Thursday, December 17, 2009

Thinking of doing business online? Don't use paypal

I've had this same experience with paypal several years ago. They closed my account because they thought some transactions violated their terms of use. They would not tell me which specific transactions. They gave me conflicting information when i called them. And they also sat on the money in my account for 180 days before they let me withdraw it. Which is basically their way of forcing you into giving them a 180 day interest free loan.

I will never use them ever again for any online business. And i try to avoid using them for paying for anything online when ever i can. I refuse to link any bank account to them and if I wind up with any money in my paypal account i always spend it as soon as i can.

You might want to read this site as well before considering paypal:

Paypal is not worth doing business with. The guys from the above post were lucky that they had a 2nd account to use. Otherwise they most likely would have lost ALL of their sales due entirely to paypal's unprofessional behavior.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Star Trek

Sorry, but as a trek fan, i have to vent. (some spoilers if you care)

The new movie is a good scifi movie, but barely an ok trek movie. The plot though was just really stupid.

A giant mining ship from the future comes back and is able to destroy an entire fleet of ships, but the enterprise by itself was able to destroy an entire salvo of the same torpedoes that destroyed an entire fleet. And the main component of the ship, the drill, can be knocked out with a handgun. And no one on the entire planet of vulcan had a single ground based weapon to shoot that thing with? Hell they could have just flown a shuttle pod into it. And lets not forget we have a ship full of romulan MINERS, not soldiers. But somehow nero is able to convince them all that they should wait around 25 years in the past to get revenge on someone who tried to help them - instead of like, going back to romulus and warning everyone. Hell, they could have taken the red matter and destroyed the star that destroyed romulus. (i'll ignore for the moment that any star going super nova, even if it was close enough to somehow destroy the planet, would still take YEARS to get there) But no, lets run around blowing up planets instead of saving the people we're so upset over losing. Convenient that the romulan mining ship happens to look so evil as well, instead of looking like, i dont know, a mining ship.

And lets see, spock needs a single drop of that red stuff to destroy a star, but decides to take along 50 gallons of it - were there a lot of other stars he planned on snuffing out? And when was the last time spock willingly surrendered such a powerful weapon to the enemy? He would have swallowed the red stuff before handing it over.

And i have to say, the engineering section of the enterprise sucked. no fancy words, it just sucked. it looked like a sewer treatment plant, which isn't too far from the truth. They shot all those scene in a beer factory. Did anyone tell abrams that the enterprise runs on anti-matter and not steam power? I mean the bridge looks like a futuristic glamor studio but the engineering section looks like it was processing toilet flushes.

I'll ignore for now that kirk just happens to get marooned on the same planet as future spock AND scotty. And I'll ignore that they happen to also be located in the same area on the planet. And i'll ignore that they managed to beam themselves not only onto a ship at warp, but several light years away.

I cant ignore though that a fresh out of the academy cadet is promoted to first officer after he sneaks onto a ship he was never supposed to be on. I get that pike thinks kirk has potential, but frankly, that's bullshit. Seems a bit unrealistic to me that a 17 year old chekov is also serving on the bridge of the fleets flagship. So he entered starfleet academy when he was 14? And i call bullshit on kirk being promoted to captain of the enterprise the next day, even if he did save the earth.

And why exactly did vulcan need to be destroyed in this 'reboot' ? Do they actually have something interesting planned with that or was just it some random crap they included?

And what was the deal with spock and uhura? His mom dies and suddenly they are in love with each other? The characters themselves were ok. I think quinto did a good job as spock. I think pine did an ok job, although i think they tried to make kirk a little too over the top. Scotty was too goofy - did anyone actually watch any of the original cast? Uhura was ok. chekov was ok, sulu was ok. I think the best job was Urban as McCoy.

It felt like they tried to cram too much stuff into 2 hours. if they make 2 more movies (apparently they bought the rights to do so) maybe those will be a little better paced and have a somewhat realistic plot. I hope so - because maybe then it'll be a little bit more trek, and a little less 'reboot'.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

is google becoming evil? they are breaking website keyword tracking

Googles moto says not to be evil. But a change to their search page is going to be very evil for a lot of web site owners.

Normally when someone searches on google and clicks a link in the search results, the website owner can determine what you searched for that brought you to their site. This is very useful since it makes it easy to figure out what people are interested in and can be extremely useful for websites that make money off of ads on their webpages. For example, if people who search for 'tires' come to my page a lot, then someone who sells tires would probably be more interested in buying ad space on that page then say someone who sells cookies (unless they are cookies shaped like tires ... mmmm...cookie tires). 

