Archive for the ‘tips and tricks’ category

The Power of Twitter

November 20, 2009

this post is also posted on my personal blog. You can view it here as well.

Recently I keep hearing the same story over and over about twitter. The headline reads 40% of twitter is pointless babble. Now of course there are a variety of reasons the headline is misleading. First and foremost is the method the study used to determine pointless babble. Of course there is always a random tweet out there, even I occasionally engage in what is clearly pointless babble, but in a lot of cases what you or I may think is pointless babble may be of great value to someone else. I know in Facebook (FB) land I don’t mind random posts about what someone is doing, after all I do have a true friendship with most of those people. Another problem with the headline is the subtext. Essentially they are trying to say that twitter is pointless. Here is where I would like to show you the power of twitter. I’ll show you how I’ve used it in some very powerful ways.

It started last year (2008) when I was working on a project for work. I was trying to interface a router with my Comcast internet. Sounds easy, but for some reason my router wasn’t working. In frustration I tweeted about it and in my tweet in included Comcast. Not long afterward I got a popup from a Comcast representative asking me what the problem was. At first I was a little weirded out, but after we went through a few steps together I found it quite helpful. I didn’t ask for Comcast to contact me, but they did and they were quite helpful, probably more so than if I had called. It was at this moment I realized just how powerful twitter can be. I probably posted the same “tweet” on FB, but certainly didn’t get an answer through FB from a Comcast rep. The nature of FB is closed, which is in some ways a very good thing, but in this instance even though I have 3x as many friends on FB I still wouldn’t have gotten a Comcast rep. I’m just not friends with any.

More recently I needed to book a bus between Boston and NYC. I was booking for a Tuesday departure and Tuesday return. As such I needed a late bus. The one company I wanted to with, Bolt Bus, didn’t go late enough. I searched online, but I really wasn’t turning anything up. So I tweeted. Another difference between my FB friends and Twitter friends is that more of them are local or tailored to my profession. I figured if I tweeted there were plenty of Boston followers that would help me out. I got this response in little time at all. Not only did Megabus work out, but I got the round trip tickets for $2.50. In the process the official Megabus twitter account also contacted me.

Later that week I started having problems with this very website. Again out of frustration I twittered about it. One of my followers was kind enough to take the time and help me through the problem.

Probably the most fascinating story is the one that happened recently. My wife got in a minor accident with an MBTA bus. From the sound of it she cleared the red light, but there wasn’t enough space for the bus to make the turn. The end result was that the bus hit our car. When my wife confronted the bus driver he had already let out all of the riders leaving no witnesses. To make matters worse the bus driver already made up a story to try to make my wife the guilty one. I tweeted about the situation and got this in response. Which eventually led to an actual witness. Fortunately, it looks like everything is going to be taken care of without such a witness, but it is nice to know I can contact one if I needed to.

This *is* the power of twitter. Sure there are times when I get random tweets, but for the most part I ignore them. And of course there are plenty of people not worth following, but that is why I don’t follow them. But when it comes to getting things done or answering questions that Google doesn’t suffice for twitter is there and is quite powerful. These are just my personal examples, there are plenty more. Examples like breaking the news about Michael Jackson, or following real life opposition in Iran. None of this is pointless babble. It has real worth, and despite what anyone may think of twitter it is what you make it. If all you want is pointless babble have at it, but you can make twitter much much more.

My experience with Active@ Boot Disk

October 19, 2009

Our office recently needed to do some data recovery.  We usually don’t have to, since all saved data is supposed to go onto a network share.  But there’s always the user who thinks they know better and keeps 3 GB of data on their desktop (not just the desktop computer, but the Windows desktop).  And of course, this would also be the user whose hard disk dies.  My sense of responsibility got the better of my schadenfreude, so I started trying to retrieve the data.

Occasionally, I’ve been able to retrieve data by fiddling with things until I can temporarily access the data.  Didn’t work this time.  Enter Active@ Boot Disk.  I’ve used the demo DOS-based version of their software before, and I wasn’t particularly impressed.  But we decided to spring for the Windows-based version, and I’m glad we did.  It’s intuitive, effective, and I will consequently spend much less time recovering files in the future.  Check it out if you have a chance.

Some of the particular things that impressed me about the Win version are:

– ability to map a network drive, then save recovered files to it
– use Remote Desktop to control another computer
–  reset Windows passwords (I already have a freeware tool that does this, but it’s nice to have)
– registry editor
– web browser, mail sender, FTP and Telnet clients
– disk wipe tools
– partition tools
– imaging tool
– hex editor to read data directly from the disk (I don’t know if I’ll ever use that, but hey…)

So you get the idea – it’s got a lot to offer.  If you’re needing a preinstall environment, especially for doing file recovery, check it out.

