Archive for May, 2007

Google Launches Offline Google Reader

Following the entry Tools for the Offline Blogger on the Road, we need to add a new feature, tool and it’s from Google this time. Actually it’s not a tool, but a new platform.
With the introduction of Google Gears the Mountain Viewers have released a platform made for laptop users.

What is Google Gears?
Google Gears, as a platform, offers the possibility to take web applications offline, but more interesting is that it will connect and synchronize your data as soon as you log on again.
Technical and abstract, but the launch of the offline Google Reader is the perfect example of what the platform can do : as soon as your connection is gone, Google Gears will allow you to continue reading your feeds, because now the last 2000 entries are managed on your local machine in its cache. Once you’re online again, it will mark all the feeds you’ve read as read and download the newest feeds.

But this is just the beginning. Google said they are working to take other applications such as Google Docs.

Google Gears is a small (700kb) tool, which needs to be installed locally.

With this, and the possibilities of Google Gears (Gears will support applications built on the Adobe Flex and Microsoft Silverlight platforms) and the excellent Google Browser Sync for Firefox, Google becomes even more THE platform for the traveler, notebook user on the road.

Posted on May 31, 2007 at by franky

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How To Fix The COM Surrogate Error in Windows Vista

Ever since the day I installed Windows Vista on my main desktop, I have had a rather annoying error message popping at rather irregular times.

Com Surrogate Error under Windows Vista

Closing the program helped, but there weren’t any Microsoft updates available, preventing the COM Surrogate Error to appear again after the next reboot.
Easiest to do was to deactivate DEP under Windows Vista for this service and the problem was tricked out. See our How to deactivate DEP in Windows XP SP2 and Windows Vista entry if you don’t know how to do this.

When I received my new notebook, first thing I did was format the Windows Vista Home Premium install and all the Dell utilities. After I installed Windows Vista Enterprise and all the software I need, I noticed that the COM Surrogate Error didn’t appear, which was weird because I installed exactly the same programs and the Dell QuickSet tool.
And honestly, I can’t imagine that a Dell utility would solve any kind of problems, so I started to analyze what was different between both computers. But then I remembered that I had updated two programs before I installed them K-Lite Mega Codec Pack and Nero. Both Windows Vista ready now. And after I removed the dllhost.exe entry from DEP the COM Surrogate Error was also gone.

After around 15 years as computer user, I should have known better. I think I will spend my afternoon updating some programs, because my Vista install on the desktop is some months old already and I am sure some programs could perform better. And it will only make me love Windows Vista even more.

Remember to update your software anytime a new release is available. Check regularly the manufacturer’s site if you’re having problems with Windows Vista, because a new and Vista optimized release might be available. ;-)

Posted on May 28, 2007 at by franky

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Intel Mobile Metro Notebook : Just Forbidden

As a long term Sony Vaio fan and user, who recently jumped ship and switched to a Dell notebook, today I was astonished, astonished by design.
It is no secret that Vaio notebooks always have been known for their design and biased as I am, I think they can compete with Apple lately when it comes to design. But what I saw today, astonished me.
Made me drool!

The prototype Mobile Metro Book by Intel and Zibra is just forbidden!

Lets forget Apple and design. This notebook totally rocks! And having a weakness for good design, if it hits the market with decent battery ergonomics, it’ll be mine!
No matter what!

Mine!
And the girlfriend can have the Dell! :D

Intel Mobile Metro Notebook Picture 1
Read more…

Posted on May 26, 2007 at by franky

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Tools For The Offline Blogger On The Road

Hardly ever do I go somewhere without taking my laptop with me. When I want to have a break, but still be productive, I go to a bistro and luckily most bistros in my neighborhood offer wireless already.
But sometimes I’m on the road and no wireless is available. Sadly here in UK data plan flat rates only flatten your budget and not the road to being online anywhere (yet).
This means that sometimes I end up in locations without internet connection. I am sure the thought of this alone already scares many among you, but let me tell you, there’s life… even without direct internet connection.
And with little preparation and some (offline) tools you can perfectly continue working without losing your productivity. Actually some tools might even make you life easier.

