Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Block Any Pop-Up From Any Site (Like

Sometimes pop-up blockers just don't work. Here's how to prevent any web site from issuing a pop-up window directly in your face. Instructions here are for Chrome, but you can probably do this to any modern web browser. At least, one can dream.

  1. Go to Preferences
  2. Go to Under the Hood > Privacy > Content Settings...
    1. Alternatively, just search for "pop-up" in the Preferences search box
  3. Scroll to Pop-ups, then click Manage Exceptions...
    1. Of course, make sure the "Do not allow..." radio button is activated
  4. Add a new hostname pattern similar to this: [*.] and select Deny from the dropdown. Example: [*.]
Again, most of the time, pop-up blockers work... but sometimes they don't. This tip was documented here so that in the rare case you get some dastardly site like that slips past the iron curtain, at least you've got a big fly swatter waiting for that pop-up window that hopefully you'll never see after making this change.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Soluto: Easy Tech Support for Mom and Dad

Techcrunch had a great article about how to provide tech support to your loved ones (or those who you like enough to provide support). The solution is from a company called Soluto, and they bill themselves as the Anti-Frustration Software company.

Soluto started out as a downloadable app for Joe User, but eventually they figured out that Joe User just wants their stuff to work, not figure out yet another tool that will tweak their computer. So what Soluto did was pretty genius: they decided to make their solution web-based, and market it to IT professionals (the founder calls them "techie people") like me.

Now, instead of my mom having to install the software herself and make decisions about what to turn off or on, and what to do about the web browser toolbars, etc., it is me who makes those decisions, remotely. All with little to no end-user interaction.

This means I can monitor and push software updates (hello, all you lonely Windows XP Security updates!), as well as reset her default browser to Chrome and search provider to Google should she get hijacked somehow. I know, a rare thing, right? Essential computer specs are there, too, like used/free space on hard drives, CPU, how much RAM, what motherboard and graphics cards... all the essentials. Other things you can do: with the click of a button, install cool apps like Skype, Dropbox, OpenOffice, Google Talk, Evernote and more. You can see when apps are non-responsive and/or crash.

To make boot time faster, Soluto lays out all the programs that start up at boot time, and arrange them in order of time it takes to fire up. From there, you can drill down to the ones that are safe to remove, the ones that are potentially removable, and ones that are required. The desktop version of the app told you how many seconds you've saved off the boot time, but this new web-based beta does not do that as of this writing.

You also have access to the end-user's computer protection including turning the firewall on and off and managing the virus scanning side of things in addition to Windows Updates.

Does this replace being there? Almost. You can't, for example, troubleshoot printing or driver problems or anything complicated like that yet... but remember, this is in beta and there's a lot more in the works as they listen to techies like me give them feedback. For the really tough problems (printer/scanner not working, some kind of thing (virus/malware) causing incredible slowness) or the infamous "I can't find my file" scenario, LogMeIn and a good Skype connection is always as good as being there. If LogMeIn's too complicated, they just launched a service called Join Me, which is desktop sharing in two clicks.

So the days of helping family with tech support tasks just got a little bit easier. For the really advanced stuff, there's LogMeIn/Join Me. For the rest of the small stuff like pushing upgrades and common things like setting the homepage or default web browser or basic maintenance tasks and monitoring the frustration level of the people you support, Soluto provides a great solution.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Windshield Chip Repair Experience

Recently, I was filling up at my local ARCO gas station on 16th and W Streets in downtown Sacramento when I saw those pesky windshield chip repair guys doing work on some poor innocent victim's windshield. I wondered just how much she was being taken for a ride, so I walked over to the two gentlemen performing the work and asked them exactly how they can repair cracks right on the spot.

One gentleman in a yellow jacket, we'll call him Mr. K from University Auto Glass, explained to me how they inject the resin into the chip or crack, and then ultraviolet light finishes it off to form the permanent seal so it cannot spread any further. I asked how much it cost for the repair, and he quickly responded: $40 for up to three chips/cracks. He was then quick to ask if I had any chips or cracks (I did) and then we were swiftly off to begin his sales pitch.

After reviewing my windshield and my insurance card, he determined that my deductible was high enough that it didn't make sense to file a claim with my insurance company to get it repaired/replaced--I could buy two or three windshields for the price of my deductible. And so, given the choice of a $40 repair (warrantied for as long as I own the vehicle) or the chance of it spreading and forcing me to replace the windshield--not only for safety's sake but to comply with California law--I decided that he got me. I was in.

