There’s a new sheriff in town.

A new site is coming, called About.me which is meant as a digital contact point targeted at everyone – to be used as a permanent online calling card, containing links to your website, facebook, phone number, etc… Along with a small bio area and a full screen display of your choice of photo.

Knowing who is behind this website (some very large players in the social media industry), this thing has the potential to become something big (this is all solely my opinion).

Anyways on to my real point, if you watch the seo world at all, you’ll know that backlinks from a large popular website, to your own website, especially if using key terms in the links, secure a heavy shot in the arm for your site’s serps.

So, if you were to secure the name for your local photography market, say “Jackson Wedding Photographer” for instance. That is the title of a page that you control, on a very large (soon to be)popular website – with backlinks that can contain any terms you want.

All of this costs – nothing! It’s free to secure a name, use the sign up on their front page.

I’ve secured most everything photography related as well as my name “Todd Lambert” (which is the original intent of about.me) and many of these are key terms used for seo purposes in my intended markets.

I’ve also secured a few that relate to subject matter that I am interested in, like photography and poetry.

Two of my about.me pages that I’ve built so far (sorta artsy fartsy) are:

http://about.me/toddlambert

http://about.me/lambert

Long overdue update

Hey, I’m not dead! With that out of the way, I do have to apologize for not updating my blog in what seems like forever.

I’ve been rather busy lately and there has been some pretty major changes in my life that have had me doing other things that just seemed more important than updating my website.

A few things that I’ve been up to or that have happened recently:

Yes, this is my backyard in DALLAS TX, if you can believe it!

  • I am no longer in Mississippi! I’ve moved to McKinney, Texas which is just north of Dallas. Kim and I bought a wonderful new home and we’re working new jobs and trying to learn a whole new area – boy Dallas is large!
  • Speaking of jobs, I am now working at Texas Instruments as consultant for their front end development team. What you see at ti.com is what I am doing. Specifically, I am responsible for site updates, interface elements and overall user experience. It’s quite challenging working on what is easily the largest website I’ve ever been involved with.
  • We recently lost Amy, my middle-aged boxer which fell to a sudden heart attack. It has been very tough dealing with her loss but slowly we’re getting used to her not being with us anymore.
  • I ended up winning photo of the week on the Canon Photography Forums and then ended up winning photo of the month which means it will be included as one of the photos in a calendar to be published at the end of this year. The photo that won was this one, which is one of my favorite photos.
  • Now in Texas - wow!
  • Speaking of photos, my passion for photography has only grown recently and I am thrilled to have found numerous photo groups here in the Dallas area and I have been attending group events and meeting some wonderful fellow photographers. One of the great aspects of living in such a large metropolitan areas is that there are lots of like-minded people and many more resources available.
  • Another photo related item is that I’ve finally launched my dedicated photography website at LambertPhotography.com! I am pretty pleased with how it turned out, but it has just launched and would love any feedback if you’ve got ideas, complaints, whatever, I’d love to hear them.

It’s CSS Naked Day!

What’s this all about? Well, things to be a little less graphical around here today. I’m once again participating in the CSS Naked Day festivities.

CSS Naked Day is a day where participating websites remove the css used on their website resulting in a display of semantic markup and proper use of (x)html to help promote web standards.

So you may notice my site missing graphics and not looking like its normal self, do not be alarmed.

For more information about CSS Naked Day, click here.

Deer Google, please slow down!

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Apparently the drivers of the Google Street View™ vehicles are so busy twittering while carelessly careening down our roads that one of them tagged an innocent doe that darted across its path recently. The entire event was caught by the camera and became yet another laughable spectacle that can be found on Google Maps.

As this event surfaced on the Internet, Google quickly acted to remove the offending photos of the incident and its corporate spin doctors immediately went to work at downplaying the magnitude of this hit-and-run accident. Not only did they try to minimize the impact, they’re actually lying about the entire thing!

According to Wendy Wang, Google’s Street View Operations Manager the accident did not happen at all like the photos on their own website showed. Wendy said “As some people have noticed, one of our Street View cars hit a deer while driving on a rural road in upstate New York” and “The driver was understandably upset, and promptly stopped to alert the local police and the Street View team at Google”. As tragic and upsetting this sounds, Wendy further explained “The deer was able to move and had left the area by the time the police arrived“.

Apparently, Wendy is not looking at the same photos that you and I are seeing here on this website? Maybe the driver of the Google vehicle was so distraught that they just didn’t notice that the animal only moved from the street where it was run down, to the shoulder of the road where it rolled over and died with it’s legs sticking straight up into the air?

Don’t let Google get away with the travesty of back road justice. Let them know that you’ve seen the truth and that that you don’t condone the slaughter of innocent Bambi-like characters just so that they can easily map the route from your couch to the nearest Krispy Kreme. Tell Google that you’re mad as hell and you’re not going to take it anymore!

New toy coming

So after several months of anxiously waiting for a new Macbook Pro 17″ laptop to come out, I found my myself extremely disappointed that Apple did not have more to show for the long time between updates.

Yes, the new all-aluminum uni body constructed models are nice, but unfortunately, Apple has left the 17″ fans out in the cold on this. Even still, I know that the current specs available to Apple do not warrant a major enough upgrade for me.

So I’ve decided to forgo these models and get one of the very last models – a 17″ 2.6hz model with the 1920×1200 LED display. I plan on this holding me over until next year, when hopefully Apple will have the Nehalem-based quad-core versions available.