Lets have a look at a list of 4 applications every web worker, problogger, designer who prefers classic bistros over Starbucks, professional who spends two hours or more daily commuting in a train compartment or traveler on a cruise ship, charged a whopping $15 for half an hour of internet connection, needs.

  • Email : Thunderbird.
    Little needs to be written about the free open source and very customizable Thunderbird. Unless your employer requires you to use Outlook, and you really know how to take advantage of the power of Outlook 2003 and higher, Thunderbird is what you should be using.
    Customize your Thunderbird with one of the many available extensions.
    Start your email client before leaving and read your mail while offline. Prepare your answers on the road, ready to be uploaded as soon as you’re online again.
  • Feed reader : FeedDemon.
    Every modern webworker spends several hours daily reading feeds and every webworker has many entries waiting to be read. Power up your offline feed reader before you leave, wait until all the feeds are downloaded and catch up with your feeds during your commute, at the cafe behind a cappuccino or as morning literature on the ship. Even with 400+ feeds it will hardly ever take more than some minutes to download every entry.
    FeedDemon sadly isn’t free, but the $29.95 surely are worth it. I even FeedDemon when online, because it allows me to set the update rate manually for every feed or for categories. Over are the times when you only read entries when every one had already added their cents or pennies.
    FeedDemon also has an awesome caching engine you’ll love when you want to search for older entries.
  • Offline server : XAMPP.
    Anyone who’s into design, or programming sites based on PHP should have XAMPP installed. XAMPP brings Apache, MySQL and PHP to your notebook, allowing you to play with your design or the code of your sites offline. Have your own (test) server without being connected. Feel free to hack anything without crashing your site. XAMPP even doesn’t need to be installed, unzipping the package is enough. Install now your blog, WP, TextPattern, Expression Engine.
    If I mentioned that you don’t need to install XAMPP there’s a reason for : most blogger will with time play with other, probably also non-PHP blog platforms, such as Django. Especially with older versions the standard installation paths of certain server components might cause conflicts (If you want to run Django on the road, follow this tutorial as the required mod_python isn’t supported anymore under XAMPP).
    AFAIK every platform offers an offline installation kit.
  • Offline blog editor
    There are many offline blog editors available, and Thunderbird probably is the most unknown one. Almost every blog software allows you to post over email, why not take advantage of this and use your Thunderbird also as blog editor.
    Other recommended offline editors are ecto, the choice of most probloggers, but makes you $17.95 lighter.
    Qumana, a lightweight free blog editor, with several features such as integration of Q Ads, and available in French, Spanish and Dutch.
    Biggest problem, on WP, I’ve encountered with offline blog editors is that none supports Ultimate Tag Warrior (most do support Technorati tags though). If you’re über geeky, you can use a tool such as HeidiSQL to easily export your post and tag tables and import them on your localhost (the XAMPP install we discussed earlier on). When back online you synchronize both tables again, and every entry you’ve prepared on your localhost is up and running on your blog now.
    HeidiSQL requires remote database access, you might have to request this from your hoster.
  • BONUS : picture uploader for Flickr, Flickr Uploadr.
    Flickr Uploadr is not a tool for offline usage, but I couldn’t live without it anymore. As soon as I am online again, all I have to do is drag and drop the pictures I’ve taken into the Flickr Uploadr interface and only one click later all my pictures are being uploaded to my account. Easier is hardly imaginable and it saves me time.

Right now this is everything I can think of, but I might add more tools as I discover new ones.
Of course the compulsary tools such as Notepad++, SmartFTP, the best free FTP client for private usage, and The Gimp/PAINT.NET/Photoshop, depending on your budget, also belong to this list, but they are more of general need IMO.

If you can think of any other tools, leave a comment. :)

Posted on May 25, 2007 at by Laptop Guru

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Sponsored Post: Calling Cards by Comfi.com

Anyone who has travelled or who has been telecommuting and working through a mobile office would know the importance of connectivity. It’s not just important to be able to stay in touch wherever you are. It’s also important to be able to do that at the least expense possible.

