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Monday, October 31, 2005

Uncle Mark 2006 Gift Guide and Almanac

With Halloween here today, we enter into the "Holiday Season" in America. Some of you might already be considering gifts for the Christmas, Hanukah, and other other holidays. With that in mind, I came across a link to Uncle Mark 2006 Gift Guide and Almanac, produced by Mark Hurst. Here are a few words from his introduction.

"As a technology expert, I get a lot of questions -- from friends, family, and colleagues -- about what technology to buy. Since I work in technology and have strong opinions about what' best, I can usually give a quick answer. Uncle Mark 2006 Gift Guide & Almanac is the third annual compilation of those answers: it's a free downloadable guide that helps you make the best decisions for technology purchases -- and for certain gifts, too.

For your part, I expect that you have questions that you don't want to spend a lot of time researching. Sure, plenty of magazines and websites can give you 17 different options of digital cameras -- but which ONE should you buy? Uncle Mark will tell you. (The problem of having too many choices is expertly described in Barry Schwartz's book The Paradox of Choice, which recently came out in paperback.)"

If you are wondering what to get the "techy" in your life this holiday season, check out http://www.unclemark.org/ and get your copy of the Guide today.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

ChuckChat Interviews "MythBuster", Adam Savage

This Sunday, Chuck Tomasi and Kreg Steppe of ChuckChat Technorama will release their interview with Adam Savage, co-host of the Discovery series, MythBusters. It is an interview you won't want to miss. Learn the back story of how the MythBusters got their start and the crazy day-to-day adventures of investigating myths for a living.

Get the show this Sunday

ChuckChat Technorama is a fellow member of Friends in Tech

Friday, October 28, 2005

FiT Tip - To be or not to http://

An audio podcast of this tip was released today on the Friends in Tech (FiT) website. You can subscribe to the FiT podcast feed and automatically receive tips, and other exclusive content, in the future.

Listen | Subscribe to the FiT Podcast Feed | Subscribe using iTunes

To be or not to http://

The online world is filled with obscure jargon, obtuse concepts and general misinformation. The goal at my free Internet classes at my local library is to cut through this fog and leave the students with some understanding of Internet concepts. Certain questions get asked again and again as new members join the class and here is one of the perennials.

Who comes up with these things?

One question that always seems to arise is about the http prefix seen before all web addresses (officially called Uniform Resource Locators or URLs) when using your web browser. HyperText Transport Protocol (http://) sounds more like a government program to move equipment around the country than a method of accessing information on the Internet. Like all good scientists, the developers of the world wide web had to come up with some way of referring to the workings of their system and this is about as stereotypical a piece of techno-jargon as can be found. In reality, HTTP is merely the language or dialect spoken between the world wide web browser on your computer (i.e. Safari, Firefox or MS Internet Explorer) and the world wide web site you are trying to access.

Forget about it

In most cases, the http:// you see before web addresses is superfluous as 99.9% of the time you will be accessing web sites with your web browser. If you only type in an address, say www.welchwrite.com, you will find that your browser will add the http:// automatically. It assumes that the address you typed is a web site and acts accordingly. The only time you need to preface an address at all is when you are attempting to access information that is NOT on a web server.

Even at a distance I can see the quizzical expression on your faces. How can you use a web browser to access information that isn’t on a web site? The truth is that web browsers have the ability to access many different types of information besides web sites. They can get files from File Transfer Protocol (ftp) sites and browse information stored in Gopher servers. The secret to this magic is using a prefix to tell your browser that the site you are trying to access is NOT a web server (http://), but an ftp (ftp://) or gopher site (gopher://). In fact the only time you need to worry about the prefix at all is when it is explicitly included as part of the address. (i.e. ftp://ftp.download.com) While the usage of these older services is waning you may still see them referred to in magazines and television.

WWW, not!

Another holdover from the old days is the "www" you often see in front of many web addresses. In the olden days, this www. was a shorthand way of identifying a computer running web server software. More and more, this prefix can be omitted and, in some cases, it may be replaced with something else. Yahoo.com's personalized service, My Yahoo uses the URL my.yahoo.com. Other sites I have seen include items such as webmail.earthlink and tv.excite.com. As you can see, none of these addresses require the www and in most cases, if you try to include www you will get an error message.

Save yourself a few extra keystrokes each time you type a web address. Drop the http:// and the www. Even if you only save 1 second per address, imagine how many minutes you will save over the course of a day.

Is there anything Google can't do?

Here us yet another neat Google feature...currency conversion. Need to convert Yen to Marks, Dollars to Pounds...or Euros. Check it out!

