Tag Archives: Computer Joey

Computer Joey: Easy Video Conferencing

( #Skype, #GoogleTalk )

I have been meaning to do a post about video conferencing for the last 2 months but school and work have gotten in the way. With the news about Microsoft buying Skype for $8.5 billion, people are talking about the service and video conferencing in general, so I thought it would be a good time to do a tutorial.

I tried Skype a few years ago and didn’t like it. I was not into the software and I always had problems with the video; but I will accept that things have probably changed a great deal over the last three years (and I suspect Microsoft will add many new features including Xbox functionality). Video conferencing never held much appeal to me until recently: I have a few friends who don’t live close and we video conference a few times a month (or we will let the cameras run while we are watching the same movies so we can see each others reactions).

Since I don’t use Skype, the service I have been using is Google Talk. Besides a small plugin, you don’t have to install any software and works on almost any computer. Additionally, if you have a gmail account, there is no need for additional logins. While this is a really simple set up, I will still walk you through it.

Before we get started, you obviously need a gmail account, if you don’t have one, go sign up and come back.

1. In order to video conference, you need a camera. Most laptops have built in cameras, but if you don’t have one, logitech seems to be the go-to brand for all things web-conferencing. I am currently using the C510, but the C310 is a little cheaper and will work well.

2. Once your camera is sorted out, you need to download the Google Talk Video Chat Plug-In. Click on the “Install Video Chat Plugin” button. Follow the directions based on your operating system (should only take a minute).

3. Once the plugin is loaded, go to gmail and log in. On the left side of the screen you will see the chat section. If you don’t have friends in your chat list, you can invite them by putting in their gmail address (in the text box shown below). If you do have friends in the chat list, look for a video camera icon next to their name – that means they have a computer that can video conference.

4. Click on the person’s name and a new window will pop up (usually in the bottom right corner of gmail). If the person is available for video chat, a button with a video camera will appear in the upper left corner, click on it.

5. You can now video chat:

Skype’s purchase is going to bring attention and improvements to all of the services—this is good news to consumers. I hope this tutorial was helpful and you find excellent ways to video conference. Try to stay off of Chat Roulette!

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Kindle Review

( #Kindle, #Amazon )

I bought a Kindle over the weekend. I have been thinking about buying one for about two months. I went back and forth between Amazon, Barnes and Noble (Nook), and Apple (iPad) before I just said screw it and went with the Kindle.

The reason is the e-ink. I thought it would be easier on the eyes and it is. On Friday night I bought the device at Target. I opted for the $189.00 version because it has free 3G connections for downloads and for things like Wikipedia. I thought that would come in handy. Once I turned it on, I was immediately impressed with the screen, size, and weight of the device. It is super light and small, but doesn’t feel cheap. It was very simple to connect to Amazon and once I did, I purchased and downloaded my first book which took a few seconds to download.

The book is 600 pages in paperback form and I read it in less than 24 hours. My eyes feel great. I love not having to turn pages, the Kindle remembers the last spot you read, so no more bookmarks, and it even highlights quotes people thinks are memorable (but it can be turned off). I spent the morning searching Amazon’s free selection of classic books. I downloaded a few I own in hardcover that I haven’t read in a long time. I can see impulse book shopping becoming very dangerous for me this year.

The Kindle has a built in web browser, but I didn’t mess around with it too much yet. I went to this website and it rendered well for black and white, but I wish Amazon would have a Google Reader applet for RSS feeds, but they are trying to get people to spend 2 bucks a month on their own bullshit RSS feed subscription plan, so I don’t think it will happen anytime soon.

My initial thoughts are that I am really impressed with the device, it is easy on the eyes, and I am very worried about my wallet since they make it so easy to download books.

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Google Reader App for Android

( #Android, #GoogleReader )

Haha! Google has finally released an official app for Google Reader on the Android Platform.

If you have a Android Phone, just use Google Goggles and capture this image (how sweet is this?)

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Netflix vs. Hulu Plus

( #netflix, #hulu )

vs.