Mobile phones let us roam freely around the country (and even around the globe). But this might be an expensive option. VoIP lets us call cheap. But sometimes you can only call other VoIP accounts or VoIP phones. Sometimes you are even limited within a certain VoIP network. There are free interconnection options, but these are also limited, and at times unreliable. I used to be a big fan of Skype, but I’m not so happy with how it’s such a resource hog (on my fast laptop at that!). I’m also an avid user of SIP calls through FWD, but sometimes I’m limited with the numbers (or other VoIP clients) that I can call.

Here’s one service that aims to solve all these problems. Comfi.com offers various options to connect, most notably with its calling card service. Comfi.com is primarily a portal where you can purchase calling cards and calling card credits from various providers.

Options include maintenance-free calling cards, which you don’t have to worry about. These won’t charge you a cent even if you don’t use it often. Some cards are refillable, meaning you don’t have to key in a new account number or PIN each time. Some cards even allow for PIN-less dialing, which means you can just dial a single string of numbers (or dial from memory) without having to key in a PIN when prompted. Some of these do have maintenance fees, though–usually $0.99 per week, which is deducted from the card’s balance automatically.

The comfi.com front page itself gives you an idea of how low the rates can go. These are usually in the one-cent per minute range, though the prices can go lower (like 0.9 cents per minute to some countries). That’s even cheaper than Skype calls!

Comfi Frontpage

Comfi.com also gives you choices when it comes to prepaid calling cards. Most would prefer something that can be topped of and that’s PIN-less. This means more convenience and less hassle. Some would prefer to go cheap–The maintenance-free calling cards would be best if you only use calling cards sparingly. But if you’re a heavy user, there’s also an auto refill option, which would charge your credit or debit card accordingly, when your card runs out of balance.

Comfi calling card options

One thing I like is that the site automatically computes the cost and call time available when I choose an option. For instance, this certain card gives me 16 hours and 50 minutes when I buy $10 worth of credits.

comfi-card-10.png

I get 168 hours and 21 minutes when I buy $100 worth. That means I get some discounts with volume!

comfi-card-100.png

When you’ve decided on a card to purchase (or refill), you are asked to log in to your account. Registration for first time users is easy enough, as you just have to key in your email address, name and a desired password.

comfi-reg.png

You’ll then be asked to input your telephone number for PIN-less dialing. This means whenever you dial from that particular phone, you don’t have to input your PIN. Comfi’s caller ID will identify you automatically and let your call push through. You can opt out of this feature, or input your desired telephone number later.

The last step is the checkout, in which you are asked to input your credit or debit card details. There’s an Auto Refill checkbox that lets Comfi automatically reload your card with $20 worth of credits (from your credit card, of course) whenever the balance reaches $5 or below. You have the option of paying directly by credit/debit card, or through PayPal or Google Checkout.

Once your transaction pushes through, you will then receive dialling instructions via email.

Aside from calling cards, another thing that I like with Comfi is the discounted cellular prepaid cards. You can top up your cellphone, if it’s on mobile networks like Verizon, Cingular, T-Mobile, and a handful of smaller carriers.

Another interesting feature I like is the Web call, which lets you input two telephone numbers you would like connected. Comfi does the calling, and you are charged the lowest possible per minute rate. You’re likely to save on costs if you’re calling abroad or a mobile phone.

Comfi also offers small VoIP-based PBX systems intended for home and small office use under the Turbopbx brand. Comfi also has its own branded PC to Phone calling service. It’s a bit like Skype, but you have to download Comfi’s own software. The rates are a bit higher than the per minute rates for the calling cards, though. But this service can be useful when you’re traveling and the only way to call is by using your computer and a broadband connection.

Comfi is an all in one solution for people looking for communications options. The highlight, of course, is the vast expanse of calling cards to choose from. Whether you’re a road warrior, or a casual traveller, or setting up a home office, be sure to check out Comfi’s offerings.

Posted on May 16, 2007 at by Laptop Guru

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