Archive for the ‘Website’ Category

Tech Blog – Take 3!

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

Yes, I’m re-inventing this blog once again.  I originally started this as a blog for discussing Ultra-Mobile PCs back when I bought one of the first ones off the line.  I later decided to broaden the coverage to all mobile technology as I kind of started to run out of things to say about UMPCs.

I’m now transitioning this into a completely generalized technology blog.  The main reason for this is that I kind of hit a wall as far as what to talk about even within the broader realm of mobile tech.  While I use my UMPC and cell phone pretty much every day, I’m not a gadget collector and have realized that my attention to that market in general tends to wane when I’m not in the process of shopping for an upgrade.

There have been a whole bunch of more general issues regarding computers and technology that I wanted to cover, but didn’t really fit in the narrow mobile technology category.  I also have been hesitant to talk too much about technology on my personal blog.  That blog has a pretty small readership (mostly family and friends) and I know that most of them would get pretty bored if I got too much into technology issues.

I am a software engineer working in the web division of a major media company, so I certainly am surrounded by computers and technology pretty much every day.  I have a pretty nice selection of gadgets at home and also tend to be something of a do-it-yourself tinkerer (my desktop PC is home-built).  With the subject broadened in this way, I don’t think I’ll be too short on subjects to talk about.

My plan is to treat this as more of a traditional weblog than I have in the past.  I hope to put up much more frequent posts, but most will be very short.  I read a lot of technical sites, blogs, and even magazines and expect to often use this blog to highlight interesting items that I come across.  I also want to put up occasional short tips and observations from my everyday experiences.  I’m sure I will also put up the occasional lengthy review or essay when I have something to talk about, but those do take a lot of time to write (as well as a topic of inspiration), which is why my updates have always been very infrequent when those articles were my focus.

I am changing the primary URL for this site to http://tech.bigbeaks.com to better reflect the new subject, although I am going to retain the old http://umpc.bigbeaks.com as a mirror in order to retain those that may already have the site in their feeds or bookmarks.

Hopefully this version of the blog will work out better for me and at least a few people will find it to be interesting!

Slow-down should be fixed

Monday, March 31st, 2008

Over the weekend, I migrated my sites to a new hosting company.  On the advice of a couple friends, I went with Dreamhost, which offers a good mix of features for a pretty reasonable price.  In fact, this service generally seems more feature rich and an overall better value than iPowerWeb was, even when it worked well.

I went with Dreamhost despite the fact that they had suffered a pretty serious billing problem that got a fair amount of attention back in January.  While researching them, I found that it did cause a fair amount of consternation and that they made a few mistakes in dealing with it (most notably, trying to be too lighthearted in their initial apology), but they did pretty quickly make good on the problem and never attempted to deny or excuse it away.  My overall view on this kind of thing is that any company can make mistakes and what I really care about is whether they are resolved quickly and satisfactorily.

That pretty much sums up my frustration with iPowerWeb.  Even as I sent in the request for them to formally transfer my domain to Dreamhost, they included a note in their response promising that fixing the MySQL issue was a top priority and that they expected to have it resolved soon.  They still didn’t really define "soon", although this morning’s email claimed that they have already added the additional space to the server.

Even if the problem is fixed tomorrow, I’m still glad to have changed over as I no longer trust iPowerWeb.  The only information that I have received from them was through direct responses to my inquiries and I’ve had to often ask multiple times.  Since this was a known issue, why weren’t they keeping all affected customers informed?  Also, this problem has lingered way too long.  Since this blog is just a hobby, I let the problem go for a few weeks before taking action.  If I were running a business or otherwise making much revenue from this site, I certainly would have jumped ship weeks ago.

Hopefully, Dreamhost will now truly earn my trust and I won’t end up regretting the change.  For now, I’m just glad that my site finally loads in a reasonable amount of time again.

Slow Site Loading

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

Visitors to this blog may have noticed that it has been very slow loading recently.  At best, it seems to take about 15-20 seconds for a page to load and during really busy times for my hosting company, the delay can be quite a bit longer (even a minute or more).

My sites are all hosted by iPowerWeb and after a bunch of back and forth exchanges with their support department, they have confirmed that it is a capacity issue with their MySQL database servers.  The WordPress blogging software that run my blogs uses MySQL, thus resulting in the slowness.

While iPowerWeb support keeps telling me that they are working on adding additional MySQL servers to take up some of the load, they also are refusing to give me even a rough estimate for how soon this will actually happen.  As a result, I’m researching other hosting companies and, hopefully, I’ll get this site migrated in the next few days.  With any luck, that means that the site should start loading at normal speeds again soon.

For anyone reading this, thanks for looking in on the site, even if it does require a bit of a wait!

Site Changes

Wednesday, May 16th, 2007

I have recently made some changes to this site, primarily centered around a switch from Blogger to Wordpress as my publishing tool. Switching to Wordpress gives me a lot more control and flexibility. Unlike Blogger, the publishing tool itself is hosted on my own web space (rather than just the content), thus allowing much more customization as well as access to a large library of plug-ins.