Google School: Currency Conversion

Google makes it easy to calculate money conversions from one form of currency to another. For example, you can google for $5 in yen to discover that five dollars is worth about 600 yen.

If you're not sure of the name of a currency, use nationality instead. You can google for 25 Australian money in Italian money. It sounds awkward but it does the job.

You can even convert units in this fashion. Googling for $2.85 per gallon in British money per liter (which turns out to be about 42 pence per liter) provides an international basis for discussing gas prices at the pump.


Thursday, October 27, 2005

Friends in Tech Focuses on Technology Podcasting, Friendship and Fun

Friends in Tech Focuses on Technology Podcasting, Friendship and Fun

Bothell, WA (PRWEB) October 27, 2005 -- Friends in Tech (FiT), a new alliance of technology podcasters, have joined for the express purpose of cross-pollination, cross-promotion and, most importantly, fun. Today, with the launch of their new website, combined discussion groups and exclusive content, Friends in Tech makes “one out of many.”

Founder, Kevin Devin, host of In The Trenches: The Podcast for SysAdmins, personally selected the other Friends in Tech members, discovering in each of them a desire to provide their listeners with the best technology information while enjoying the fellowship of like-minded podcasters and the benefits that brings to all.

“We are an oxymoronic group of podcasters -- loose, but tight-knit -- individual, but also a cohesive group. Each podcast remains their own show, but with each helping fellow members however we can. Collectively, we each bring with us certain special talents. There are no "assigned" positions, we all pitch in where and when we can, for the mutual benefit of the group,” says Devin.

Friends in Tech members are regular guests on other members' podcasts, bringing their unique knowledge, talent and insights to a new audience of listeners. Members also join together to create exclusive content for the Friends In Tech website, including FiT Tips, a collection of short audio hints to help ease listener’s computer life, Retro-FiT, a regular podcast review of all Friends In Tech podcasts and, just in time for Halloween, a special entitled “The Server Room of Horrors,” a bit of light-hearted, technology-based, fun.

Despite their focus on technology, each Friends In Tech podcast provides a unique view of the high-tech world that surrounds everyday life. Together with Devin’s In The Trenches with co-host George Starcher (http://kevindevin.com), fellow members include ChuckChat Technorama with Chuck Tomasi and Kreg Steppe (http://chuckchat.com), The Typical PC User podcast (http://typicalpcuser.com), hosted by Victor Caijo, Career Opportunities: The High-Tech Career Handbook (http://welchwrite.com/career) with Douglas E. Welch, Steve Holden’s Tech Rag Tear-Outs and Tech Tidbits Daily (http://technewsradio.com) and the Mike Tech Show with Mike Smith. (http://www.miketechshow.com/)

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

One last pumpkin carving site

Just one last site before the holiday arrives.

How to Carve a Fancy Pumpkin With this technique, you remove the tough orange skin from some areas and carve out other sections completely to let the light from a candle or small flashlight shine through.

(Via eHow.com: How To Article of the Day.)

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Corner Bakery Sketch

Ever since a Corner Bakery franchise opened next door to my son's school, I have been sneaking over early to sit, have a coffee, do some reading and just relax. It is literally a 2 minute walk from the patio to my son's classroom, so I can make the most of my time even on days when I am scheduled to pick him up.

Today, I had stuffed a new sketch book into my backpack, not really thinking I would actually use it. I have been watching several sites recently where the authors regularly share their sketches with the the Internet world, and I guess that repeated exposure finally flipped some mental switch. Two of my favorite sites are:

Rohdesign Weblog

Everyday Matters

I always look forward to new posts and the new sketches that usually accompany them.

On this sketch, (click the picture for a larger image), I consciously and purposely kept telling myself to slow down, focus on one area then move to the next, take measurements, take angles, etc. While there are still a number of flaws, and a tremendous amount of simplification, I must say it is one of my better efforts of late.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Martha Stewart Living has 29 Last-Minute Costume Ideas...and much more!

The latest edition of the Martha Stewart Living's online newsletter has a host of Halloween information.

Be a Ghost or Witch—Without a Stitch
What do bubble wrap, umbrellas, and garbage bags have in common? They are all the start of quick, imaginative costumes that you can make without a sewing machine.

Create a Hair-Raising Look
These costumes are “all in your head” and require very little prep time and materials. The “natural” looks are perfect for busy parents and kids.

Make Costumes at the Supermarket
While you shop for tonight’s dinner, you can easily gather the makings of a great disguise with these inventive and fun grocery get-ups.

Transform into Something Terrifying
Stumped on a costume, but still want to make an entrance? These creepy makeup and hair touches are quick and the results are truly queasy.