The process
He takes a razor to the pit/crack to get as much loose junk out of the tiny crevice as he can. Once that's done, he attaches some kind of apparatus to the window via suction cup. This apparatus delivers the resin to the damaged area, which the technician then hardens with an ultraviolet light. He scrapes off the extra resin with his razor, making it level with the glass, then shows me how there are no black marks (those are air gaps) which cause cracks to spread. The whole thing took perhaps 15 minutes start to finish. Pretty painless. Of course, as any good sales guy would, he professed that this was one of the best repairs he's ever seen and he was sure pretty proud of his work. I had no idea, looked like there was a lot less of a crack, to be sure, but I was expecting it to be completely invisible. What remained was a tiny dot, which is largely absent from my vision as I drive down the road.

So in that short time, his partner had helped the lady whose car had sparked my interest, they had helped me, and were scouting every car in the gas station for potential customers, which of course they found with ease.

Why I did it
Costs and benefits, for one. $40 repair vs $100+ windshield. The repair is guaranteed for as long as I own the vehicle. In fact, they stand behind their guarantee such that if I ever need a windshield replacement, they'll credit me the $40 if I buy my replacement windshield from them. But more so, I did it because of Mr. K, who was extremely up-front, transparent and forthcoming about the product/company... and because it just made sense to prevent the crack from spreading. They've really got you right where they want you--a captive audience that has to wait for gas to finish pumping, and trying to solve a problem that may become a bigger problem unless you--wait for it--act now.

The conversation
While talking with Mr. K about his job and other random stuff, I learned the following:
  • They use a Square device to process credit card payments right on the spot. (I've had my own Square for quite some time, and it was really cool to see it being used to run a business. Seeing this more and more.)
  • The product is $40, and $25 of that $40 goes to him as commission. In places like the Bay Area, where people have more disposable income, he remarked  that the same job would cost drivers anywhere from $80 to $120. Not sure if his commission increases in kind, but I'm sure it does to some extent.
  • Speaking of cost, the gas station I was at charges the auto glass company $1,500 per month for exclusive rights to that corner, according to Mr. K. Wow! By my calculations, when you minus out commissions these two guys would have to do 100 windshields per month just to pay the rent. That's a lot of windshields! They did at least three in the short span of time I was there at the station, so I suppose it's entirely possible... hence their hustle to find dinged-up windows. That, by the way, equates to about a $2,500/mo gross income for Mr. K, or about $30,000 per year. After taxes, that's about $1,750/mo or $21,000/year. Not bad for fixing windows.
  • To maintain that corner, the sales/install guys must hustle but also remember who the gas station's repeat customers are, and not to piss people off--especially those who say they do not want the service, because "you get any complaints, and you're gone."
After it was all said and done, I zipped my card with him, the Square processed it on his iPhone (not company-issued, unfortunately), an emailed receipt hit my inbox 5 minutes later, and I wished him good luck on the rest of what was as very chilly night. With a go-get-em grin, he remarked, "There's no luck in sales!" as he put a hop in his step toward his next customer. I took a few notes for this blog post, then drove toward the gas station's exit. As I departed, he waved at me and I waved at him, as if we were friends, as he stood there signing papers with his next customer of the night.

Business is good, apparently, but only if you're good at sales. And this guy was, from start to finish. The conversation was good during the repair, and he noticed me drive out and gave me a friendly wave on the way out.

So next time, I think I won't look at these hustlers the same way I used to--like car salesman waiting for their next mark. They're solving a problem that could lead to a larger one, it's convenient, and the value is right. (Except if you live in locales where the disposable income is higher... yikes!) In Sacramento, he's on the corner of 16th & W hustling every day... so go check him out if you're in the area and want to get that pesky crack fixed up so it doesn't spread and become a bigger problem than just an eyesore.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

On The Wrong Path (2.0)

Path just re-launched itself with its 2.0 app and visually, it's nothing short of stunning. It's almost perfectly executed from the textured red icon and splash screen to the opening screen: your path. Just one red + button at the bottom left of the app flings out six different things you can add to your path: a photo, a person, a location (AKA a check-in), what music your listening to, random thoughts, or the times you go to sleep and wake up.