In the meantime, I stumbled across a few posts on various Apple-related forums that claimed it was possible to shoehorn up to 8GB of RAM into the last model (Santa Rosa chipset). Very eager to have more RAM than I currently have (2GB) I read with quite interest about others who has successfully gotten 6GB installed and running fine.

Yesterday, I purchased 6GB of RAM and plan on putting this into my new baby this weekend. I’ll report back with my progress and hopefully success.

Being the best in the industry

Ah, the trials and tribulations of being best in class. As Apple has experienced today on the launch of the 3G iPhone, being on top brings endless scrutiny and any small foible or stumble is magnified greatly.

I was one of the brave souls who was actively searching for the iPhone 2.0 firmware updates early and in fact found it like thousands did, a day early. I installed the new software yesterday and began downloading software from the new App Store in iTunes. Everything was going swell; I had purchased a few different applications and everything was neatly downloaded to my phone via itunes and the install was quite painless. I even downloaded directly from the phone itself, later “pushing” the downloads from my iPhone back to iTunes without nary a problem.

This morning I tried to connect to iTunes again to download some more applications and found what most in the world found: Server connection could not be completed. It had finally happened. The illustrious iTunes Store had been brought to its knees by all of the adulation from Apple’s fan base and new customers. This is being heralded as a “Catastrophe”, “Disaster” and other choice terms usually reserved for Apple’s competitors such as Microsoft or RIM. But this time, the normally “can-do-no-wrong” Apple was being lambasted by all of the same media who usually fall over themselves to heap praise on the fruit-named wonder.

As I sat and pondered this scenario I discovered another flaw with the App Store and the blissful new software distribution model that has come from it. I tried to access the applications that I had downloaded hours before, only to find that none of the applications would load. The free applications load just fine, but the paid-for applications such as Super Monkey Ball and Texas Hold’em would fail to open each time. Apparently these game which are protected by Apple’s DRM must need to authenticate with Apple’s servers before they will be allowed to run.

So, there I sat with new applications that I’d paid good money for and now could not use because of network issues or because Apple’s servers were on fire, etc..

I did not know that this was the case and honestly I am now a bit leary of relying on applications bought from the new store in the future.

You can bet that once applications become runnable on hacked versions of the 2.0 firmware, I will once again actively seek these versions rather than the officially sanctioned Apple versions.

Time flies when you’re having fun

It’s been over a month since I’ve posted anything and for that I am sorry. Things have been super hectic and time has been short – in other words, I’ve been lazy. [grin]

We’ve just gotten back from a nice but short mini-vaction that we took with some good friends to my aunt’s condo in Perdido Key, Florida. It was a wonderful weekend of excess and we thoroughly enjoyed the time away. We enjoyed some fine dining at a few different establishments and even got a glimpse of Kid Rock and Rev Run who were apparently in town for the weekend as well. Of course any time in Orange Beach would not be complete without a trip to the infamous Florabama bar – in which we took in the local sites and flavors, having a blast gawking at the local party-goers and other assorted lounge lizards.

In other news, we’ve been been watching a few movies lately, and I am really getting psyched for a few upcoming movies, namely Indiana Jones and Batman. I saw some new publicity stills of Heath Ledger as Joker over at Slash Film and I am convinced that this movie is going to seriously kick ass. As for Indiana Jones, I’m starting to get nervous as I saw the most recent trailer and I noticed lots of stupid slapstick and painful comedic lines that were reminiscent of Temple of Doom which pretty much goes down in history as the worst movie ever. I am still holding out hope that they may revive the series without ruining it but honestly I am going to be going in with little hope and see what shakes out.

As for the boob tube, we’ve been watching a new series on Discovery called the “Alaskan Experiment” which pits four teams of ordinary folks having to survive in a very rugged Alaskan environment for 3 months with nothing but the very bare essentials. It has been a very interesting series to watch as I’ve been bantering about how they should do a Survivor show in some sort of cold setting as the typical tropical locations have gotten old and uninteresting anymore. Although there is no game show element or prize involved with this, the show seems much more real and the people involved are engaging enough to make you want to follow them without having to resort to petty squabbles and sex-laced scanters with bathing suited bimbos starving on a beach and fighting about who is sleeping with whom. It’s got us hooked and I encourage anyone to check it out.

Lastly, on the web front, I am deep in the middle of a much needed re-design of my new employers’ website. I also just launched the new City of D’Iberville website. Although it is still incomplete in several areas, their old site was so horrible that we just had to take this one live sooner that I had liked to. I’ve also got the City of Ocean Springs site in development which is going to be a rather large project. Both of these designs are taking local city websites into a new realm for the Mississippi coast. Historically, the Gulf Coast has been several years behind the rest of the country and in the case of the web, I’d venture closer to ten years behind at least. I’m trying to change that, one site at a time and while it’s slow going it has been pretty rewarding seeing old antiquated websites get a more modern refresh and use technologies and techniques that don’t seem to exist on any other websites in the region. We’re not only doing it better, but we’re doing it right in every instance that I can get away with. Sometimes it’s tough convincing our customers why things should be done that way since they’re not always the most informed or abreast of current styles and movements on the web.

Anyways, enough for now – I’ll post more, as I get more time.

It’s time to get naked

Look for things to be a little less graphical around here come April 9th. I’ll once again be participating in the CSS Naked Day festivities.

CSS Naked Day is a day where participating websites remove the css used on their website resulting in a display of semantic markup and proper use of (x)html to help promote web standards.