Link: Martha Stewart Living Halloween

Pumpkin Carving 101

Just in time for the holiday, here is a host of information on carving, stencilling, lighting and even photographing you Halloween Pumpkin

Link: Pumpkin Carving and Pumpkin Carving Patterns for Halloween

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Best Free Fonts - via LifeHacker.com

Continuing on our review of free software and other stuff for your computer, here is a great collection of free fonts discovered by LifeHacker.com.

Best Free Fonts
Good free fonts are hard to find. Run a Google search and you'll find that there is simply more junk than it's probably worth you're time to wade through...

(Via Lifehacker.)

Monday, October 17, 2005

Absolutely Free Software - Best Free Web Applications

Here is a great collection of links to free, web-based software. More and more you will find easy-to-use and highly functional software available via download or directly from the web. I highlighted OpenOffice, a FREE MS Office replacement last week and I will continue to post others as I find them.

Absolutely Free Software - Best Free Web Applications

No trial periods. No demo versions. Reviewed constantly. Categorized conveniently.

Nothing to install. Run it in your browser.

This page is updated regularly. Last update: October 13, 2005.

Web applications are becoming more popular as the sophistication of AJAX increases and as broadband becomes more prevalent. Many companies are finding it profitable to offer free services to individuals while making money from corporate licenses.

Folksonomies are becoming more and more useful, and people are just plain enjoying sharing links and pictures through services like del.icio.us and Flickr.

I'm going to build this section one category at a time, so keep checking back. As usual, I will only include the best. Because of the unique nature of web applications, I will include sites that have advertisements, but won't include those that mandate a trial period.

(Via NedWolf.com)

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

WelchWrite News - OpenOffice

WelchWrite News -- October 12, 2005


OpenOffice - http://OpenOffice.org - A free software suite

Very few of us use all the features of Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Access). I would estimate that I use only a small fraction and I use MS Office nearly every day.

MS Office can also be extremely expensive for the average computer user. A recent trip to a local Staples showed the current price for the complete MS Office Professional Edition at over $400! Standard editions are available for around $229.

For those of you who just want to use your computer, and yet still be able to share files with MS Office users...and have it all for FREE, there is OpenOffice.

OpenOffice is an entire suite of programs that duplicate the functionality of the programs included in MS Office, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Access, but in a free, open-source , downloadable package.

There are versions of OpenOffice available for nearly every computer platform. You can download the suite directly from the web site or order a CD for a nominal fee. You can learn more about OpenOffice from their web site. If you would like to try OpenOffice, let's setup an appointment to download and install on your PC today.


I will be highlighting more free software in upcoming posts.

Web: Friends of the Island Fox

I have been working with a friends to develop a web site for their group, Friends of the Island Fox.

"Friends of the Island Fox, Inc. supports efforts to save the island fox (Urocyon littoralis) on the California Channel Islands through conservation and education programs"

The group has hosted "Fox Festivals" at both the LA Zoo and the Santa Barbara Zoo to increase knowledge and awareness of this endangered species.

Check out Friends of the Island Fox at http://islandfox.org for more information.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Madeleine Bistro - "The festive side of fresh"

Madeleine Bistro is owned and operated by our friends, David and Molly Anderson. They are alsofellow parents at my son's school and their daughter, Madeleine, is in Joseph's class. I have written before about their restaurant and how much I enjoy it, even though I am not a full-time vegan.

Tomorrow, the Los Angeles Times will print this review of the restaurant. It is already available on the LA Times web site. I hope this review, along with my own high praise will will convince you to give it a try, if you haven't already.

Rosanne said it best when she compared eating vegan to choosing Italian one night or Chinese the next. Vegan can be one choice out of many for your dining.

Madeline Bistro is fine dining that just happens to be vegan.

"The festive side of fresh" - The Los Angeles Times

*A Tarzana café offers vegan dishes that don't disappoint. Desserts stand out too.

By Susan LaTempa, Times Staff Writer

There's always something fun to order at Madeleine's Bistro, something that brings a sense of occasion to the table: beignets and mimosas at brunch, shiitake mushroom sushi and organic ale at dinner, cannolis and a glass of Bonnie Doon Framboise for dessert.

This charming storefront café in Tarzana, with its date-night aura and inventive, well-crafted vegan food, would fill a niche anywhere, but it's especially welcome in the Valley, where chains abound and the semi-fancy Cal-cuisine neighborhood spots that dot the Westside and West Hollywood are so hard to find.

Continue reading this review...

Fun with electromagnetism

Here are some neat projects to make with the kids that demonstrate unique properties of magnetism and electromagnetism. Who knows, maybe there is a science fair project in here somewhere?

