was the problem? Because she had me run it and without typing in any URL, she wanted me to tell her what the error message was. There was no error message, because I don't have a home page set. When I run it, it's blank. That's the way it's supposed to be. But nothing I could say would convince her otherwise, that a blank page when you open IE is normal when you don't have a home page set. To her a blank page with no error message is positive proof that IE is broken.

Now let me tell you how she said my Internet Explorer got "broken" while I wasn't even running a browser, and certainly not IE. She seems to think that while I was typing in XChat, some virus forced its way onto my machine and broke my IE so it is blank and doesn't give an error message, and that is why my internet does not work.

So I guess that means that at the exact same time, that virus also managed to force its way onto my daughter's laptop and break her IE, too...while her laptop was shut off, since her internet wasn't working either? And that sneaky virus did it to my PDA too?

Now I haven't even told you about the "My Computer" fiasco yet.

While trying to "help" me, she tells me to go to "My Computer", right click and go to "My Computer". Now if you have a desktop icon for "My Computer", right click it and see if it has an entry on the menu that says "My Computer". You won't find one.

I asked her to confirm this, that she wanted me to right click "My Computer" and select "My Computer" from the menu. She said yes. I told her it wasn't on my menu, and maybe she meant something else, like "Properties", perhaps? She insisted that wasn't it.

She then told me to go to "Start" and then click "My Computer". Sorry, but that isn't an entry at the root of any Start menu in Windows XP unless someone adds it there themselves, and I sure didn't add it to mine.

Then she had me look in "My Documents" and "Control Panel" for "My Computer". Then had me go to Start, Run, and type in "My Computer" (try it, it's fun!). I suspected she may have wanted me to go to "System Properties", but she kept insisting that wasn't it and we needed to find this elusive "My Computer" entry that was missing from all my menus.

She wouldn't let me speak to her supervisor, or another techie that actually had half a brain, and ended up hanging up on me when I totally lost my patience with her. I probably would have hung up on her long before that, if it wasn't for the fact I didn't feel like waiting on hold for another two hours.

When I called back and went through the automated crap again, before placing me on hold I got a recording that said that Verizon was having issues in my area code and there could be outages for the next 6 hours and if I still wanted to speak to one of their techies, to hang on, otherwise hang up.

For some reason, the nitwit I had talked to earlier didn't know about the issues on their end, as she kept insisting there was no problem on their end, nothing wrong with my modem/router, and that my IE was broken on every computer in my house.

Scott Hanselman was right...there really should be a magic word like "Fizzbin" that you can say when you call tech support, so they don't treat you like you are an idiot...or force you talk to one of theirs.

Monday, March 16, 2009

7 Reasons Not to Direct Link to a Developer's Download Files

downloads As a developer, I can't help but be more than a little bit bothered by the fact that some bloggers chose to direct link to application download files (.zip, .exe, etc) in some of the articles they write, rather than the page on the developer's site, in which the download links can be found.

If this is how you do things when you write articles & reviews, then I'd like to inform you that this isn't a very nice thing to do, for the following reasons:

  1. You are depriving the developers of the full credit they deserve for the work they have done. If the application is worth writing about, it's also worth giving the developer full proper credit.
  2. Some freeware authors have Paypal donate buttons on their sites, and your readers will never see them, therefore never click them. This deprives some developers of their only income and maybe their only incentive to keep making freeware/donationware.
  3. Some freeware authors have advertising on their sites, and additional page impressions or clicks generated from the traffic you send them means an income for them, and your direct linking to the files prevents that from happening. This is how some software can remain free, rather than the author resorting to making it payware (or even worse, adware). If you would like things to stay free and clean, you have to do your part to help the developers keep it that way.
  4. A blog linking to a page on a small developer's site can mean a big boost in Page Rank, making their software easier to find through search engines. This helps the people searching for the perfect tool to do the job they need, as well as the software developer that created it.
  5. You are depriving and cheating your readers of the chance to browse around the developer's site, and perhaps the opportunity to discover more useful software they might be interested in. And in the case of the applications that come from sites like donationcoder.com, you are preventing them from discovering a wonderful software enthusiasts community that they really would enjoy, and can even request custom made freeware, made to their specifications.
  6. In some cases, you may also be making it more difficult for your readers to find the info necessary to submit bug reports and get support, not to mention application updates and upgrades.
  7. You may also be depriving your readers of important information related to installing or using the application, that they may need to know.

So, could you please be a really nice person to us poor freeware/donationware developers, and your readers, and fix your links to point to the pages and not the file downloads? And in the future, always link to the pages, instead.

