Archive for the ‘tips’ Category

Social Networking and Your Blog

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

Some of you may know I love food, and in my effort to both learn more about social networking, wordpress architecture, cloud computing, and search engine optimization I decided to create a blog devoted to my adventures in seeking out the best places to eat around.

Creating a blog is easy, though customizing it for your use is can be challenging unless you take advantage of the work of others with the thousands of free themes, plugins, widgets, and other tools that are available to streamline the customization you wish to add. Here we will discuss how to tie your Facebook fan page into your word press blog so you can share information between the two seamlessly and promote traffic to your site.

There are many word press to Facebook plugins, but the one I chose was Add Link To Facebook. This allows me to publish articles composed on the site to the Facebook Page I have setup for the blog and share the comments and likes between the two. It was rather simple to setup and configure as I already had a Facebook developer account which was required to create the Facebook application needed to bridge the two together. The instructions were super simple and I was up and running in no time.

 

If you have a blog and a Facebook Page I highly recommend you integrate the two to steam line the content management between the two.

 

-Chris

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Voice Recognition in the Work Place

Monday, October 24th, 2011

If I could have three wishes, one of them would surely be 100% accurate voice recognition with every electronic device that I interact with. I don’t mind typing but given the choice, I would much prefer to speak my commands rather than have to type them into a keyboard or hammer them out on an iPhone or iPad.

Voice recognition is obviously in its infancy but it is becoming quite good considering the tools we have to work with. In fact this blog post is being dictated into an iPad with the headphones that come with the iPad and so far it has been 100% accurate. I agree it could get confusing for a computer to decipher commands if you’re in a crowded room or there is loud music playing in the background or any other number of situations that might not be applicable to voice recognition.

That said how nice would it be to wake up in the morning and say, “turn on shower”. Or if you’re laying in bed at night and you want the lights off, instead of getting up to walk across the room you say, “turn off the lights”. How about you say, “did I remember to lock the doors” and the computer says “no, the back door is unlocked, would you like me to lock it for you now”.

It almost sounds a little like being lazy on the surface but I think it goes much deeper than that if you really ponder the possibilities. Steve Jobs seemed to be headed in the right direction before his untimely passing and I suspect that in the not-too-distant future, keyboard will go the way of the eight track.

Imagine how much we would save on hand sanitizer and carpal tunnel syndrome treatments.

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Recovering a Corrupted Partition Table

Friday, August 19th, 2011

There are few things worse than the sinking feeling you get when you boot your computer and find that partitions are missing, or even worse that it won’t boot at all. For sure drives fail due to moving components wearing out over time, but if the drive is mechanically intact there are many options for recovering your data, and not all of them involve spending thousands of dollars to have a recovery specialist deconstruct the drive in a clean room. This option is useful if the drive no longer spins or is unrecoverable by other methods, and in many cases recovery can be too complicated an ordeal for a normal user to approach.

You’d never know the extent of the problem however without doing an initial bit of investigation, Does the drive spin? Yes? Is it making funny noises? No? Well chances are your data is still there, but may have gotten lost by a corrupt or broken partition. You could spend a bit of money on software designed to scan your drive for unmapped data (ie. GetDataBack & DiyDataRecovery’s Diskpatch are a couple of my favorites), though there is a good chance you could recover a backup of your partition table for free if you just knew how.

Enter Testdisk. I first discovered this useful freeware utility when using Insert, a mini-Linux distribution on a live cd focused on security. Since then I’ve found it’s also available on Windows and MacOSX and has helped me out of similar predicaments on countless occasions, and no technician’s arsenal is complete without it.

Full details can be found on their wiki at

http://www.cgsecurity.org/wiki/TestDisk

with step by step instructions at

http://www.cgsecurity.org/wiki/TestDisk_Step_By_Step

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Testing to see if your ISP is blocking outgoing SMTP connections

Friday, August 12th, 2011

Oftentimes to reduce the threat of spambot outbreaks coming from their network, ISP’s today will prohibit outgoing connections to port 25 except when connecting to the mailservers designated for their own clients to use. Some ISP’s will make exceptions if you contact them about it, but usually the person who answers their first tier support calls knows little about how SMTP works, or why you’d want to connect to some other SMTP server to begin with.

When sending email using a server on someone else’s network the errors in your own mail client may be less than helpful, saying ‘Server not available’ or something similar, leading the investigation in the wrong direction: towards the server you are connecting to rather than your ISP or local network.