They've borrowed--and in some case just lifted outright--design cues from the recently released Facebook and Gmail apps: tapping a list icon in the upper left slides the main screen off to the right and brings up Settings and other things, while tapping the upper-right Friends button slides the Path screen off to the left, revealing friends and ways to manage them. You can also swipe left or right to accomplish the same tasks.

But enough about the beautiful interface. I want to focus on the total pivot they've made from private to public. You see, Path 1.0 started out as a mobile photo sharing app with only your 50 closest friends. It was private. Why 50, you ask? Research someone had done suggested that we have somewhere between 50 and 150 "really close" friends--friends we feel comfortable sharing very personal things with. All the rest are just acquaintances, co-workers, or otherwise not our true friends. How many of these types of true friends can you think of right now? Your number is probably well below 50.

In the old Path, you could post a moment like "Nervous at Home" or "Bowling with Veronica at AMF Lanes". In other words, "Home" was arbitrary; it could be anywhere. It wasn't pinned to a map. Same with "Walking the dog at the park" ... no GPS coordinates required.

Path 2.0 changes all of that, and it really ticks me off. Now, if I want to post that I'm at home, I get to choose a location on a map. This is the experience that raised my eyebrow: I typed in Home and pressed Search... around me, all sorts of "Home" locations started popping up. My best friend lives one block down from me, and to my great surprise, I saw exactly where his "Home" was located. Thing is, he doesn't call it Home. He actually put his name on the house, but kind of stylized. If his last name were Jones, you'd see it on the map as "Joooooones House". Right there on the map for all to see! There were lots of others, too.

And that's when I discovered the next problem with this 2.0 release: unlike the previous version of Path, which required you to actually know these "loved ones" (as Path calls them) you were adding, this version of Path lets you add anybody. Lonely? Want to add an alibi to last night's events? Just tap the Person button, then start typing in a name. I added some guy named Jasun (I know Jason with an "o" but not with a "u")... who is a Path user I've never met.

Why am I up in arms about this? Simple: I'm not a privacy nut, but I see the value in valuing privacy if that makes any sense. Facebook has been largely responsible for eroding our privacy for about the last eight years.  In that time, we've watched as it has opted us into making our profiles public, presenting so many privacy settings and tweaks that we just give up and click "Accept Changes" whenever there's a new privacy change, we've wondered why they implemented Beacon, a feature which tracked your purchases at select retailers online and shared them in your news feed (this feature was later pulled due to user outrage) and Path was the exact opposite. It was the antithesis of Facebook: closed, private. Secure. Trusted.

Now, it's busting wide open and basing all its changes on "Your trust in Path..." People do not seem to be satisfied sharing intimate moments with "loved ones" as Path would like you to call them. No, instead you can post those moments to Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and now with the 2.01 update, Tumblr. Intimate moments become sanitized to "every other type of moment" you're sharing on every other network on the internet.

They've expanded the reach from 50 to 150 loved ones. Think about this for a moment. Do you really have 150 loved ones? Come to think of it, do you really have 150 friends close enough that you'd like to share the most private of moments with? The answer for most of you is "no." Very few have that many people in their lives that they feel comfortable sharing private information with. Case in point: Ladies: how many people in your circle of friends do you have that you feel comfortable sharing your Sunday morning, no-make-up, wake-up face with after your kids brought you breakfast in bed and you're in your jammies? Exactly. You can probably count them on one hand, maybe two. Moments like those are worth sharing with grandparents, family, close friends... but not Facebook or Twitter, for example, where many of your "friends" on those network may not be really all that meaningful to you in real life.

So Path, once the hero of privacy, the antithesis of Facebook, has in turn gone the other direction and become yet another "me too!" photo and life/thought sharing service. It's letting you add more friends--and STRANGERS if you want--to your network; you must now geo-locate your ass if you want to add a location; and they've eliminated the action verb of what you're doing, instead opting for a Facebook and twitter and "everyone else"-like text box where you can tell everyone on Path "what's on your mind?" I mean, this is literally copying Facebook's question word-for-word.

Path has essentially become Facebook light in a world where people could really use a network that values privacy over growth. Then again, this is a Silicon Valley start-up, and the product is free. If I had to guess, Path's investors are pushing them to grow faster because they weren't growing fast enough with their closed, private structure and their 50 friend limit.

I get angry at all this, but I have to say that I haven't really used Path all that much, really... I mean, who has?

What do you think of the changes?