One big advantage is that Wordpress supports the open-standard blogging protocol called Movable Type, which expands my options when selecting blogging tools. I never had much luck getting an effective work process in place with Blogger to allow me to do work on posts via my Treo smartphone. I found tools that would let me write and publish a post entirely from the Treo, but I tend to spend a long time crafting my posts and really need the ability to keep posts in “draft” status and work on them from any of my devices.

There is an open-source Palm OS blogging tool called Plogit that fits my needs rather well. While it was compatible with Blogger at one time, I could not get it to work, probably due to changes made to Blogger by Google since the last Plogit update. With Wordpress, it works fine. Adding the ability to work on posts-in-progress from my Treo in addition to my UMPC and desktop systems will hopefully lead to more frequent updates, although I admit this technology improvement still won’t do much to overcome procrastination…

The other significant change has been to the name of the site. It is now called “Bigbeaks UMPC and Mobile Technology”, indicating an expansion of scope. I still anticipate keeping much of the content compatible with the site’s origin as a UMPC site (thus the retention of “UMPC” in the name), but I decided that I want to add the ability to discuss other mobile technologies without straying too far from the charter. I particularly want to avoid the temptation to stretch the definition of a UMPC beyond reason, such as lumping smartphones, PDAs, or internet appliances under that term.

I started this site fairly soon after Microsoft announced their “Origami” concept for a UMPC and I had purchased one of the first units shipped. Now that the initial wave of excitement has passed, my focus is now more on incorporating the UMPC into my arsenal of computing tools. I was a long time Palm OS user before I got my UMPC and a bit of a shift in my viewpoint came a few months back when I realized that some tasks, particularly quick mobile access to email, calendar, and contacts, were still better suited to a Palm than a UMPC. I ended up buying a Treo 700p. It and my eo v7110 make a pretty potent combination.

I don’t really expect the types of posts that I write to change that dramatically with the new title and slight shift of focus, as I generally expect my current (and any future) UMPC to generally be the centerpiece of my mobile computing experience. Having had a little time to reflect and develop my approach to mobile technology in the nearly a year since I have been a UMPC owner, I simply recognize that writing about my mobile experience is necessarily going to extend beyond UMPCs.

News and Information Site and Links to other UMPC Sites

Tuesday, March 13th, 2007

I posted the below on the “News and Information” site as an announcement of the retirement of that page. Since the link to that site has been removed from the main page and the list of links to my favorite UMPC sites is worth sharing wider, I am re-posting it here. — JG

I am retiring this “News and Information” site so that I can focus on posting opinions and commentary on the primary blog. I just don’t have the time or a strong inclination for news reporting and there are other sites that do a better job covering the latest UMPC news and information than I ever could. Here are links to a few of my favorites:

UMPCPortal: This is the most comprehensive UMPC news and information site out there. While I think they sometimes define the term “UMPC” a bit too broadly, this site is still exceptionally information-rich and should be a very frequent destination for any UMPC-enthusiast.

jkOnTheRun: This site covers all of mobile computing rather than just UMPCs, but it is constantly updated, frequently insightful, and consistently accurate. This is one of the first sites that I visit every day.

Ultra-Mobile PC Tips: Like my own blog, this is another “one man show” site, but the owner (CTitanic), has a lot of expertise and some exceptional sources that leads him to quite a few scoops.

Origami Project: Microsoft’s official UMPC site has the best and most active discussion boards dedicated to UMPCs. The article page isn’t updated very often, but the ones that are posted there are all written by members of Microsoft’s dedicated UMPC team.

Reviving the Site

Tuesday, March 13th, 2007

It has been quite some time since there has been a meaningful update to this website and there are a couple reasons for that. This site is completely a one-person operation and, quite honestly, my schedule has been overwhelmingly full lately. At my day job, we have been focused on several big projects, all of which have pretty much been in a “crunch” period for the last couple months. In addition, a recent fire at the townhouse complex where I live recently displaced us from our home for several weeks while occupying a lot of time for clean-up and repairs (fortunately, our damage was mostly just smoke damage). Finally, I have a very active 3-year-old at home to whom I dedicate as much time as I can.

Now that my regular job has settled back down to a more reasonable pace and we have largely recovered from the fire, I’d like to start writing about UMPCs once again. On this site, I typically have focused on fairly long, in-depth articles and those do take quite a bit of time to write. I even have a few partially-written articles that I still haven’t found the time to complete. Going forward, I am going to try to focus on shorter, more regular posts. That doesn’t mean that I’m going to completely avoid posting in-depth articles, but I think it could work better if I accomplish that through multi-part series on any given subject rather than holding off posting anything until I have time to write everything I want to write on a subject.