So, if in a few days you notice my site missing graphics and not looking like its normal self, do not be alarmed.

For more information about CSS Naked Day, click here.

I’ve seen the future…

It may come as a shock to many of you, but I have sold my mac and replaced it with a kick-ass new Acer laptop. I know, I know what you’re thinking. “Why would Todd ever leave his Mac, he’s the biggest Apple fanboy that I know!”

After struggling with getting my Macbook Pro set up once again from a complete re-install, I started to truly question my work processes and the amount of money that I spend each year on Apple products. Sure, some of them are nice and I always like the look of their products, Apple just doesn’t get it anymore. I’m tired of the translucent menubars, gimmicky Time Machine, and lack of user interface themes.

My new Acer is the bomb

Well, no more… My new Acer laptop arrived yesterday and within a few hours I had Ubuntu up and running and now I am learning the Gimp(Photoshop doesn’t run on Linux – bummer)

I can’t wait to see how much money I end up saving with this change of platform and I believe my web design will get better too, because I’ll finally be on the same platform as 90% of the rest of the world. That’s hard to beat, eh?

Anyways, stay tuned as I’ll be posting quite a bit of articles on my change back to the darkside as soon as I can figure out how to get an FTP client installed. I also need too find out how to install my printer – anyone know how to get a driver for an old Epson Stylus?

WordPress 2.5 Finally Final

Today, WordPress 2.5 has been officially released. This is a pretty sizeable upgrade with a bunch of new features to go along with its new look.

I have been working with the Development versions for awhile now and I have actually even been using them in some small cases, for client work. These have been mostly standard installs with nothing special about them.

However, I am about to upgrade this website to version 2.5 and since this site is not like most of my sites, there may be some issues involved. This site is a very customized version of WordPress with lots of custom plugins and code. Some of which I believe is now duplicate with some of the features offered in the latest WordPress. Hopefully I’ll be able to get some of the functionality I’ve hacked into this install natively with the default WordPress install but we’ll see.

At any rate, please excuse any mess you see here in the near future as I’ll be re-working things a bit, I’m sure. If you don’t spot anything out of whack, then I’ve done a good job at hiding it!

UPDATE:
I’ve upgraded and everything is swell or at least it seems to be. If you spot anything out of whack, please let me know. Thanks!

Web Developer Toolbar Updated

I have been living in a state of semi-misery since I’ve been using nightly builds of Firefox 3 for several months now. I love what is happening in the latest builds of Firefox, but my most used and most favorite extension (or add-on as they’re now called); Web Developer Toolbar has been partially broken with some of the vital features not working.

For the most part, I’ve been limping along with no css viewing or editing feature (vital for what I do all day) and things like the “feature persistence” for outlined elements not being, well, persistent. Recently, Chris Pederick released version 1.1.5 of the toolbar that I and most other web developers call vital. This latest update works in the latest nightlies and now I am about as happy as a pig in, err well let’s just say that “I am very happy”!

Download either the latest build of Firefox or the Web Developer Toolbar.

RollerDerby Queens

Rollergirls Logo

Tonight, my wife and I met up with a few friends for our usual dinner date. Although this time the after dinner entertainment was a bit different (normally it’s just a movie). We went to Ocean Springs Skate Zone to see the Mississippi RollerGirls take on the Panama City Roller Derby in a nice clean match of RollerDerby!

I wasn’t quite sure of what the scene would be like or even what the sport would look like up close having only seen it on TV with the the Thunderbirds being my main reference point. First things first, walking into a skating roller rink again for the first time in what would have to be 20 years or so, was a blast back to the past and memories of Red Ropes, tables and chairs bolted to the floor, rows of yellow lockers, and of course wall-to-wall shag carpeting. This place had all of that and then some. For a bit, my wife and I felt like we had fallen back into our childhood and were waiting for the next couples-only skate session to begin. We talked about doing the Hokey Pokey and of course the music being spun by the DJ that was mostly 70s Donna Summer and the BeeGees.

freak referee

Well, reality snapped back into place with a thunderous meeting of Marilyn Manson vs Joanie Love Chachi. Everywhere there were straight edge and hardcore people who were usually sporting tattoos and lots of metal piercings. The outer appearance of our dreamlike state while walking into the rink was quickly changed to gawking the fashion statements being made by the local roller derby fan club.

It was like nothing we’d ever seen before. Here were groups of sweaty, tattooed women often wearing nothing more than a short skirt or kilt, with knee high stocking and tight t-shirts that often had vulgar sayings on them that would make most people blush just viewing them. These women were on old school 4-track skates, doing circles around a flat track and truly trying to beat the crap out of each other. Most of them had their “stage” names plastered on their clothing and gear and most were just hysterical comedy gold. I especially liked “Tink Again”, “Ivanna Bruiser”, “Militia Vandal”, and “Tru Shenanigans”. But “Edie Coli” was just too good to be true. I also thoroughly enjoyed the Head Refereee “Ref Hefner”.

roller action

We ended up having a great time as the beer was flowing and while we were enjoying the skaters thrashing about and beating the hell out of each other, there was tons of people to gawk at. After quite a few beers and many photos ops, we decided we’d seen enough and to call it a night. We did end up having a great time and really enjoyed the spectacle. Would I go again? Probably not. But I can now check one more thing off my list of things to do before I die list. If you want to see more about the girls of RollerDerby or even find out about the next event, please visit mississippirollergirls.com.