However, a new change google is starting to push out will break this. This means a LOT of web site owners who depend on this information are going to suddenly find it missing. This is information that is basically a web standard for all search engines.  The ability to track keywords is something that works with all the major search engines.

You can tell if this is happening the next time you do a search by looking at the url after you submit your search term.

If the url looks something like this:

Then when you click on one of the links in that search result, the website you go to will know you searched for 'dogs'.

However, if the url looks something like this:

And you click one of the links, they wont know what you searched for.

Hopefully google will reconsider deploying this new change, because it's going to hurt a lot of websites out there.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Free disk partitioning tool - gparted

I've used partition magic in the past, and it's a great tool. But it does cost money, and being able to do the same thing for free is always nice :)

It's called gparted. It's free and open source and runs on top of linux (don't worry it works with windows, and you don't need to install anything).

You can download it from there. Download the stable cd ISO image. At this point you can burn this ISO image to a CD using whatever cd burning application you normally use. Once the disk is finished, just reboot your PC and select the option to choose your boot device and select the CD drive to boot from. Everything runs off the CD so there's no need to install anything to the hard drive.

If you prefer, you can boot gparted from from a usb thumb drive. Its a fairly small boot image, so a 256meg thumb drive will give you more then enough space.

To do this, you can download another open source and free utility called UNetbootin from here: Again, there's nothing to install. Just run the program you downloaded, select the ISO image, choose the gparted iso you downloaded, select your thumb drive and let it do it's thing.
WARNING: doing this will erase whatever is currently on your thumb drive so make sure you've backed up anything on there you might need.

After you do this, plug the thumb drive into whatever PC you want to use this on, reboot the PC and at the start up screen, look for whatever key combo you need to press to select the boot device, and if you are using a relatively modern PC you should have a USB option. Select that and in a few seconds you should be up and running with gparted. It has a fully graphical interface and you can use the mouse and keyboard to shrink, enlarge, move, delete or copy partitions from the same drive or another another drive.

There you go - totally free hard drive partition management (except for the cost of a CD or thumb drive).

Monday, January 12, 2009

Windows 7 - first impressions

So just in case anyone is curious, the next version of windows after vista is called Windows 7. Microsoft decided to go back to just numbering them instead of giving them names.

Anyhow, I've been beta testing it for the last week or so. I have to say so far i am impressed. This is the first beta release and so far I've found no major bugs and only some very minor ones. I even pushed my luck and decided to try doing an upgrade install from vista ultimate to 7 ultimate and .... it worked! So far I've only found two programs that didn't work after the upgrade. one of them i fixed by just uninstalling and reinstalling it. The 2nd one i just haven't gotten around to trying to fix yet since i don't use it that often. Perhaps ironically, one of the problem programs was chrome. although that was fixed with a command line switch: --in-process-plugins

performance seems to be a little better then it was under vista. networking seems to work more reliably then vista. Although the network icon is very uninformative. No indication of if you are no longer connected to the internet like in vista, nor is there any indication of network activity. Hopefully this will change before the beta is over.

Also, i do not like the new task bar in 7. Instead of getting the row of buttons/title bars on the task bar, you now just get a small button with just an icon of the program on it - no text. When you mouse over the icon, you'll get a small window preview of whats running. If it's something like IE or FireFox that has multiple tabs, you'll get a preview window for each tab and clicking the window open the browser up with that tab open. I suppose for someone who has a LOT of stuff open, maybe this would be nicer since you can fit more stuff on the taskbar. And you do have the option to turn off the grouping (like you do in xp and vista) so that if you open a few copies of the same program, each copy gets its own button instead of being grouped under one button. But with just icons and no text, it would be a pain to find the right icon since they'll all look the same. I haven't checked yet to see if you can get the same taskbar look and feel as from xp and vista.

The start menu works basically the same as it does in vista, which i think is better then xp. You can type in a few letters and it will (quickly) find everything that matches. So if you have a lot of things installed, you don't have to scroll through a long program list. you can just click start and type a few letters to quickly get to what you want. Windows explorer though gets a bit different. In addition to the normal things, you now also have 'libraries'. These are just basically quick ways of accessing all your photos, videos, documents etc. It will search for all your files of certain types and then display them in one grouping.

So far it looks good. Although again, just like vista, I'm not sure there's enough there to be worth the upgrade price, especially if you are upgrading from vista. Hopefully MS will offer a hefty discount to upgrade from vista.