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Minecraft black screen (single player mode) fix

Disclaimer: This is a dirty hack and will wipe out your worlds, server
addresses and all data about minecraft. Use as last resort.
Instructions are for the Mac.

I typically play minecraft on a server and this have no saved worlds
on my Mac. With the latest Adventure Update, I decided to give the new
one a whirl but found that I couldn't create a new world. Instead, I
got a flash of a crash message and then a black screen. Here's how I
fixed it.

On your Mac, close Minecraft and navigate to ~/Library/Application
Support/ and trash the Minecraft folder. Then start Minecraft again.
This will work, but it's like starting fresh with no previous data.
Not even your username and password.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

As usual, Facebook just opted me into something else, whether I wanted them to or not.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Facebook
Date: Tue, Sep 20, 2011 at 9:53 PM
Subject: Facebook will be sending you less email - learn why

Hi Michael,
We're trying out a new feature to reduce the amount of email you receive from Facebook. Starting today, we are turning off most individual email notifications and instead, we'll send you a summary only if there are popular stories you may have missed.
You can turn individual emails back on and restore all your original settings at any time.
The Facebook Team
The message was sent to <redacted>. If you don't want to receive these emails from Facebook in the future or have your email address used for friend suggestions, you can unsubscribe. Facebook, Inc. P.O. Box 10005, Palo Alto, CA 94303

Friday, August 26, 2011

On our way to the camp site!

Lovely views mother nature has for us today. She's putting on a real
show! Notice how colorful the hills are as they are in full bloom. :)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Top Headlines in Information Technology and Services

Whatever happened in this week's tech news, clearly none of it was as important as what happened with Steve Jobs and Apple.


Begin forwarded message:

From: LinkedIn Today <>
Date: August 25, 2011 7:05:47 AM PDT
To: Michael Paul
Subject: Top Headlines in Information Technology and Services

Wisdom of the professional crowd
The week's most popular news: Information Technology and Services
Powered by Twitter + LinkedIn
Information Technology and Services
Steve Jobs: The End Of An Era -
We all know the broad strokes: a boy is born to an graduate student and her Syrian boyfriend. She puts the boy up for adoption. He comes to live with Paul and Clara. Paul is a machinist who moved to San Francisco after WWII. He...
624 shares  •  Read full story  •  Share
Steve Jobs & The Sound of Silence -
Like many of my colleagues in Silicon Valley, I was having a fantastic day. It is crisp in the shade, warm in the sun. The skies are a magical blue with puffy clouds floating like dreams. And when all seemed to be going well,...
422 shares  •  Read full story  •  Share
Steve Jobs’s Best Quotes -
Although Steve Jobs's tenure as Apple CEO will be remembered for ushering in fundamental changes in the way people interact with technology, he is also known for his salesmanship and his ability to turn a phrase.
728 shares  •  Read full story  •  Share
Chart for Apple Inc.
Steve Jobs Resigns as CEO of Apple -
CUPERTINO, Calif.--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Apple’s Board of Directors today announced that Steve Jobs has...
327 shares  •  Read full story  •  Share
Password joke is Fringe funniest -
Up-and-coming comedian Nick Helm wins an award for the best joke of the Edinburgh Fringe.
174 shares  •  Read full story  •  Share
Better. Faster. The New LinkedIn Mobile App for iPhone and Android.
Don't want to receive email notifications? LinkedIn values your privacy. At no time has LinkedIn made your email address available to any other LinkedIn user without your permission.
© 2011, LinkedIn Corporation

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Kitty Kat Chronicles: Day 973


Day 973: laid upside-down in a planter for three hours. The shade is
most enjoyable underneath my lemon tree... but the dirt, though soft,
browns my white fur. No matter, I have brown fur to match.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

This is why media companies FAIL

CNN just updated its iPhone app to allow me to watch the real CNN
live. What a great feature! Unfortunately, you have to be a subscriber
to certain services in order to see the feed.

Well! I just so happen to subscribe to U-Verse for Internet, so I
popped in my credentials and off I went.

Or not. I suspect it's because I am signed up for an Internet only
package (no TV services)...

Curse you media gluttons. Oh well, I guess I I've got better things to
do than watch CNN whilst sitting on the toilet.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Ready for Harry Potter!


Looking forward to the show!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Welcome to Kyburz... Now Leaving Kyburz.