It’s calling me like a siren

Yes, today everyones favorite fruit company released new MacBook Pros and they are calling to me ever so gently. I already have a 2.16ghz MBP 17″ that I’ve been very happy with and still am for the most part. However, I really want a laptop with an LED backlit screen. I’ve been telling myself to wait until they are available for the 17″ which they have not up until today, due to the price involved.

However, Apple is now offering them and for only a $100 premium above their previous screened models. My credit card finger is twitching, to say the least. But I’ve got a problem; I really don’t need a new laptop yet. My existing machine has really been functioning quite well for me. About the only thing that I really run into as a problem is the maximum ram capabilities which on my model is only 2gig. I would kill to be able to stuff 2 more gigs of ram in this thing. If I could do that, I’d probably not want a new machine at all (okay, who am I kidding).

I know that Clint has been itching for a new machine as well (he is extremely overdue actually) and I am sure that he jumped on one this morning. I just need to control my urges and think about something else for awhile. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

The day the Internet stood still

Internet Terrorism
Workers struggle to close a severed Transatlantic Internet cable

Internet disrupts the globe

A broken submarine cable that has left the Middle East and India stranded offline from the rest of the world, is seriously impacting online businesses and angering millions of users who cannot reach the Internet. According to reports, the internet blackout, which has left 75 million people with only limited access, was caused by a ship that tried to moor off the coast of Egypt in bad weather.

While many are feeling the effects of being without Internet access for several days, the real victims in this global tragedy are just now beginning to be discovered. Toxic Internet pollution is flowing unmitigated into our oceans at an astonishing rate.

Extent of the damage

This is being considered one of the most devastating man-made environmental disasters ever to occur at sea. Both the long and short-term effects of the Internet leak are unknown. Currently, the death toll in terms of wildlife is staggering and the full impact may never be known.

Thousands of animals died immediately; the best estimates include 350,000–500,000 seabirds, 2,500–5,000 sea otters, 400 seals, 200 bald eagles, and 21 orcas, as well as the destruction of billions of plankton throughout the seas.

The Internet leakage has resulted in profound physiological effects to remaining fish and wildlife. These include reproductive failure, genetic damage, curved spines, lowered growth and body weights, altered feeding habits, reduced egg volume, liver damage, eye tumors, and debilitating brain lesions. The psychological effects are still being determined but may consist of increased lethargy, lack of motivation, shortened communication patterns often with missing vowels, and in some cases, strong urges to gamble, engage in cyber flamewars and even spamming.

Government scientists estimate that only 14% of the toxic Internet binary being released is truly harmful but activists and other people who have witnessed the Internet firsthand say that this number is actually much higher. Some of the worst the Internet has to offer, is streaming into the ocean without any content filters in place. While attempts to keep people from browsing some of the surfaced scum on local beaches is underway, reports are appearing that beach locals have already been infected by some of the vulgar material washing up on shores everywhere. In fact children were spotted playing with a full goatse and even two girls one cup were being tossed around like a toy.

What is being done

The first cleanup response is underway with the use of a surfactant and solvent mixture called a dispersant. Because there is not enough wave action to mix the dispersant with the Internet pollution in the water, the use of the dispersant is being discontinued.

One trial burn was also conducted during the first stage of the cleanup to see if burning the pollution would be a possible solution for removal of the vile substances that are flowing into the waters at an alarming rate. The test was relatively successful, but because of unfavorable weather and environmental concerns, this cleanup effort has since been halted. Mechanical cleanup started shortly afterwards using booms and skimmers, but the skimmers were not readily available during the first 24 hours following the leak, and now thick Internet sludge and kelp is clogging the equipment.

What can you do?

It is imperative that you write your local congressmen and urge them to pass legislation that will regulate how and where these filthy Internet tubes are placed. Filtering the substances that are transmitted is nearly impossible but attempts to at least curb the amounts allowed should be of the highest priority.

Awareness of this deadly global matter is vital and starts now. Look for more information and educate as many as you can. This problem will not simply go away and the changes involved in fixing the problem start with you. Stop checking e-mail, delete your MySpace page, unplug your ethernet cable, disconnect your wireless broadband and try to go outside more. Through these actions we might be able to lessen the abuse of our planets oceans and seas when an accident like this happens.

It all begins with you.

Hurricane Katrina used to sell cars

Tonight, I saw possibly one of the worst examples of advertising that I’ve ever seen and it comes from one of the best examples of excess; Hummer.

The commercial has apparently been aired for awhile, but this was the first time that I’ve seen it, and quite honestly I was thoroughly disgusted by it. The 30-second spot is a series of clips from Hurricane Katrina played behind a message that “Most people run from point a to point b” followed by “Then there are a qualified few who run from point b to point a” concluding with a scene of a yuppie Hummer slowly driving down a flooded street during the storm. The commercial ends with a logo called “HOPE – Hummer Owners Prepared For Emergencies”.

This is so wrong on so many levels that I am not quite sure what to say. I cannot believe that a company would actually attempt to market their product in such a revolting way. How can Hummer possibly think that it is okay to profit off a storm that killed hundreds, destroyed millions of peoples lives, and changed the landscape of three entire states forever?

At the end of the ad, a website called www.hummerhelps.com is shown, so that it portrays that somehow Hummer is managing a charity or disaster relief program from this site and this ad. Go ahead and click on that link and see the website for yourself. You’ll find that it does nothing of the kind, and it in fact, merely links to a main corporate sales site. Can you believe that?