Last week I signed up for the Hulu Plus service and I decided to share my experience. I have been a Netflix customer for years and I am very happy with the service. Since the stream service has been getting better selections, I rarely watch actual DVDs anymore. I decided to drop my 3 movie per month package to 1 and unlimited streaming. With the money I saved, I signed up for Hulu, so I am paying the same price.

Hulu is not available on the Xbox (it is coming in a few months), so I set it up on my PS3. If the image does not look good on the PS3, it is not going to look good on anything. After I signed up, I found that the Hulu web interface is not nearly as polished or easy to navigate as Netflix. Adding things to their queue system is not simple and requires going deep into the selection to save it (or I am missing a button somewhere which is just as bad).

The interface on the PS3 is no joy to navigate either and it drives me nuts that there isn’t a search feature since their queue system kind of sucks (but in Hulu’s defence, until the recent upgrades to Netflix’s console dashboards, navigation was not so great either). Once you select a show, the picture quality is very good (for HD). My wife and I watch 30 Rock and Outsourced over the weekend and the picture was great. There is a big but… the service is glitchy and skips a few seconds ahead sometimes. Netflix does not do that (even when dropping signal rate). I assume they are working the bugs out, but it is very annoying.

My other major beef is the commercials. This is a pay service, there should not be commercials. I could forgive one at the start of the program but not during. I suspect that Hulu won’t be doing away with that feature which is making me rethink keeping the service. Hulu’s catalog of TV shows isn’t nearly as robust as Netflix, but where they beat old red is posting shows within 24 hours of airing. You have to wait a week for Comcast on demand for many shows, and who knows how long with Netflix.

Overall it is a solid service at a good price ($7.99 per month), but they are going to have to get their back catalog expanded very quickly, fix their bugs, and ditch the commercials for me to think about keeping the service. I will give them a few months to see how the service evolves. If you are deciding on the two, Netflix wins hands down (especially if you already have cable). Neither services are a full blown cable replacement yet.

UPDATE:
Looks like Netflix is offering an $8 streaming only plan and they are bumping up DVD costs.

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Phillyist: Find a place with Commonspace

( #Commonspace, #Phillyist )

Hi readers – a new Phillyist article has been published in case you were interested. The article is about a new Philadelphia-based social planning tool. When I first took the assignment, I was planning to be an asshole about the service (my thought was “great – another fucking social network”), but as I explored the site, I realized it was less a social media site and more of a tool (that could actually be useful), so I changed my approach…

Check it out:
Find a Place with Commonspace

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Phillyist: “Bloggergate” Report

( @Phillyist, #Bloggergate, #Philadelphia )

Phillyist just posted my coverage of last night’s “Bloggergate” happy hour at National Mechanics
Phillyist: “Bloggergate” Happy Hour Answers Questions

PS: I even took the (terrible) pictures – Peter Parker much?

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Computer Joey: Using Pidgin IM Client with custom google domains

Even though I have several domains running through the Google Apps engine, I always forget how to set the custom instant messenger settings in my IM client. This week I start my MBA at Western Governor’s University and I noticed they are running on the Google Apps engine (which I am very happy about). When I tried to connect via Pidgin (my IM client), I ran into a few issues, so I thought it would be nice to do a quick tutorial.

[STEP ONE: Get IM Client]

For this exercise I am using Pidgin IM Client. I have been using it for a few years: it’s clean, fast, and not loaded with bloat-ware. Feel free to use what you want, but if you are a newbie I suggest following these instructions exactly.

Click HERE to download the program (don’t worry, it’s safe!)

Follow all of the default install steps – pretty simple.

[STEP TWO: Account Credentials]

I am going to assume you have your custom domain set up. If you want to know how to do that, I happen to have written a tutorial a few months ago (click here to read that).

Assuming you are reading this at WGU or another school that has “gone google”, make sure you have your school email account activated. If you can log into email, you should be good to go.

[STEP THREE: Configuration]

NOTE: For this example, I am going to use the Western Governor’s info.

1. When you first install Pidgin you will have an option to “ADD AN ACCOUNT”. Click that button. If you have pidgin already installed, go to the “Accounts” Menu and then select “Manage Accounts” and then click the “ADD” button.