Your readers and the software developers would really appreciate this.

Thank You.

Monday, February 16, 2009

What do you love?

We, as consumers, have a vested interest in the products and services we use and the stores in which we shop. How much of an interest depends on how we feel about it. The more we love a product, store, or service, the more of a vested interest we have in its long term success.

It is not beneficial to us, as consumers, to fall in love with a dud. (Not all duds are bad products, some are just poorly marketed) If you are the only one to love a product and buy it, or the only customer a particular store has, then there is no possible way for that product or store to survive, long term. You, as the lone consumer, do not have enough buying power to guarantee the success of what you love.

So what happens to the duds? Well, they disappear, of course, leaving you to feel the pain & sorrow of losing something you love. While it might not compare to losing a pet or loved one, it's still painful to lose something you love, no matter what it is.

It's an endless list of things that we have loved and lost, as consumers. I am sure we all can think of at least one product or service that we once enjoyed very much, that we would just about kill to have it once again. A shampoo or conditioner that made your hair look great, that perfect shade of lipstick that stayed on all day without smudging, that nail polish that didn't chip for two weeks, a favorite candy or snack, a brand of shoes that always fit as if they were made just for you, a flavor of yogurt, a dry cleaner that never ruined your clothes and always got every stain out, the Chinese restaurant that had the world's greatest lo mein.

But alas, it's not very likely we will ever have these things again.

credit: webphotomart.com Now take a look at the products and services that you currently love. Do enough people love these things to guarantee its success in the marketplace, long term? Are they going to be here tomorrow? Are you going to have to go through the pain of losing another favorite, yet again? Is there anything that you, as a consumer, can do about it?

Yes, there actually is.

There are two things you can do to help.

1. Sharing is caring...tell people about it.

The more people you tell, the more will be introduced to the product or service that may have never heard about it or tried it before. And there are lots of ways and plenty of opportunities to do this.

2. Tell the company responsible for the product or service exactly how you feel about it.

Take the time to write a letter and mail it, the old fashioned way, on paper in an envelope with a stamp on it (perhaps you can even send a thank you card). Popular celebrities shouldn't be the only ones to get fan mail. While sending an email is quick and easy, sending real mail goes the extra mile to show how much you really care.

Now this won't guarantee that a product or service won't disappear at some point, but you will be doing your part to protect your interests in its long term success.

Is there a product or service that you use and love enough to tell me about it, today? Now is your chance to start doing something to protect your vested interest in it, by telling me (and everyone else that will read this page) all about it.

Leave a comment. Consider it an investment in your own consumer happiness.

There is one catch, though...

Please do not advertise your own products, services, or websites. This is for your fans to do today, not you. Instead, tell me about someone else's product or service that you love.





Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Converting and Encoding a URL Containing Extended ASCII Characters (Delphi utility with source)

It has come to my attention that some programming languages do not always make it very easy to convert and encode a URL.

While helping someone with bug testing and adding Last.fm support to a media player, we came across a problem with opening URL's to the correct page on last.fm's site when the title, artist or other tag info contained extended ASCII characters.

Example:

  • Artist: Bjørn Lynne
  • Title: Methydias Cloudship

This would be the correct URL on their site for this song:

http://www.last.fm/music/Bj%C3%B8rn%20Lynne/_/Methydias%20Cloudship

But in AHK, which does not support unicode, attempting to come up with the URL resulted in this incorrect one:

http://www.last.fm/music/Bj%F8rn%20Lynne/_/Methydias%20Cloudship

The problem was that you have to convert the URL from Ansi to UTF-8 before you encode it.

At first he wasn't sure if he could fix the problem, as that was what he thought he was doing in the first place.

So, while he decided to take a break from bug fixing to go play with his kids, because all coding and no play can make a coder and his family miserable, I decided to go ahead and make a little helper utility for him, just in case he couldn't resolve the issue.

Now I am not too sure on the particular details of how he fixed it, but he did and didn't need my little utility, after all.

But I am not one to let code go to waste, and my intention was to help someone resolve a problem, so I decided that this code will still do just that, one way or another. I am pretty sure that there is someone out there somewhere that could find this useful for something.

So, here it is, a small command line utility for Windows that will accept a parameter of a URL containing extended ASCII characters, convert the URL to UTF-8, then properly encode it, and finally, open that URL in the system's default browser.

I have included the Delphi source in case you may need that, too.

While testing this with various browsers, I noticed something peculiar. Certain browsers will display the URL in the addressbar differently than what the URL actually is. Although it is properly converted and encoded, the addressbar will display the original extended ASCII. I suppose this is to make it look pretty.