I’ve come to realize that I’m much more interested in posting my opinions and commentary than I am in news reporting, so I’m going to retire the News & Information page. There are several other sites out there that do much better covering UMPC news than I ever could. I will put up one last post there with a few of my favorite links and then will just leave the page up for archival purposes for a while.

I’m going to end this post with a short commentary about how useful my UMPC has been during the recent events in my life. The recent crunch time at work left me pretty much “on call” at all times, but the mix of high-portability and wide functionality of my UMPC made it much easier for me to still go out with my family. If I would get a call indicating an immediate need to do something for work, I could quickly get online with my UMPC and my USB cellular modem (or cell phone) and do what needed to be done. Having a full Windows system means that I can use VPN and Remote Desktop for vast accessibility to work systems.

The flip side of this is the high-portability of personal data. While stuck at work for very late hours or during our displacement from home after the fire, my UMPC helped greatly with keeping my financial and other personal data up-to-date and easily accessible. It also was easy to go online as needed to look up information, even during early visits back to our townhouse when we were without electricity and/or internet service.

Admittedly, I haven’t really described anything here that couldn’t also been done with larger laptop computers, but it certainly wouldn’t have been as easy to keep a larger computer with me at virtually all times and places or to use it wherever I needed it.

Ultra-mobile Blogging

Thursday, September 7th, 2006

I think that yesterday’s post to the News & Information site sharing initial photos of the eo v7110 extended battery provides a great example of using a UMPC for blogging on the go. This post is going to be essentially the story of the “making of” yesterday’s post.

For convenience, my wife and I rent a mailbox from a shipping store fairly close to my office. This allows us to receive packages without having to worry about one or the other of us being home when they are delivered. Since the FedEx tracking provided by TabletKiosk had shown the package as delivered, I headed over to the store during my lunch hour yesterday and picked it up.

The photos that were included in the post were all actually taken on the front seat of my car while still in the parking lot of the shipping store. I used the built-in camera on my Motorola v551 cell phone to take the photos. The camera on this phone generally isn’t all that great, but it does take photos that are acceptable for that kind of quick web posting, as long as the photos are being taken in fairly bright lighting. This is the main reason why I took the photos right away in the car.

Next, I drove to a McDonald’s near my office for lunch. I selected McDonald’s not for the food (who goes there for the food???), but for the fact that they offer a couple hours of wi-fi access for $2.95. After getting my burger and fries, I found a table and powered up the eo. I loaded up Firefox and entered my credit card information to purchase the block of time on the WayPoint wi-fi service offered at the restaurant.

I transferred the photos from the cell phone via a retractable USB cable that I keep in the carrying case with the eo. I could have also used Bluetooth for this, but since I had the cable and was in a location where I had plenty of room to connect the phone in this way, I took advantage of the somewhat faster USB 2.0 transfer speed.

I reviewed the photos on the eo using the standard Windows XP photo viewer application and quickly narrowed it down to the 5 photos that I had ended up posting. I simply deleted the rest of the photos (which didn’t look very good) and renamed the ones that I intended to use to something more descriptive than the time/date stamp filenames generated by the phone. Although I do have Adobe Photoshop Elements installed on the eo and have found it to be usable for light photo editing, these photos didn’t really need any touch-up. Since the file sizes were all fairly small, I decided it wasn’t even necessary to re-size the images, even though I would be displaying them on the post at only 50% of their normal 640×480 size.

I then used the standard Windows XP FTP tool to transfer the photos to the images directory on my website. This file transfer was the main reason that I went to a restaurant with a wi-fi hotspot instead of simply using the slower Cingular EDGE connectivity with my cell phone. Since it was still my lunch hour, I was on a bit of a tight timeline to get this project completed.

I then browsed to blogger.com to actually type in the post itself. Since I can still type on a keyboard faster than I can use any of the built-in input methods on the eo, I used my ThinkOutside folding Bluetooth keyboard to type in the post. With the eo propped up on its stylus and the keyboard sitting in front of it, the little workstation fit easily on the restaurant table. The post wasn’t very lengthy, so it didn’t take very long to type it in and publish it. The only real mistake that I made was that, in my haste, I didn’t think to add “href” tags to allow readers to click on the photos to see the full-sized images. This is a correction I went in and added this morning.

With that, I had completed the post. The whole process took less than an hour, including travel time and the time to pick up the package from the store.

Introductory Post

Friday, May 5th, 2006

As an early adopter for Microsoft’s ultra-mobile PC (UMPC) concept, I know that I’m going to have a lot to say about the devices. That is why I decided to create a separate blog for my posts about UMPCs instead of simply continuing to post all my thoughts on the subject on my primary blog.

My previous posts to my regular blog (which I will re-post on this blog) were somewhat skeptical about whether or not I would decide to purchase a first-generation UMPC for myself. After learning more about the devices, and generally letting my gadget obsession get the better of me, I decided to pre-order a TabletKiosk eo v7110. The tracking information from FedEx indicates that I should expect delivery today!

Over the weekend, I will publish my initial impressions as I become familiar with my new toy.