Hummer hasn’t helped the Gulf Coast at all. They’ve done nothing to help improve the situation here. Hummer should be ashamed of themselves for producing such a blatant attempt at making a buck off a national disaster and tragedy. This is akin to Hummer claiming that their gas-guzzling wastes of metal were used to help transport firemen into Ground Zero after 9/11.

I’ve never really been one to be that vocal against Hummer or against their pointless products that do nothing but help destroy the environment faster, but this is just too tasteless to not say something.

Laissez les bons temps rouler

Krewe of Gemini Mardi Gras Ball

mardiball1The entire Royal Court

Over the weekend, Kim and I attended our very first Mardi Gras ball and had an absolute blast. We were guests of a good friends family and in fact, we’ve now been invited to join the Krewe. This is an honor and we are thrilled to be invited. The Krewe of Gemini is the best Mardi Gras Krewe around and the people that make up the Krewe are some of the nicest folks you’ll ever meet.

Wearing a Tux and formal dress, we showed up to the ball not quite knowing what to expect. We were seated at our friends table which was right on the main floor and very close to the stage. We also noticed that we were seated right next to the Mayor of Gulfport, Brent Warr and his wife Laura. We enjoyed their company a lot and thoroughly enjoyed the festivities of the night.

mardiball2The King and his Queen

We’re looking forward to Mardi Gras and the main event with the parade in Pass Christian in which Kim will be riding on the one of the floats. Myself, I will be probably be drinking and fetching beads along the side somewhere.

Thanks to Danielle and her family for inviting us – you’re very generous and good people.

Macworld came and went, but my money stayed put

Macworld is normally a time that my wife dreads. You see, it is not too far after Christmas and all the bills are still being paid for, that I normally cause a spike in our banking records. She knows this, and each year I know that she quietly hopes Apple will either cancel the event or maybe I will be too busy to notice it (This has never happened in either case).

Well, this year I actually was pretty busy but Apple really failed to “wow” me with anything. Sure, I was intrigued by the Macbook Air, and of course the movie rental news was something I was happy to see. The AppleTV update was one that directly affected me since I recently got one for Christmas and this coupled with the movie rentals means that I might finally be able to remove the entire Blockbuster rental nightmare from our lives.

But overall, the only thing that has even remotely sparked that twitch I have for reaching for my credit card, was the Time Capsule product announcement. The only reason that I haven’t really jumped for that (yet) is probably due to the fact that I really want to know more about it and how I might be able to use it, before I purchase one. It sounds like a great solution for me and if it works like I would like, I might be able to incorporate it into my iLife while adding it to the AppleTV for a massive, wireless, media bomb floating in between my mac and my TV/Stereo.

I am pretty sure that I will get the Terabyte version at some point, I’d just like to find out what sorts of gotchas Apple has put in place on it. You see, Apple always seems to cripple or in some fashion, lessen the devices and software that it produces by either implementing something that gets in the way or disallowing some aspect of its usability in a real world environment. I don’t know if they intentionally go out of their way to do this or if they just seem to come down on that side of idiocy on everything they create. I sometimes think that they do it intentionally, only to see what its users will do, faced with its inevitable shortcomings. The Apple faithful are a pretty crafty sort and usually go out of their way to make up for their cult leaders’ inadequacies.

So, Macworld has come and gone, and yet I have no tracking numbers from FedEx to worry about or banking statements I need to explain to Kim. I guess it was a pretty good Macworld if you look at it from her point of view. Me, I’m just biding my time and will probably bust out the plastic before too long, we’ll see.

iPhone version two

It is late in the year 2009 and I am on the interstate heading for home after a long day at work. My wife is out of town on a business trip so I have errands to run before I get home. I also forgot to update my staff at work about a new idea I have on improving workflow in the office. I quickly tap my iPhone mounted in a cradle on my dashboard with my thumb and the unit turns on recognizing my digital identity and allowing me to speak my voice command to “connect work”. In an instant I hear an audible tone notifying me that the network system at work has accepted the connection and logged me in. I say the word “mail” and a directory comes up on the screen. I then say “staff” and I am then connected to a central video-mail box for the general office staff.

I am now being recorded in full-color video so I proceed to offer my idea in fairly decent detail, even motioning with my hands how the idea could be put into motion through a few actions on the part of our company’s new automation system for improving customer response times. I say the words “save now” and the video transmission is now saved in the inbox of my staff’s video terminals so that they will receive it as soon as they come into the office tomorrow. I then state “end connection” and the main menu for the iPhone returns and another audible tone is given to notify me that the connection has closed.

Thinking about what I will be doing tonight for entertainment, I decide to check the house system and see if there is anything I might want to watch when I get home. I speak the words “connect home” and soon the menu displays a menu for my house system allowing me to see the inside of my home with the words “monitor”. Instantly I am looking at a video feed of various views of my home from within the main rooms and from the back and front yards. I spot that there is a package on my doorstep from Fed-Ex. I say “control panel” and I am now seeing a menu that allows me to see and alter the current temperature of my house. I tell the iPhone to “warm 75” and my heating unit then starts bringing the temperature up to 75 degrees.

Next, I state “entertainment” and a selection of tv and movie choices are selected on the screen based on my past preferences and tastes. I do not see anything immediately exciting, so I say “search” and then “blade runner” – quickly Spotlight identifies the movie in my media library and queues it for playback when I arrive.

