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This page documents random thoughts, observations, reviews, criticisms, rants, anecdotes, tips, tricks, and discoveries by Blake Nancarrow. The notes here pertain specifically to information technology. They are dated and arranged in reverse-order, the newest items at the top.

2013 | 2012 | 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007 | 2006 | 2005 | 2004 | 2003 | 2002 | 2001 | the '90s


Index of Postings

22 Dec - it's true
24 Nov - rejuvenated
16 Sep - Bell on VoIP bandwagon
31 May - Dreamweaver wakes up!
30 Mar - big gig at Yahoo!
20 Mar - reorganised
19 Mar - Win2K box
15 Mar - forced (viri)
3 Mar - the Big Email Upgrade (Sympatico) updated!
25 Feb - how fast are you? (Sympatico)
17 Feb - lock in and save (Sympatico)
24 Jan - Trillian Pro 3 offers A/V (instant messaging)
13 Jan - uninterruptible
8 Jan - still Active!

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22 Dec 2005 - it's true

I had heard a rumour. Earlier in the year...

Today, I saw a note on the Adobe web site. It's true.

Adobe bought Macromedia!

I wonder what that means now for Dreamweaver and Fireworks, etc.

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24 Nov 2005 - rejuvenated new!

This is not exactly computer-related but I'm so happy about this I had to pass it on.

Two of my Motorola FRS radio Ni-Cd rechargeable batteries starting performing poorly this summer. I'd put them in the charging station overnight and test them the next day and they'd still be flat. After some tests and several discharge cycles, I saw no improvement.

I know Nickel-Cadmium batteries don't last forever... But these batteries were not that old in the grand scheme of things. They're expensive too. So I wasn't looking forward to having to get another set. Which is ironic, because I had bought another pair this year, so to reduce my use of disposables!

Motorola Canada's response to me: too bad, throw 'em out.

Frustrated, and convinced they are not ready for a land fill, I resumed searching on the net. And started discovering articles about rejuvenating batteries... Some of the articles sounded a little scary, warning of explosions, people getting hurt, complex procedures, etc. Then I come across Tony van Roon's article on building "A Super-Simple Ni-Cd Battery Rejuvenator" which once-and-for-all clarifies the polarity used and also demystifies the process further.

I try it. And the 2 batteries playing "possum" are working again! Yahoo!

Specifically I used 2 full-charged Ni-Cd in series. I connected these in reverse polarity to the dead battery, zapping the dead cell with approx. 3V, for approx. 3 seconds of time, twice, with a pause in between. As suggested, I do this to each individual cell in the FRS battery, monitoring the voltage levels often. Easy!

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31 May 2005 - Bell on VoIP bandwagon

A Bell Canada rep called me the other day flogging their new offering: "Digital Voice." I asked if it was "voice over internet protocol" and he said it was. He went on to say that it will be much cheaper, if I switch, than my current (analog) phone service. Interesting... I then asked if it would work during a power outage and he said yes. Very interesting. I put him off then so I could do more research...

There's product info, features, costs, etc. available at Bell's Digital Voice site.

Today, I found Digital Home Canada with good information to help demystify and clarify what's going on. In fact, they made it more clear that Bell is in fact now offering in Ontario and Québec analog POTS service, Digital Voice Lite (VoIP, which will not function without power), and Digital Voice (hybrid POTS and digital service).

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31 May 2005 - Dreamweaver wakes up!

I recently evaluated Macromedia Dreamweaver MX 2004... I'm very happy to report that they FINALLY improved upon some tremendous weakness in the software. Here are some random observations:

  • GUI is less cluttered at startup
  • does French accents properly
  • does CSS out of the box on text formatting such as font face and size, creating the in-line page CSS style sheet, everything!
  • image sizing, cropping, sharpening, brightness/contrast adjustments, and resampling handled internally, without the purchase of Fireworks!
  • new Edit, Duplicate command in File/Site
  • page background colour deployed as CSS!
  • can easily set font in entire page in Page Properties (does CSS for the body, td, th)
  • Copy and Paste from MS Word is very good, extra spacing or paragraph breaks!
  • MS Excel data comes in well, at least in tabular fashion (formatting lost); there are classes used...; blank cells are left empty; alignment put on cells (vs. row)
  • table selection highlighting, inserting rows/columns, is easier
  • no element-level CSS proper but it uses SPAN and classes...