2. You will now have an “Add Account” Screen:

3. Make sure this screen has the following settings:

Protocol: XMPP (this is a drop down box)
Username: [Your User Name] – Example: jdoe (NOTE: Do NOT put your full email address in the Username field)
Domain: [yourdomain.com] – Example: wgu.edu
Resource: [You can leave this blank]
Password: [Your password]
Remember password: Make sure this is checked
Local alias: If you are using many accounts, it is good to put an alias in. Example: WGU


UPDATE (for WGU students only): To get some more features put “mychat.wgu.edu” in for the domain

4. Click on the top tab on the right – “Advanced Settings”:

Require SSL/TLS: [Not Checked]
Force old (port 5223) SSL: [Not Checked]
Allow plaintext auth over unecrypted streams: [Not Checked]
Connect port: 5222
Connect server: talk.google.com
File transfer proxies: proxy.jabber.org
Show custom Smileys: [Checked]
Proxy type: Use Global Proxy Settings


UPDATE (for WGU students only): Put in mychat.wgu.edu as the connect server too (this will give you access to chat conference rooms)

Click the “ADD” button at the bottom

You are done!

[STEP FOUR: Adding a friend]

1. If you want to add a friend, go to Buddies > Add Buddy (or just hit “Crtl” + “B” (for buddy))

2. Add your new friend’s email address (this will work for your school, gmail, and anyone running Google Apps)


Click “ADD”

WGU ONLY: You are going to be asked to accept a certificate – just say yes.

Once your friends accepts the communication request, you are in business.

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Computer Joey: How to set up a RSS Reader

For those technically inclined, this may seem a little rudimentary, but I cannot tell you how many times I tell people “I found this article in my RSS reader and I thought you would like it” and I get a blank stare back. My motivation for this article comes from Facebook’s ever increasing privacy violations – I am prepping to get away from the service and I plan on taking everyone with me.

Personally – I don’t need Facebook. I have a website where I can publish whatever I want and control how it is viewed. I know most people don’t want to run their own websites and are perfectly content with Twitter or Facebook, but I want to make sure you can keep in touch with… me!

My own ego aside, RSS feeds are a fantastic way to read news, keep tabs on your favorite musicians, and much more. Another great feature is you can mark them as saved and go back later or even share them with friends in a variety of ways.

For this tutorial, we are going to use Google Reader. Yes, I know Google does some semi-creepy stuff with your data, but at least they don’t force you into sharing things you don’t want to (first week of Buzz aside).

INSTRUCTIONS
1. You need a Google account. If you don’t have one, go to Gmail.com and sign up for a new account. If you have a Gmail account, skip to step two.

2. Once you have signed up, go to Reader.google.com. You will be see a welcome screen…

3. In the top left side of the screen, you will see a button that says “Add a subscription”. Click on that button…

4. Type your favorite blog or website and then click the add button (SHAMELESS PLUG ALERT!)

5. You will see that once you hit add, the blog or website will be added to your “Subscriptions” section

As you read through the posts, the RSS reader will mark that selection as read and the number of unread items highlighted in bold will decline.

6. By default, Google Reader shows all items in your RSS feed all the time. You can change that setting in the upper area of the article window. By clicking on “Show: New Items” the reader will only display new posts. This can be changed back and forth at any time.

7. At the bottom of each article, there is a control panel that will allow you to star, share, email, and do other things with the post. You can look at your starred items in the left side control panel, there is a “Starred Items” Folder (the same goes for shared items)

8. If you look at the left side control panel, you will see “People that you follow”. Click on “Search for some people”. This will take you to a screen where you can put in your friends Gmail addresses and be able to easily see what they are sharing and visa-versa.

That takes us through the basics of setting up RSS feeds. Have fun finding sites to add to your reader.

Before I go – one last hint. Several websites like LifeHacker and even the New York Times have different RSS feeds formatted in different ways. Some sites only give you the headline of the article, other sites give you the full article. Most sites offer both, but you will have to find the link to the full feed. Don’t get frustrated, you should see an RSS feed icon that looks like this:

That should give you the link to the properly formatted RSS feed. But give it a try, you will get the hang of it very quickly.