I then remember that I need to pick up a special dietary food for my dogs so I state “menu” and I am back to the main iPhone screen. I then state the name of the store “PetCo” and I am presented with a map to the nearest store and the phone number with an option to “place call now”. After speaking with a store associate I know that they received their stock and the quantity of food I need is ready for pickup. The clerk has my account details on her screen already and places my order. The purchase is also recorded in the iPhone’s financial program, immediately notifying my bank and updating my ledger and balance with the details. This is nice, that I no longer need to record transactions such as this as I used to always forget when I took money out or made purchases. Now I don’t need to worry about that anymore. Since Apple licensed QuickPay from Visa, purchasing almost anything now is completely automated just about anywhere I go now.

As I exit the interstate, I notice that I need to stop and get gas, so I pull into the closest station and stop. After filling my tank, I simply wave my iPhone over the sensor at the pump and my purchase is completed and again the transaction is recorded.

Off to Petco I go, where I pick up the bags of food at the pull up door on the side of the building. This is nice because I don’t even need to go inside and the purchase is of course already debited from my account there when I placed the order earlier on the iPhone.

As I pull into the driveway, I see that my iPhone has noticed that my vehicle is due for service this month and has connected to the dealership to find the next available appointments. A list of appointment times are shown on the screen, and I simply tap the 3rd one down for the 5th of November, and instantly the iPhone confirms the date with the dealership and then records the appointment in iCal, setting an alarm automatically that will start notifying me 3 days in advance so that I won’t forget about it.

I pull into the garage and walk inside to the house, the lights are on and the fireplace is on and the house is warm. I walk into the living room and turn on my TV. Instantly a menu notice is displayed showing the film I chose, is ready to click to start.

Ah, my iLife is wonderful.

New Horizons

I have just accepted an offer from AGJ Systems & Networks, Inc. to become their new Director of Web Development. AGJ is a fast-growing technology firm based here in Biloxi that caters to mostly governmental agencies and small businesses offering a variety of services including web design. I will be in charge of moving the company’s clients forward and progressing their web department towards new goals.

Because of their base clientele, I may not be able to demonstrate a lot of the work I will be doing but one site that I can guarantee you’ll see posted on here once I get into full-swing will be the AGJ website itself. It has not been updated in a very long time and it is long overdue for some TLC which I will be attending to shortly.

I am very excited to be involved with such a growing company and I expect great things from our new-found partnership.

CoverSutra version 2

coversutra2

As I posted recently, I’ve been trying to find the absolute best iTunes controller program out there and I’ve been waffling back and forth between CoverSutra and the newcomer: TotalTunes Control.

After I had just made what I thought was the final switch to TotalTunes Control, Sophia from Sophiestication Software has gone and outdone herself with the upcoming version 2 of CoverSutra.

The new CoverSutra has everything you could possibly want and more. The newest version offers a new searching capability that looks and acts very similar to Spotlight and allows you to quickly find and go to any playlist, artist, album or track that you want to. She has added much more capability in custom shortcuts that now allow you do almost anything with a keyboard shortcut.

My only knock against this latest version is that it uses a bit more RAM than older versions did. In my tests, it routinely uses about 45MB of RAM where it used to use no more than 20MB. This is not too big of an issue and I am sure that she will work on getting this down through revisions that I am sure are to come. There is a small graphical glitch with the title text on the new searching feature as well, but this is only cosmetic and does nothing to hinder its use.

Overall, I am thoroughly impressed with the new features and I believe that I have moved back to CoverSutra for good. However, Louka Desroziers has not been sitting idle with TotalTunes Control either as he has released yet another version that offers some more refinement that brings his “free clone of CoverSutra” a bit closer. On the other side of things, the developer of Synergy has also recently updated his program although it seems to be struggling to keep feature parity and the “coolness factor” is just not in the same realm as the other two I’ve mentioned.

It is nice to have options depending on your budget, but for me I am going to continue to support CoverSutra for the time being.

Congrats to Rachael

sweet Jacob

Just found out that a good friend of mine, Rachael Cardella who I’ve mentioned on here a few times, has won the B&H photo contest! She is going to be flown to New York and put up for 3 days at the Marriott Marquis. She’s also going to get a free shopping spree at B&H Photo!

I am totally thrilled for her as her work is fantastic and she deserves it.

Congrats, Rach!

Dog gone good

Clyde

Awhile back I found a stray dog that was apparently discarded from a moving vehicle out in the middle of a very rural area. It was tan and white colored beagle that very nervous of people and took quite a bit in order for me to be able to get it into the truck and take it home.

As you may know, I already have four Boxers that keep my hands quite full. Therefore, taking another animal in was just not an option but I could not allow for this dog (which we named “Clyde”) to be mistreated any further. After a few days of nursing him back to health we noticed that Clyde was deaf which was probably the reason that the previous owner got rid of him. Deaf hunting dogs are not something in demand around here.

While trying to find a suitable home for Clyde, we remembered that the neighbor of my Grandma was deaf and had several dogs. We ended up placing Clyde with her and everything seemed right. The two were a perfect match and the dog was being well-cared for.

Months went by until we heard from Helen who was Clyde’s owner on New Years Eve. She had called crying, informing my wife that Clyde has somehow gotten out from the backyard and was missing. My wife and my mother went out searching for Clyde while I made flyers to help track the dog down. My wife and mother distributed the flyers everywhere and after a few days the reality that Clyde might not be found, started to sink in.