The following browsers exhibited this behavior:

  • Firefox 3
  • Opera 9
  • Chrome 1

Additionally, while both Firefox and Chrome copied the correct URL to the clipboard from the addressbar, Opera did not.

Opera copied extended ASCII, instead.

Internet Explorer did not exhibit these behaviors and displayed the actual URL used, in the addressbar.

Rest assured, this application does work properly, even if your browser isn't displaying what you think it should be showing in its addressbar.

Now I don't care if you use either the code or the compiled utility in an open source or close source project, for non-commercial or commercial purposes, and you don't have to give me any credit or compensation if you use it.

My goal was to help someone and if this can help you in some way, feel free to use it in any way you wish. I have released both the utility and the source into the public domain.

 

Creative Commons LicenseThis application and its source code is dedicated to the Public Domain.

Download: Delphi encodeURL utility with source

Friday, January 02, 2009

Add a TwitThis Button to your Blogger posts

Wouldn't it be great if you could add a button to every post that would make it easy for your visitors to share your posts with their followers on Twitter?

The following is instructions to do just that, for Blogger layout based blogs.

Using the information at TwitThis, I was able to tweak their bookmarklet code a bit and use the image from one of the other codes to create this one that works in Blogger.

This will require you to edit the HTML of your template. While I have tried to make this as easy as possible, those that don't feel comfortable with this, should not try it.

The button will only show on post pages and not the main page of your blog. It's not wise to do this any other way, as the URL that will be supplied on Twitter will be the URL of the page in which your button is clicked. If it is on the main page, the post may not be there when someone reads the entry on Twitter or FriendFeed, and it is likely not to win you any new loyal readers, so use this only on post pages.

I have also added some comments in the code that will make it much easier for you to add additional buttons in the future, and have them appear on all pages or just post pages.

NOTE: If you have added the Google Reader code from one of my other posts, then you just need to add only the yellow TwitThis code above or below the Google Reader one. If you have not added that one, then you need to use ALL of the code.

1. On your Blogger Dashboard, click the Layout link for the blog you want to add the button to.

2. At the top of the Layout page, click the link for Edit HTML.

3. Where it says "Backup/Restore Template", click the link that says "Download Full Template" and save the .xml file to your hard drive. This file will help you restore your template, in case anything goes wrong.

4. In the "Edit Template" section, check the box at the top right that says "Expand Widget Templates".

5. Use your browser's search function to find this line:

<div class='post-footer'>

6. Find the 2 lines in your template that look like this:

<div class='post-footer'>
<p class='post-footer-line post-footer-line-1'>

7. Copy and paste the following code between those 2 lines:


<!-- Footer Button Codes BEGIN -->
<div>
<p><span id='footer-buttons'>
<!-- things placed after this line will show on all pages -->


<b:if cond='data:blog.pageType == &quot;item&quot;'>
<!-- things placed after this line will only show on post pages -->

<!-- TwitThis Button BEGIN -->

<a href='javascript:(function(){TwitThisPop=window.open(%22http://twitthis.com/twit?url=%22+encodeURIComponent(location.href)+%22&amp;title=%22+((document.title)%20?%20encodeURIComponent(document.title.replace(/^\s*|\s*$/g,%27%27))%20:%20%22%22),%20%22TwitThisPop%22,%20%22width=600,%20height=500,%20location,%20status,%20scrollbars,%20resizable,%20dependent=yes%22);%20setTimeout(%22TwitThisPop.focus()%22,%20100);%20})()'><img alt='TwitThis' src='http://ajax.twitthis.com/chuug.twitthis.resources/twitthis_grey_72x22.gif' style='border:none;'/></a>

<!-- TwitThis Button END -->

<!-- Do Not Paste Any Code Below This Line -->
</b:if>
</span></p>
</div>
<!-- Footer Button Codes END -->


8. Click the button at the bottom of the page that says "Save Template".

If you get any red errors, leave a comment stating the specific error message, and I will try to help you out. If you get any errors beginning with "bX-", just try again tomorrow. Sometimes Blogger has issues with itself and waiting a bit can resolve them.

9. Look at your blog. If you have done this correctly, the button should appear on post pages only, and not the main page. Test the button by clicking it on a post and sharing one of your posts on Twitter.

10. If you would like to add other buttons to the footer of your posts, the comments in the code will help you decide where to put your button codes. One place will show on all pages, and the other will only show on post pages.

Credits: 99% of the credit for this goes to TwitThis. I just tweaked it to work on Blogger. No big deal.

EDIT 10-16-2009: Image URL was changed (Thanks Alex!)