Finally, no distractions

It is rather odd to say that it is now July and this is probably my worst season of watching the Red Sox. It isn’t even close. Between the Bruins having a nice run in the Stanley Cup playoffs, the Celtics making it to Game 7 of the NBA finals, and the World Cup, it feels like I am completely worn out watching sports. There were days I just did not feel like watching the Red Sox or just couldn’t due to too many other important games on.

That is going to change for the rest of the year. I am looking forwarded to having the game on and being interested again. I feel like I have missed out on enjoying a team that has really fought hard despite a huge amount of injuries to key players. Let’s hope they can continue to play well as reinforcements arrive back from the DL.

In search of the perfect bank

Something I have been seriously giving thought to this year has been to switch to a different bank (or credit union). Currently I dislike the fact that I am with Bank of America, but they are getting the job done at the bare minimum. I have yet found the perfect replacement though.

Bank of America has one thing going for it: tons of ATM’s. I am pretty sure to find an ATM anywhere I travel in the United States. It also has a basic iPhone application that allows me to do banking on the go if I need to, which has come in handy.

My requirements to switch from Bank of America are quite simple (so I thought):

  • Free checking and savings accounts (willing to take a minor interest rate drop for this).
  • Lets me write paper checks. I have to pay condo fees with paper checks, so this is a requirement.
  • Either entirely free ATM access or willing to cover for a certain amount of ATM fees.
  • Easy to use web site and an mobile application.
  • Scan checks for deposit. Bonus points if you can do this with an iPhone. It is the 21st century and we have the technology to do it.
  • Great customer service. Doing customer service myself as my day job, this is a major requirement if I am going to have my finances with you.

So far, I haven’t found any bank that can do all of these tasks.

  • Local credit unions: Two of them, Granite State Credit Union and St. Mary’s Bank, are on the same street as my work, which makes deposits easy and have that local friendly presence that gives you that warm fuzzy feeling. They have a large ATM network shared with other credit unions with free access. Mobile efforts are either non-existant or very limited. Only GSCU offers ability to scan checks at your home computer. Closest to what I am looking for in the sense of a traditional bank/credit union, but so year 2000 in online technology.
  • ING Direct – I have a savings account with them and they seem to be a very solid online bank. Decent ATM network available. Biggest knocks for me: lack of a good mobile application, no ability to have an actual checkbook (you can only mail paper checks via their site), and no check scanning for deposits.
  • Ally Bank – Web site looks fantastic, at least the front page. Free accounts, free checks, free ATM’s after reimbursement, reports are that they offer great customer service. Utter lack of actually taking the next logical step and offering a mobile app and scanning checks for deposit prevents me from going there today.
  • USAA – There has been lots of great reports about how USAA is awesome. I even opened an account with them just for kicks to see how it is and I have to agree, looks like a great bank. Refunds up to $15 in ATM fees, free checking, savings, web site has a good design, great iPhone app. However, unless your parent(s) were in the military or you are/were in the military, you do not have access to the best feature: check scanning with your iPhone or computer.

Banksimple looks promising, but it is clear vaporware at this point. I would need to see what they actually launch with to see if it matches my criteria.

So far, no bank offers what I want. Still searching for a way to leave Bank of America.

Disabling zoom with scrollwheel on Mac OS X

Ever since I have switched to using spaces on my Mac, I have had a maddening intermittent problem that I couldn’t figure out a solution to. Occasionally when I switched spaces using control-arrow on the keyboard, my screen would zoom in and I couldn’t figure out why.

Turns out, I apparently sometimes move to fast on the keyboard while at the same time, not moving fast enough! That sounds confusing, but let me explain. I would switch a space with control-arrow, lift up on the arrow key, but manage to sometimes to keep the control key press long enough for me to use my  mouse’s scrollwheel.

For the longest time, I couldn’t connect all of these dots, but I finally found the preference to turn off the control-scroll zoom feature. Open up your Mac’s System Preferences and click on Mouse. You will see an option  for the zoom on scroll feature at the bottom of the window. Just uncheck it and you are all set!

Mouse preferences screen on Mac OS X

Maintaining my Internet presence

Yesterday I wrote about my plans to transition this site over to in the near future. Yet an event today reminded me about something I have been thinking off and on about for the past few months. Why should I run my site on my own server?

This afternoon I was doing my usual after work routine online, catching up on my e-mail, RSS feeds, and Twitter. I happen to go to my site ready to jot down a few ideas for a blog post. Eventually my web browser times out connecting to this site. I try my other sites on this server, nothing happens.

I groan, as I know immediately what the problem is. My server (running Ubuntu 9.04), despite several rebuilds and reconfigurations, will randomly spike to 100% CPU usage and become completely unresponsive. Cannot SSH into it, cannot even serial console into it. I have to do a hard shutdown of the server then power it back on, hoping that I did not corrupt the database in the process. Who knows how long the server was down, could have been hours.

This gets me thinking. Is there really a need for me to run the latest WordPress on my own server? Do I have the time and energy to keep this server secure, up-to-date, and with as close to 100% uptime as possible? Do I really want to troubleshoot obscure issues on an OS I know very little about?

My gut says I want the power of WordPress so I can eventually unveil my awesome web site that I keep promising for years, that this server is a great learning experience for not only hosting my own site, but making sure everything just plain works.

My head tells me that I have been promising that awesome web site since I registered , which was 8 freaking years ago. Point the DNS records to Tumblr for and begin fresh there, with a simple blogging platform that does the few things I have ever done with this site. Let Tumblr worry about uptime, security, and providing an awesome site for me. Maybe it will make me write more.

As I ponder this, I did some tweaks to my Apache installation since I did find some log entries that suggest the server ran out of memory. Let’s see if this fixes the problem. If not, I may press the kill switch on self hosting WordPress.

The plan to move to

A few months ago I acquired from a domain squatter. I haven’t done much with the domain due to time restraints, but I am edging closer to at least begin working on moving over my online presence to it. Here are my initial plan:

I have signed up for Google Apps for the domain. The free version does everything I need, whether it is e-mail, calendar, contacts, etc. I do not need to worry about running a mail server and I can use Google Apps on any device I own.

In one sense, moving e-mail over to Google Apps would be easy. Setup a filter on Gmail to do all of the hard work and that is it. Yet it really isn’t that easy. The perfectionist in me would require that every online account I own be immediately switched over, which will take hours to do all of the updates. Then again, do I really want a bunch of web sites to know about my new e-mail address?

My calendar right now is just hosted on my home computer and isn’t synced in the cloud. I will use this opportunity to move everything over to Google Calendar.

I plan on configuring my iPhone and my iPad to both use Gmail & Google Calendar via the Google Sync feature. Instantly I will have over the air calendar and contact updates, plus push e-mail.

I am almost certain I will just 301 redirect to I just have to setup the proper .htaaccess rules and setup WordPress on