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Computer Joey 102: Websites and Customized Email

About the author: Joey Lombardi owned and operated a computer repair store named “Computer Joey” for several years. He has an “Information Technology” degree from Drexel University and several Microsoft MCSE certifications. Basically… he knows his shit.

The most common “nerd” activity I do on the internet is set up custom domains for small business and friends. Over the years the cost of running your own website has dropped to almost nothing, so there really isn’t an excuse not to have a website – plus would you rather point someone to facebook or your own sweet customized domain that helps get your name out there – doing whatever it is that you do.

[Getting a Domain]

The first step in a personalized website is getting a domain name. There are a million sites to register at, but my personal favorite is Weblaunching.net. They aren’t the cheapest ($8.00 for registration and an additional $5.00 for advanced DNS which you will need) but the site doesn’t do anything shady like lock down the domain for 7 days if you don’t buy it from them – unlike NetworkSolutions.com (who are assholes).

Try to snag your own name, because it looks good for resumes and also personal business. If you are running a business and it’s name is taken, try hyphens and different domains like “.net” and “.org” and some of the new ones like “.ms”. Once you have found a name you like, register it and then sign up for advanced DNS settings.

[Website Hosting]

I have built countless websites, and I have reached the point where I am just tired of doing the coding. There is ALWAYS going to be a newer better way to code a site but for normal end-users who just want a basic site there are plenty of free templates that will do just fine. My favorite? Google Apps Standard Edition. Google Apps (standard) is free and gives you: web hosting, emails, calendar, and document management.

You will need to add a CNAME record to your DNS management site, which is very easy (just follow the directions from google). On the weblaunching site, go into DNS Management and “create CNAME record”. When you add all your custom CNAME records, it should look like this:

If you are planning on using the custom mail that Google Apps offers, you will need to set up your MX records. In advanced DNS, go to the MX records section and make it look like this:

After a few hours, the DNS changes will propagate through the internet and the site should start working.

When it comes to websites, you have two options with Google: you can use their “Sites” service or you can use “Blogger”.

If all you want is a blog, you can easily set one up at Blogger (which is a Google owned site). Once you sign up for an account, go into your SETTINGS tab. Click on the PUBLISHING tab below and you will see an option to set a custom domain. If you don’t want to do anything special, just set it to www.(yourdomain).com. You will need to go back to your domain management company (hopefully weblaunching) and add a CNAME for www. You will need to set it to “ghs.google.com”. After a few hours the site should start working under your domain. If you plan on doing a customize home page, I recommend setting the blog to “blog.(yourdomain).com” – the other directions apply, but the CNAME will be “blog” instead of “www”.

If you want a more “robust” webpage but still easy to use, I suggest using Google Sites. I have my issues with the way some of the template system works, but overall, you can’t make it any easier to make a basic website. Select a template you like and start writing. In order to get the “www” to work with the sites engine, go to your Google apps dashboard and go into the sites section. There will be a mapping tab. When you create the site, you will give it a name, add that name to the mapping form, and put “www” (or whatever you want your site to be named) in the other section of the form. Go to your DNS management page and add the CNAME (for this example “www”) and within a few hours, your website will be up and running (just make sure you make the site public if you want everyone in the world to be able to see it).

This is how to get into the mapping section of Google Apps

Here is how to Map:

[Conclusion]

I think this is a good place to stop for now. Having your own custom is a fun and easy way to get your name out there, promote yourself for a new job, and share your knowledge with the world. Don’t be afraid of the website controls, mess around with all the settings, you can’t hurt anything – HAVE FUN.

Thanks for reading, I hope this was helpful.

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Computer Joey 101: Protecting Your Computer and Fixing Viruses

About the author: Joey Lombardi owned and operated a computer repair store named “Computer Joey” for several years. He has an “Information Technology” degree from Drexel University and several Microsoft MCSE certifications. Basically… he knows his shit.

I probably fix 5-10 computers a month for friends and family since I closed my computer shop. I don’t mind doing it because it forces me to keep up with the latest tools (for whatever reason, I am interested in it). With that said, I decided to put this information post together so I can point people to this and get them going before I really need to get involved. If you have a Mac or running Linux, you are too cool for school and probably don’t have many issues, but some of these tricks might still apply.