Cool Science toys you can make with yours kids: Magnets and Electromagnetism (Some Guy)

(Via Fark.)

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Stanford wins DARPA Grand Challenge -- and 3 others complete the course

After all the jokes that were made last year about the dismal showing of the contestants in this autonomous vehicle contest, I am amazed to see that 4 (and possibly 5) vehicles will have completed the entire course this year. To see such a dramatic turn-around 1 year truly shows the possibilities of what can be done in this world.

A year ago I wrote,
"While some critics have claimed that the race was a complete failure, I personally believe that we need to push ourselves sometimes in the search for new knowledge. All the systems included in these autonomous vehicles had been tested in the lab, but sometimes you have to try and make it work in the real world. I think they should hold the race each year until it is won, and then develop and even more difficult goal. The knowledge that was gained during the preparation and running of this challenge was immense and should not be demeaned just because no one completed the course."

Somehow I knew, even then, that my faith in human ingenuity was not misplaced. Congratulations to all the teams!

Link: DARPA Grand Challenge Web Site

The TactaPad - Fingertip control of your computer

The TactaPad was announced just a few days ago, but the web has been filled with comments about it. Instead of using a mouse or a pen, TactaPad allows you to use your own fingers to control your Mac. Even more, it gives tactile feed i.e. it actually pushes back, so you can feel when you have grabbed an object or are dragging a file.

There are 2 excellent videos on their site to give you a "feeling" for how it works.

Link: Tactiva TactaPad

Friday, October 07, 2005

Podcasting: The power of your own personal radio station

I am starting to promote podcasting presentations for musicians, songwriters and others in the music business. This information could easily apply to anyone who is trying to "get the word out" about their services or products. If you, or anyone you know would be interested in such a presentation for their group or company, please pass along this information and have them contact me directly at: douglas@welchwrite.com.

Imagine running your own radio station where you control the music and the message. Imagine that you could automatically deliver your show directly to your fan's computer and MP3 player, where they can listen to it, whenever and wherever they want.

There is no need to imagine any longer. This is the reality of podcasting -- and what makes it every musician's new best marketing tool.

Douglas E. Welch, independent computer consultant, technology writer, podcaster and amateur musician explains the basics of podcasting, what it means to you as an independent artist and how to get started today.

The great news is, in most cases, singers, songwriters and musicians don’t need much more than their music and a web site to get started. Their first podcast can be released in days, not weeks or months, opening up an entirely new avenue of communication with their fans.

The recent inclusion of a podcast directory and podcast support in Apple's free iTunes music software means that anyone, from the high-tech kid down the block, to Grandma in her hometown can easily receive your content and enjoy it on their schedule, not when some program director decides to play it.

Douglas Welch can give your members the basics of podcasting, including a question and answer session in a 30, 60 or 90 minute presentation.


Douglas E. Welch

Podcasting 101 Highlights -- What your members will learn about podcasting

* What is podcasting?

* Why you should be podcasting today?

* Blogging and podcasting, 2 great things that go great together

* What do you need to get started?

* How often should you produce a podcast?

* Does podcasting require and iPod? ... and other myths

* Publicizing your podcast

* Podcasting costs

Douglas E. Welch is a 20 veteran of the high-tech world, including 5 years as a Senior Microcomputer Analyst at Walt Disney Imagineering. For the last 9 years, he has been an independent computer consultant and freelance technology writer. His weekly column, Career Opportunities: The High-Tech Career Handbook is now in its 9th year with ComputorEdge magazine in San Diego, California. Douglas also hosts and produces the Career Opportunities podcast twice-weekly. He was one of a handful of podcasting pioneers and the Career Opportunities podcast recently celebrated its 100th show and 1 year anniversary. Both the columns and the podcast can be found at http://welchwrite.com/career/

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Google Power!

As most of your already know, Google is an amazing search engine. Sometimes it seems you can find nearly anything, although sometimes you are disappointed.

Hidden deep within Google are some powerful commands. LifeHacker explains the use of numnber ranges in Google to help narrow and specify your searches.

Google School: Number Ranges

Google number ranges let you search for a limited range of permitted numbers. Did you attend high school between 1989 and 1993? Google lets you search for pages that match just those years: "Beverly Hills High School" 1989..1993. Are you shopping for a new blender? Try blender $15..25. Inspiring weight loss stories? "weight loss" "50..95 lbs"

(Via Lifehacker.)

Monday, October 03, 2005

More sketching...

Click for larger Image

I got the itch to sketch last night as I sat watching TV, of all places.

I have been cooped up in the house a lot this last week and I think this is reflected in my subject matter.