Then miraculously a phone call came in that Clyde had been found and was at a shelter in a nearby town. Helen had Clyde returned to her and everything was right again. It was a pretty neat story and in fact the local paper even ran a story about it which you can see here: http://www.sunherald.com/278/story/281152.html

I’m just glad that things worked out and that a very nice lady got her very nice dog back.

Downloads section added to the site

There is not much stuff in there right now, but I am working on some desktop pictures and a few WordPress themes that I hope to have up soon.

I am also still working on the music section trying to figure out how I am going to do this section. Currently, I have a listing of all of my music on there but I hope to eventually have listings of new or spotlight music and samples to either download or stream and listen. I am working with MyTunesRSS on this part, and currently I have it working, complete with RSS feeds for playlists and a Flash player to listen to the tracks. I am trying to be careful here, where the music section is complete, allows you to sample things and yet keep me out of the crosshairs of the RIAA.

For now though, feel free to check these sections out and let me know if you have any ideas, comments or complaints, etc..

An Event Apart is coming to New Orleans

AEA-logo

Just found out the schedule for the next ALA event which will be held in my backyard, New Orleans! I went to the second An Event Apart which was held in Atlanta a few years ago and enjoyed it very, very much. The lineup for this year has twelve speakers including Jeff Veen, Dave Shea, Cameron Moll and Andy Clarke who I’ve always wanted to meet. And then of course there is the Three Amigos: Zeldman, Meyers and Santa Maria who are always a class act.

This thing is going to be a blast. I learned so much from last time and this time it is two days worth rather than just one which always did seem to short for something like this.

Anyways, I’ll see you in the Big Easy in April.

An Event Apart New Orleans

April 24–25

Read Jeffrey’s post about it

Using OpenDNS to maximize your network

A little over a year-and-a-half ago a new DNS resolution service called OpenDNS was created and it has quickly grown into a value-added service that you might want to look into for your own network DNS needs whether you are a simple home user or a large company. For the purposes of this article I am going to focus on the home user and how you can use OpenDNS to add functionality to your home network that will allow you to do some very cool things.

What is DNS?

DNS or Domain Name System servers are a network of servers that are located all over the world and help to tell your computer where something is on the Internet. DNS is the system that “resolves” domain names into IP addresses which are what computers use to identify each other on the Internet. DNS servers are also used to cache content so that it can be distributed to many people who are requesting the same page with less actual traffic. This is done to make the retrieval of these pages faster since in a lot of cases you are getting the content from a server’s cached version in say Atlanta rather than having to go all the way to Seattle where the actual content resides.

All DNS are not created equal

Normally by default, DNS servers are given to you to use through your ISP and in many cases are actually owned and operated by your ISP. While DNS service is essentially the same no matter who is doing it, there is a lot of difference in performance depending on which DNS servers you are using.

There are three main factors in DNS:

  • Network Location – Obviously it is faster to retrieve content from a cache on a closer server than one farther away.
  • Size of Cache – while it is impossible to cache everything, the greater the size of the cache is the better the chance of the content you want being found on a cache server.
  • Age of Cache – because the Internet changes extremely quickly, the faster the DNS caches are updated the more likely that you will receive the most current version of the page your are looking for.

Why OpenDNS?

OpenDNS offers a network of strategically placed cache servers that have larger capacities than most ISP and network cache systems. They tout that using their servers rather than your ISP defaults will result in faster searching and retrieval. They also offer some features such spellchecking for misspelled domain names, anti-phishing protection, content filtering and even a new service called “shortcuts” which is basically what AOL users have known/used for awhile – the ability to enter a keyword and retrieve a website rather than having to type the complete url.

It’s all about the features

The main feature that I use a lot is the shortcuts feature. It allows you to set up your own “AOL type” keywords for websites that you go to. In my case, I have set one up for the keyword “todd” that goes to this website. I type in todd and instantly, my website loads without having to type in the complete url. This is a great feature and once you’ve set up a few of these for your own often-travelled sites, you’ll wonder how you ever got along without it. This service is also great for older and/or less tech-saavy people in your household such as your Grandma. You can set up Grandma’s internet banking website so that she just has to type in “BOA” and she quickly gets to her Bank of America account where she is bound to remember you when it comes Christmas time.

Speaking of banking; phishing is a global problem that doesn’t seem to go away and can often result in complete disasters when it comes to things like online banking or even just Ebay. OpenDNS offers anti-phising protection which works by having real people look at suspected sites and scams to verify legitimacy.

You can also block websites or filter content you’d rather little Timmy doesn’t see after school. You can control exactly what can be viewed or what can’t. You can block adult sites, drug-related sites and proxy bypassing sites so that even smart little Timmy can’t figure out how to get around them. If for any reason a site is blocked that you want to be able to access, there is a whitelist feature for you to allow sites you deem appropriate. This all takes place at a network level, so no matter what computer is being used, you can be assured that your network is only displaying the things that you want.

Typo correction will automagically transform your bad spelling into useable website urls and keep you from landing on one of those squatter websites that prey on misspelled urls. You can also autocomplete urls so that you don’t need to type .com after everything.

You can read all about the features that OpenDNS offer, here.

So what’s the catch?