Only thing I wish it had – ability to integrate malware scanners into the PE.  Oh well, can’t have everything.  And at $80 US, it’s a great value.

Why users fled paper classifieds

May 26, 2009

Ars is running a story about a dramatic shift in people using online classifieds over paper. This isn’t hard to imagine. In fact, my past two jobs, my current apartment, and my bedroom set were all found via craigslist. Of course as the research suggest I fit into the ideal category on all counts (24-44, urban, college student or husband to one, moved to new city, and looking for a job), but that is not to say that I didn’t try other mediums.

When I graduated from grad school in 2006 I moved close to my home town in IL. As such I was familiar with the local media and generally what jobs were available. So when I moved to the area I started searching via print news papers. I found a handful, but my field was technology and there weren’t enough results to meet my desires. So I went searching through the web. I think I typed something like, “Apple Jobs Champaign Urbana.” That turned up a perfect job opportunity via craigslist. Now I was fortunate and applied for the job and got the job offer all in the course of a week. To say that is a fluke is fair enough, also the job was advertised via traditional print media and I could have found it via the University of Illinois website.

Moving on to two years later my wife and I decide to move to Boston so she could do grad school there. Since I had a lot of lead time I started looking for ways to find jobs before moving. One of the main papers here in Boston is the Boston Globe. Unfortunately, you cannot find the paper in print in IL, so that left me without any print. Which is an inherent weakness of print classifieds. They work great if you are local, but if you aren’t they are pretty well worthless. You would think a great newspaper like the Globe would then put their classifieds online right? No their online classifieds pointed directly to yahoo jobs and that was a remix of Monster.com. I am pretty internet savvy and was already registered through Monster so the Globe didn’t offer anything I didn’t already have. Monster did a good job and gave me over 6 interviews, but in the end the job I got was found via craigslist. Searching for apartments was another chore. We used apartments.com among other sites. They were helpful, but really only found commercial properties. Finally we started looking at craigslist and found a bunch of potential properties and settled on our current place. We are supremely happy. Finally when we moved we needed a bedroom set. First search revealed someone who needed to downsize and quick. We took a look and realized we were getting a very good deal and thus ends the story.

So what is the point? My point is that in all of those cases I tried the print version, but it was of little (in IL) to no (in Boston) use to me. In IL I found plenty of potential jobs, but without a search or backdate functionality (something other than the library) I would have missed out on good opportunities like the job I actually got. In Boston I needed to be local in order to see them in the first place. The papers had their chance. They once were THE place to go for all things classifieds, but their insistence to keep it locked up and to charge money for the adds left a hole. That hole has been filled by craigslist and co. What surprises me is that print papers haven’t realized their mistake and try to fix it. Such as the Globe just rebranding Monster…I assume (though I haven’t ever purchase the Globe) that their actual classifieds are different. Whatever there reasoning they missed their opportunity and I am afraid it is far too late for print classifieds to make a comeback.

F6 hack on XP installation

May 13, 2009

Those of you who have installed XP onto a hardware RAID drive know it’s a pain.  You have to make the floppy and use it to install a third-party RAID driver.  This also means you need an internal (not USB) floppy drive.  As these drives go more and more out of the mainstream, it becomes more and more of a pain to install XP on a RAID drive.  

I am having a particularly difficult time with this – not because of lacking a floppy drive.  I have a floppy/card reader combo.  The problem is, I don’t have POWER for a floppy.  I think I have a cable for it somewhere in the studio, but that’s the beauty of a modular supply – I don’t have it when I need it.  But I need XP, because 1) I don’t really want to use Vista anymore, and 2) Vista has issues and won’t even install  Gigastudio LE, and 3) Vista isn’t really compatible with my recording equipment for the home studio (do you see a trend developing?).  Virtually all the cool features (like motorized faders, jog wheel, recording buttons, EQ) don’t work.  So today I’m taking the plunge and going back to XP.

Back to the problem at hand.  I don’t have power for the floppy drive in Computer 1 (though I’m sure there’s an adapter out there somewhere).  But I do have Computer 2 (which does have the correct power).  And this brings me to the hack.  I powered up the Computer 2, and ran its floppy power cable into the floppy drive in Computer 1.  Bingo!  It works.  It probably shouldn’t, but it does work and my RAID drivers are installed.  Don’t have a camera handy, or I’d post some pictures of how crazy this looks.