I still have some pet peeves but this is a great improvement.

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30 Mar 2005 - big gig at Yahoo!

Noticed recently that Yahoo! will be offering 1 gigabyte of space with their free email service.

Still the best!

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20 Mar 2005 - reorganised

In the interest of speeding up the performance of this technology news blog, I broke up the single large page into separate pages for the last couple of years and a single page for the 1990s.

I also took the opportunity to add some interesting historical notes...

Enjoy. Learn. Be safe. And share your toys.

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19 Mar 2005 - Win2K box

I am evaluating the calendar software iCal version 3.10 for Windows with integrated server from Brown Bear Software. It's very cool.

When I stumbled across some issues with running it on Windows 98, it was suggested by the helpful support staff that I try it on Windows 2000. So now I have a Win2K Professional SP4 box hooked up to the SOHO LAN.

Visit my sample calendar. Topic: motorsports (of course)!

Note: This is also made possible with the free assistance of dynamic DNS services at and the automatic dynamic DNS features of my firewall router.

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15 Mar 2005 - forced

As I was assisting a client in disinfecting their home office computer from a new worm virus attack, I employed my usual tactic of conferring with multiple sources: I usually perform virus scans with more than more piece of software to cover the bases.

On this occasion, I used the excellent avast! anti-virus program from Alwil Software. Then I tried to download the newest security package from McAfee. But McAfee forces you to use Internet Explorer to download files!

This was ironic, funny, and upsetting. I understand why they require IE when you use the FreeScan given its utilisation of ActiveX. But to download a file?! This was darkly amusing because the virus-infected computer could no longer access McAfee's web site with IE.

They just lost a customer and a supportive consultant.

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3 Mar 2005 - the Big Email Upgrade updated!

Since Sympatico is now in bed with MSN, things are achangin'. I was told that Sympatico doesn't want to do email anymore so they've arranged that MSN will provide the backend. This means that every Sympatico user has to be switched over to the "new" email system (i.e. HoTMaiL), so to use the Sympatico "Enhanced E-mail platform." More correctly, users must upgrade their main account and sub email accounts.

Some features and issues for your consideration...

feature the good news the bad news
store 2GB in main email account I'm not sure how much we get with the old/current system but this is clearly much more!

Ah, old was 10MB! Wow!
Is there anything bad about 2 gig?

More to delete?
more sub email accounts High Speed (and unlimited dial-up) users could have 5 or 6 sub accounts; now you can have 10! Now the cat, dog, and snake have email...
bigger sub accounts The sub accounts are 250MB each, which again is lots more than the old. More crappy email kept?
can attach larger files

<=20MB on main account; <=10MB on sub
People can send you emails with all the photos from their high school reunion! People can send you emails with all the photos from their high school reunion!
improved filtering Better filtering is always good. The aggressive "exclusive" filter will keep inboxes very clean. I'll believe it when I see it...
anti-virus features Up-to-date virus protection is good. Only works when accessing email online.
new online email system It's actually that you're logging into.

Okay. The old Sympatico GetEmail was kinda clunky...
I evaluated HoTMaiL many years ago and rated it poorly compared to Yahoo!Mail. Redid eval recently to arrive at same result...

That said, it "looks" better. You have a calendar... Ooo!
SSL in and out Currently, if you download email to your computer to an email client (e.g. Outlook), you use straight clear text password security. So this increased security on email is a great thing. Your email client will have to be adjusted for this new feature, if it supports it.

Your anti-virus software will likely not support SSL email traffic. So you'll have to disable the email up/down scanning. Does that not increase our exposure?
longer server timeout Tech support rep told me about this... And I heard it from another source.

However, there's no mention of it on the Upgrade FAQ...

No benefit. What's this about anyway?
You'll have to wait possibly much longer to send your email?

They'll be a lot more of, "Do you get it yet?"

Your email client may not support SMTP server timeout settings. You might have to switch! Whoa!
full address required at logon Bit more secure. May confound some users in changing this.
new POP and SMTP servers

Will confound many users when they need to change it.

Some will forget to switch by the deadline.

