New Orleans

My heart continues to break over watching what is happening in New Orleans (and the surrounding area). Probably the greatest natural disaster in U.S. history. I cannot imagine being down there right now. So many lives lost, homes gone…the scary part is if the Hurricane didn’t move slightly to the east…it could somehow have been even worse.

It is times like these where the best of us comes out. Donate now. These people need all the help they can get (and more).

How everyone gets out of this and the affected areas rebuild will be one of the best stories ever.

Rest coming up

If you know me well, you know that I don’t take many vacations (I can count maybe 2 full week ones since my sophmore year of college) and work a ton. Well, coming in September/October I will be taking a few long weeks.

First off is Labor Day weekend with an extra day on Tuesday off for a full 4 days. Plan on completely cleaning out the apartment and the closets here in preparation for a community yard sale at our condo complex. It is probably going to take 4 days to clean up everything!

Next is September 30th to October 2nd. Katie and I are taking a three day weekend to go up to North Conway. We already got our hotel booked and we are working on where we want to go. Nothing like foliage in New Hampshire. We plan on taking the Cog Railroad, something that neither of us has done despite being New Hampshire residents our entire lives. It should be relaxing, fun, and quite beautiful.

It is a good thing these little mini vacations are coming up. I need one.

Google Talk: The Review

Well I have been playing with Google Talk for a day or two right now. Here are my thoughts…

This has the protential to be the killer IM application.

Think about that for a moment will ya? Oh, you think that IM’s bubble has already burst? I hate to say it, but you are totally wrong.

First off, every teenager and college student has instant messenger. Right now on my AIM buddy list I have approximately 200 buddies combined from SNHU and Sunapee High. IM has become more important (and addicting) then e-mail and the web for many of us. These days, if we are at our computer we IM someone before we call them. Heck, if we can’t reach someone that way, we will IM someone down the hall on this particular person’s whereabouts. When all else fails do we attempt an e-mail.

Kinda pathetic but pretty funny.

So where does Google Talk fit into all of us?

Easy. For a long time we have been putting up with subpar IM clients that have one or all of the following going against them:

  1. Can only talk to its network and no one else *cough*AIM*cough*MSN*cough*Yahoo
  2. Has a serious infection of ads *cough*AIM*cough*MSN*
  3. Has the nerve to play audio ads at the most idiotic times possible(I saw you hiding there AIM)
  4. Has an uninspired, cluttered, and slapped together interface (pretty much everyone)
  5. Did I mention a buggy and memory bloating program for something as simple as sending text messages and the occassional picture?

Sure there were attempts to combine the best of the big 3 IM services into one interface. Trillian, Miranda, Gaim, etc. Most fail due to big time bugs (just try to attempt a file transfer behind a firewall without unblocking ports or putting your computer in a DMZ or worse…directly on the Internet, I dare you), horrible user interfaces, and a lack of features.

Google is going to change all of this. Right now, they have just the basic IM client. You can’t even change font sizes/colors yet. But wait, what is this I see?

  1. A simple and smart interface. Not cluttered, easy to figure out, and quite beautiful.
  2. A small (less then 1 MB) download and just 4 M of memory currently. That is unheard of in 2005 for any program, nevermind an IM client.
  3. The easiest voice talk interface I have used yet.
  4. Open standards via Jabber.
  5. The promise of encryption turned on by default in the near future. Talk about stellar.
  6. My mom e-mailed me asking about this new Google IM program she heard on the news. Pretty impressive if you ask me.

With the Jabber protocol being used, Google has the foundation built an entire free and open network for IM and voice talk, in fact they announced they are working on adding networks to Google Talk ASAP. The current status quo of not being able to use one chat program to talk to another chat program is going to end soon. No more separation like in the early days of the Internet when you couldn’t e-mail an AOL customers.

Here is my prediction. Within 2 years, we will be able to use any IM program to talk to any other IM program. Google Talk might not rule, but it will be the reason why things will change.

This high school gets it

High school trades textbooks for laptops –

It is amazing to think back to high school and college. You know how much money must have been spent for getting me textbooks (both from taxpayer’s wallets and my own) that I did not enjoy reading or didn’t even have to read?

Out of the $900 per year I spent on textbooks in college, I probably got maybe $100 worth of information out of them. Don’t get me started on the out of date textbooks in elementary school and high school.

It wasn’t from lack of effort. It was from lack of well written information in these books or a teacher’s non-use of the books in the classroom. No wonder in high school my grades weren’t exactly stellar (B average)…the Internet for research purposes back then (1996-2000) wasn’t close to what it is today. No Google, no Wikipedia, nothing remotely close.

All the learning I did in college I tried to do via the computer and Internet, even if a professor assigned us reading work in a book. Oh I would read the book…I would just then go online and figure out what I just read. I think it paid off…a 3.73 GPA in college and a much better understanding of the world.

Mark my words. The sooner every school moves to computers for learning and eliminates textbooks, the better.


A few days ago I received this e-mail from DreamHost (great hosts btw, can’t recommend them enough):


I’m very sorry but I had to disable /index.php. It had
been compromised by a hacker and was being used to execute commands on
the server. It looks like it was WordPress. Please be sure that you are
running the latest version of WordPress.

I disabled the file by merely renaming index.php to

My first reaction was “holy shit.” My second reaction after a moment of thought was full of questions, most importantly was anything on my blog deleted/altered (answer turned out to be no from what I can tell).

I had just updated to WordPress 1.5.2 less then 24 hours earlier when it literally just came out, which fixed a big security hole. Using logic, I guessed that whatever DreamHost observed going on with my account happened before the upgrade.

After exchanging e-mails with DreamHost a few times to see if I could pinpoint when they observed this hacker activity, I decided to do the following steps:

  1. Reinstall WordPress 1.5.2 from a freshly downloaded copy to ensure it wasn’t compromised and files altered.
  2. Change my blog user account password and MySQL database password.
  3. Upgrade to Bad Behavior 1.2, although that has more to do with spam then anything
  4. Install WordPress Database Backup 1.6 to do backups of my WordPress database
  5. Install WP-Cron to schedule daily backups of my WordPress database

This is ontop of already using mod_security for a long time and already tough to break passwords.

The net effect of this: I will now have daily backups of my WordPress database, my WordPress installation is as secure as it can be, and I will have piece of mind.

I plan to map out a backup strategy so I can organize these backups. More on that later.

Thanks DreamHost for informing me of what happened. Because it set off a flury of improvements that I made to my blog’s security situation.

What is in my start menu?

Neil and Ed have done one, so it is my turn. What is on my Windows XP Start Menu:

  • Mozilla Firefox – Best & most secure web browser out there
  • Mozilla Thunderbird – Best & most secure e-mail client
  • Internet Explorer – For testing
  • AIM (with Ad Hack) – The AIM client at its best, although the beta client has some serious promise.
  • Microsoft Word 2003 – For word processing
  • Microsoft Excel 2003 – For spreadsheets
  • iTunes – For music and podcasts
  • Nero Express – For burning cd’s, nothing matches Nero
  • Picasa2 – Best photo program on Windows and its free
  • SmartFTP – Great FTP client
  • Exact Audio Copy – Best CD ripper out there

I don’t use the quick launch bar.

E-ZPass arrives

I had to wait awhile, but I received my NH E-ZPass yesterday. Amazing little box and it took about 20 seconds to install in my car. Kind of funny now, everywhere I drive in Manchester and I can easily spot who has E-ZPass…just look for a white box to the left of the rearview mirror and car registration sticker on the windshield.

Haven’t used it yet, but it could have been very useful last week when I was driving around Southern NH to clients left and right.