Hiking among the Vikings! Yes, it's even more beautiful in person.


Near Vikingsholm Castle. Tour is worth the money, too, if you read all
the extra guides. Only $8!

Friday, June 3, 2011

To cool not to share with the entire world: keyboard on a shoe


Jesus may have walked on water (or not, I mean come on now!), but we
walk on keys! Way cooler than water.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Gilt Groupe spams Chromebook customers with Jetsetter emails

A few days ago, I received an email from the Chromebook team at Google offering me a special sneak peak at the Samsung Chromebook, offered through Gilt Groupe--curiously, I had never heard of Gilt before and wondered why Google didn't simply sell this product themselves, as they did with their G1.

So, as any tech-obsessed geek would, I decided to check out the link, which required my email address in order to view. I at first attempted to skirt around giving my email address, but found that indeed, I could not view the offer. So, I gave in. I gave them my email... and wouldn't you know it, not a day later, I've got some message in my Inbox from a company called Jetsetter.

I get a lot of misdirected emails--people signing up for things and using the wrong email, people sending email to friends and family (those are always interesting) ... so much so that I have a "canned response" in gmail which is a one-click wonder that says:


You emailed [my email address] but I'm not the person you're looking for. Just thought you'd like to know.


So of course, I thought this was another one of those deals and so I proceeded to reset this person's password and see if I could track down any personal information about this user and inform him of his error. As it turns out, that user was me. Only I never signed up for Jetsetter.

While on the Jetsetter website, I noticed a tab at the top that said "Gilt."

"No way," I thought. So I clicked it and sure enough it took me back to Gilt, where I put two and two together: Jetsetter was a part of Gilt. Messages on Google Groups confirm this, and people are pissed.

So far, I've only received a couple emails from Gilt and Jetsetter, but whoever at Google decided to go with Gilt should be held to the fire for this one--totally irresponsible, especially since they've been able to sell their G1 in their own store. Why not the Chromebook, too? Did they not know that this would happen? Did Gilt simply drop the ball? What the hell happened here?

Readers: Did you get spammed? How many times? How does this affect your trust in Google, and how does this affect your trust in Gilt--that is, if you ever trusted them in the first place?

Friday, April 22, 2011

It's a wonderful day for pie!

...from the Family Guy. :-)

It's a wonderful day for pie.mp3 Listen on Posterous

Posted via email from michael paul's posterous

Friday, April 15, 2011

Spider catching an insect

IMG_0399.MOV Watch on Posterous

Very cool system. The spider builds the web, waits, captures the
insect, and resets its position while it waits for the next meal.

Posted via email from michael paul's posterous

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Community Kitty knows something isn't right...


... She has been at our doorstep in her basket every time I have come
and gone since Friday.

Good kitty. She misses Auntie Debbie.

Posted via email from michael paul's posterous

Thursday, February 24, 2011

DEAL ALERT: Chipotle: Buy 1 Get 1 Free! Thru 3/4/2011

Click this link, watch a 1-minute video, and get your coupon code.

Not affiliated with Deals Plus in any way -- this is just a spankin deal!

Posted via email from michael paul's posterous

On whether to buy or lease a vehicle...

From The Millionaire Next Door:

People often ask us, "Should I lease?" our answer is always the same:

More than 80 percent of millionaires purchase their vehicles. If and
when more than 50% begin leasing, we will change our recommendation.

--The Millionaire Next Door, pg. 115.

Posted via email from michael paul's posterous

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Make Sure The Price Is Right

Man, the guys and gals at Netted are fining great stuff and this one's no exception!

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Short Cuts
Find the Best Product Prices Available Online
While shopping for a fake beard and top hat combo for our annual Presidents' Day slumber party, we realized that the pressure to find the best price in a sea of retailers was actually making the process a little stressful. Our founding fathers never would have wanted this for us!

We started avoiding buyer's remorse by using, a browser plug-in that allows you to view and compare prices with a single click.

After installing the plug-in, pricing information for every product you search will be available by clicking a small icon. It's compatible with most websites and searches thousands more to find the lowest prices and even special discounts and coupons.

Besides finding the best prices, is also a URL shortener allowing you to easily share your new favorite deal with friends.

The only way to get a better deal would be to steal the stuff, which we stopped recommending to people a long time ago (Winona Ryder still hasn't returned our apology letters).

  Visit Boo.Ly
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Posted via email from michael paul's posterous