OpenDNS earns its revenue by sending the users to an OpenDNS search page when a domain name has been entered that does not exist. Advertisements are displayed on these search pages, similar to the paid advertising links on Googles search results for instance. There is also a lot of information contained in your daily surfing routines. Where you go, what you look at and what you download. This is all information that is recorded for many people when they visit Google too, so keep that in mind. The main difference for me is that with OpenDNS you can actually go in and turn off the things you don’t want, or even delete your entire profile if you wish. This is not something that can be said for Google. To me the privacy concerns are not really that great especially since your ISP still sees everything anyways and there really is no such thing as anonymity on the Internet anymore. At least I have control with this system and I can purge things if I decide I don’t want to use the service anymore. I also don’t spend much time looking at bomb making websites or terrorist regime propoganda sites so I’m not too concerned that someone may figure out that I surf Engadget 10 times a day.

As with anything, your mileage may vary and you may not be willing to remove your tinfoil cap in order to gain these features from your network. But, I can attest that these features are worth it for me and of course the price is right, free.

So now what?

In order to take advantage of all this free network goodness, you simply need to replace your ISP DNS servers with the servers from OpenDNS. Their servers are:

  • 208.67.220.220
  • 208.67.222.222

Directions for changing these settings can be found here:

Total control of your tunes

I have a large music library and while I love iTunes for the most part, I hate controlling track choices, volume and rating tracks from within iTunes. Therefore long ago I searched out for a separate application to do this for me without having to have iTunes open fullscreen or using the inept dock features that Apple has given us.

My first foray into the 3rd party music controlling applications was one called Synergy . I really liked that it was a menubar application and allowed me to control iTunes from my menubar. It was very small, unobtrusive and did what I was looking for. However the application did not get updated for awhile and then when it did, it became a new version and the developer wanted more money for features that I did not feel warranted an upgrade. Not to mention that there was no upgrade path for existing users which left me feeling abandoned. So I searched on and finally found another application called CoverSutra. Besides the cool name, it was a really cool application that did everything I wanted and more. I thought I was in heaven as the app was still small, a menubar application and offered integration with Last.FM which I was quickly becoming a big fan of and to this day still use daily.

I purchased CoverSutra for $22 which was over three times as much as I paid for Synergy but the application was just so good that I had no qualms paying for the quality. I would still be using CoverSutra if it wasn’t for a new application called TotalTunes Control which in it’s latest beta version is now my favorite application for controlling iTunes.

total tunes control

What started as a CoverSutra clone is now quickly becoming an even better application with new features such as being able to select playlists from within the controller window and even being able to set up favorite playlists for quick access if you have lots of playlists like I do. With TotalTunes Control you can also customize the fonts that are used in the control window, which is nice because a lot of us use themes or just want to use a different font. In my case, I am using Bauhaus for my control window and it is just elegant to look at now.

There were still two main features that CoverSutra offered that were not in TotalTunes but after what can only be considered a blistering pace, the developer for TotalTunes is adding functionality left and right. The lack of Last.fm integration is being added and there will be new custom album art displays added as well.

The best part of all of this is that TotalTunes Control is a completely freeware application. The developer, Louka Desroziers, is a wonderful developer and is so responsive that he sets the bar for freeware applications. Even though this is Freeware I encourage you to donate to him through his website to encourage his fine work.

New Year – New Website

So, I know I’ve been talking about it for a good while now and I know a lot of you thought it might never happen, but I’ve actually launched version 7 of the old website. Finally!

You may notice not just a revised layout, new graphics and some new features, but I actually have a new logo too. It’s not dramatically different than the older one and in fact I am still keeping the older logo(for my business use) but I felt this site is really focused more on my life and not just my business so it made more sense to change the logo from .toddlambert{enterprises} to just .todd{lambert} thus opening up the focus of the site a bit more.

There are a ton of other changes and small tweaks on the front end and some pretty massive stuff on the backend. It’s been a long process with many processes involved which I will go much further into soon when I post about the steps I took, the decisions I made and the direction the site is now going. Look for a detailed post about all of these items soon.

Please run through the site and test stuff out for me, and if you spot anything out of whack, let me know. Oh and click the poll over on the right and put some feedback here, would ya?

Took two for the team

Okay, so I actually took four. After years of agonizing fits of pain that come and go I had the latest “incident” with my wisdom teeth over the Christmas holiday. I spent three days in excruciating pain, deep in my right jaw. I finally gave in this time and decided enough was enough and it was about time to get them removed.

Just going to the dentist is a feat for me, as I have a phobia of that place for some reason. I generally only go when I have to and I’ve been thankful that my teeth are in pretty good shape and I’ve needed nothing but routine cleanings over the years. I knew the wisdom teeth would eventually become a problem someday but I was told that if you make it into your thirties with them intact, they generally seem to be less of a problem from that point forward. What I didn’t know was that if you do have a problem past your twenties, that they are a much bigger problem to deal with.

So, with this in mind, after some time thinking about things (okay, who am I kidding – the decision was pretty much made for me by the pain) I decided it was a good time to go ahead and bite the bullet. I was told that I have two impacted teeth with the one on the lower right that was causing the current bout of uncomfort was growing in sideways and causing all kings of problems. I was also told the the wisdom tooth above this one was also growing awkward and trying to “touch” it’s lower sibling which was going to cause it’s own dilemmas.

So after hearing about that I asked the oral surgeon if he would give me a group rate on getting all four wisdom teeth removed. He obliged and I obligated. I am now the proud owner of four very painful holes in the back of my mouth that hopefully will bring this episode in my life, to an unconditional end- yeeeah!

I would normally try and post photos but in this case I think I’ll pass and spare you that. 😉