Luckily many servers nowadays will have an alternate port open for this purpose (since a spambot is connecting to an MX server instead of your outgoing server they are much less likely to attempt connections to an alternate port as well). This is often set to port 587 though technically any port could be used.

Assuming SSL is not required, to test whether you are able to connect to a mailserver on port 25 simply open a command prompt and type ‘telnet someserver.yourhost.com 25′ (replacing the hostname with whatever outgoing server is provided by your host):

C:>telnet someserver.yourhost.com 25

220 someserver.yourhost.com (IMail 8.21 57484-4) NT-ESMTP Server X1

If the screen refreshes and you see an SMTP banner as above, then that port is open for you to connect to and the issue lies elsewhere.
If you know that this server is working for other people and the port is being blocked however, you’ll see a connection failure just as if the server is down or not responding:

C:>telnet someserver.yourhost.com 25
Connecting To someserver.yourhost.com…Could not open connection to the host, on port 25: Connect failed

C:>

Ask your email provider for an alternate port to connect to and any other relevant settings. Assuming SSL is not required you can test to this alternate port in the same way as above.

C:>telnet someserver.yourhost.com 587

220 someserver.yourhost.com (IMail 8.21 57809-2) NT-ESMTP Server X1

Note: The telnet program is not installed by default on recent Windows operating systems though it can easily be installed through Programs and Features by selecting ‘Turn Windows features on or off’ and checking ‘Telnet Client’, then Ok.

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Disconnecting in a Connected World

Monday, August 8th, 2011

To a large percentage of the world’s population, the Internet couldn’t be more irrelevant or any lower on the totem pole of life’s necessities. However, I happen to live in the group that relies heavily on the Internet to conduct business, perform research, communicate with friends, family and of course, waste time.

If you are like me, you are plastered with Internet access 24/7 in your day-to-day life, especially at work or at home. While I’m out and about, I’ve always got my trusty iPhone which can do 90% of the things that I need to get done with relative ease. If my iPhone lets me down, I can use my iPad to tackle the other 9% percent. The last 1% are probably things I could do without anyway, so they can wait.

I’ve been traveling this past week so I have experienced a fairly consistent lack of Internet connectivity and as a result, have had to travel a short distance (less than a mile) to a local café with free WiFi or maybe I got lucky and bummed free WiFi off someone with an unsecured network.

When I’m thoroughly disconnected and have no Internet resources whatsoever, something strange happens to me. I tend to notice things that are around me more because I’m not bumping into them while checking the weather on my iPhone. I also find myself engaging in conversation with more people because I’m not busy deleting spam out my inbox or replying to a text message. Does any of this sound familiar?

Yes I need the Internet and no I don’t need the Internet. Let me try this another way.. if I had to choose between never having access to the Internet again for the rest of my life or.. well, I can’t think of anything that would be applicable for a trade. You can’t say television because the Internet provides television. You can’t say the music or radio because the Internet provides both of those. We pretty much can’t say anything that you can’t physically put your hands on because the Internet provides all of that too. But you can say anything that you can touch, feel, taste, and smell. I left “see” out because as we already know, you can see everything on the Internet. Especially the stuff you have no interesting seeing.

What I’m trying to say is that I/we forget too often that the Internet is just a tool to help us do things and it’s not really very good at anything else. Have you ever tried to have a conversation with the internet? How about asking the internet on the date? Maybe go to dinner with the internet or make friends with the internet? Sure you can see the great pyramids on the internet but let’s be real, that’s no substitute for standing in front of them, smelling the air, feeling the sun reflect off of them or touching the stones. So I suppose it’s okay to be disconnected and in some cases, even therapeutic. It’s sad to say but I know people who would have a complete meltdown if they lost their Internet connection for a week or two. If you’re reading this blog post it’s very likely that I don’t know you, but it’s also very likely that he might be one of those people.

Not that you asked for it, but my recommendation would be to pick one day on the weekend to not use the Internet. That means disconnect the data portion on your phone as well because that would be cheating. You’ll survive an entire day without Google maps and even though your “real friends” on Facebook might be scratching their heads at your sudden absence, they too will survive. Just do it as a test and think about that day as it progresses. If you’re not an Internet junkie already, sorry to have made you waste another five minutes of your life on the internet.

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