[PREVENTION]

The best way to avoid a problem on your computer is to never put it in a harmful situation. There are several free tools available to protect you before you even have a problem.

1. OpenDNS (Works for all computers)

DNS stands for Domain Name Server/Service and if you are on the internet, you are using it. DNS masks a web site IP address which is a series of numbers (example: 239.138.2.1) with a website name that everyone is comfortable with (like JoeyLombardi.com). Your internet provider probably has a DNS service and it’s probably just okay. There are a few organizations like OpenDNS and GoogleDNS that offers free enhanced DNS services.

OpenDNS and GoogleDNS provide faster name resolution and a few neat tricks like custom short cuts to web sites, but it also blocks websites that are known to contain viruses and other malware. If you have children at home, you can also set the service to block pornography at the router level, so the kids cannot bypass any of your crappy controls on the PC. Currently I am favoring OpenDNS over Google because it allows more customized services and is easier to use.

To use OpenDNS, go to the website and sign up for an account. Once you sign up, follow the set up directions for your router or home PC and you can even test your settings to see if they are correct.

Doing this also fixed an odd issue I was having with Facebook where I was getting re-directed to other sites like MySpace.

2. Spybot Search and Destroy

5 years ago, this program was the only excellent free tool that mattered. While others have improved the scanning feature, Search and Destroy does one thing the others do not: it protects the windows host file proactively which prevents shady re-directs. This is normally one of the first things I install when I get a new computer or a fresh rebuild of an existing PC.

Download and install the program. Perform the updates like it asks and then perform an immunization. Make sure do this every month or so for the latest protection.

3. Microsoft Security Essentials

If you are running McAfee on your computer, uninstall it right now. It is a total piece of shit. If you have Norton on your PC, make sure it didn’t expire 2 years ago (Norton works well, but overall I don’t like it because it is a total memory pig). There are some great free anti-virus programs (I used AntiVir for years), but Microsoft has a free, light-weight anti-virus program that works well. Since they built the damn OS, I am going with them.

4. Firefox Web Browser

Firefox is the best browser available right now. I am starting to really love Google Chrome, but Firefox is secure, customizable, and works well. If you are using IE or Safari – don’t (PS – Safari is the LEAST secure browser of the pack).

[REMOVAL]

Let’s say you didn’t see this post until after you are infected with something, how do you fix your computer once it is infected?

First thing to do is download and install Microsoft Security Essentials that I mentioned in the first section and if you can, download Spybot too.

If you still have an internet connection that is sort of working OR (if you don’t) go to a working PC, download the following programs and copy to a thumb-drive:

1. SUPER Anti-Spyware: Every time you download it, it comes with the newest definitions, this little bastard is light and mean on the malware. All you have to do is double click and it starts running.
2. Malwarebytes Anti-Malware: Go to the site and download the free version. This is the program of the day and works very well. Some spyware knows how to get around it, but overall it works like a champ.

Try installing the anti-spyware on the infected computer normal style. If you can’t, reboot the computer in safe mode (while the computer is starting up before you see the windows logo, hit F8 and you will have the option to start in safemode). Try running the programs in safemode. This should correct your problem (most of the time).

Once you get the computer to a healthy state, do the stuff I mentioned in the prevention section. Scans can take hours so be patient and make sure if you are using a laptop it is plugged in.

[BACK UP]

One final note. So many people use digital camera and don’t print out their pictures. You may have thousands of pictures and music files that you can lose if you don’t have a proper backup. For pictures, I upload all of my files to Google’s Picasa but there is also Flickr. I pay for extra storage so I can upload the best quality pictures I can, I would suggest doing the same.

Regarding music/MP3s, I copy my music to a spare hard drive in my computer and every 6 months I back that up on an external drive. For my documents, I have been using Google Docs to keep most of documents (in fact, I write them there now, so they are never on my PC in the first place).

I highly suggest you have a method to back up your personal files because you don’t want to lose it if you have to totally reformat your PC due to a virus or corrupted operating system.

Good luck!

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