Some will no doubt "switch" in a bigger way...

Hmmm. Will everyone across Canada be on the same server...? Load issues? Single access point for failure?
new port on POP server This is in theory a bit more secure.

The SMTP server port is stardard, that is 25.

The POP3 server port is the non-standard, 995.
Hopefully, you're email client will support these settings.

Will confound some users in changing this.
online self-serve upgrade wizard Adroit users can help themselves. Wizard requires ActiveX components (surprise, surprise). This means you cannot use a browser except by a very large Seattle-based company you may have heard of. A browser that is known for its security holes!
no more automatic deletion? Old GetEmail would delete messages over time!

Keep important messages in your online mailbox without worrying about their disappearance.
No disad per se. Just bad news for pack rats, really.
email address remains unchanged
People will keep track of you. *the fine print says, "... unless [it] is not compatible" with the new system.

So some people might be forced to change their address.

Spammers using old email lists will still find you!
messages will be transferred to new system Yeh, all messages in Sympatico GetEmail inbox are preserved...


Wait a minute!
Your GetEmail address book is not transferred! Neither are your POP settings, signature file, safe and block-sender lists, or messages in folders other than Inbox!

Messages in other folders should be moved to Inbox, if necessary.

Sympatico suggests at one point you "write down" your address book entries! Joy.

There are a couple of other new minor features in the enhanced Sympatico email which I'm not documented here. See the Sympatico Upgrade FAQ for more info.

You know, this whole thing is mind-boggling. Sympatico has about 1 million users.

If 1% of them cannot upgrade their email accounts by themselves and spend, say, 30 minutes on the phone with Sympatico tech support...

1 000 000 x 1% x 30 minutes x (main account + sub accounts) = ...

You do the math.

Could this cripple Sympatico?

Also, does this mean Sympatico cares not for their Apple Macintosh, Linux, and other types of users? What is the impact on mobile users? Is it worth it?

P.S. I now have some screen snapshots of Eudora (thanks Alan) with fully functional settings. Available upon request.

"In answer to Sympatico’s vision, this new e-mail class of service will provide you with features to simplify and enhance your e-mail experience." Really?

And, in the end, will we get less spam- and virus-laden email?

Why do I not feel good about this...?

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25 Feb 2005 - how fast are you?

Found a good page today at DSL Reports (or Broadband Reports, the clearing house for high-speed industry gossip) that offered great advice for testing your Bell Sympatico high-speed connection speed.

They suggested one download files of various sizes directly from the Sympatico ftp servers (links provided) and monitor the speeds.

I downloaded the 348MB file using Netscape 7.2. It built speed to over 301 KB/s until I started gathering email and working on this page, where it dropped to mid- to high- 200 KB/s. So this means my DSL (medium tier) is working well.

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17 Feb 2005 - lock in and save

Bell Sympatico offers a discount to customers. I cannot recall if this applies to high speed clients only. If you "lock in" for a year, they knock off a few dollars per month, in appreciation for your loyalty. I think I can save over $100 per year.

They'll have you acknowledge an agreement.

Note that there are, not surprisingly, penalties if you terminate early.

Call your Sympatico customer service rep.

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24 Jan 2005 - Trillian Pro 3 offers A/V

Just installed Trillian Pro 3. It now offers audio and video features. Just keeps getting better and better.

'Course you need a beefy computer to use all these doodads...

Still, sadly, there is no support (and it sounds like no plans) for Mac or Linux.

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13 Jan 2005 - uninterruptible

Got a smokin' good deal on an APC uninterruptible power supply (model Back-UPS ES-500) with surge protection. They've come down a lot in price lately... So it's a practical appliance for the heavy home user, small office, SOHO, etc.

The PowerChute software installed easily and quickly.

Now I'm kinda lookin' forward to the next power outage!

P.S. Don't forget: if you already have one, the batteries wear out after a couple of years. So be sure to check and test it and repair it, if necessary.

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8 Jan 2005 - still Active!

I thought they had gone out of business but, happily, ubergeek Gerry pointed out that Active Surplus--one of the staples of Queen Street West, Toronto--simply moved upstairs. The gorilla is still at street-level!

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This page was last updated on 26 February 2013.
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