Monday, May 19, 2008

Connecting a TomTom 720 GPS to a MacBook Pro with Parallels

Most USB devices work fine with my MacBook Pro and Parallels. And I can switch USB devices seamlessly between Mac OS X and Parallels. The only device that I've had trouble with is my TomTom 720 GPS. For some reason, this device always auto-disconnects in Vista under Parallels before I can do anything with the TomTom.

Here's a trick to make it work though. Before launching your Parallels OS, open the Configuration/USB panel, and set your USB support to "Connect to Guest OS". This means that any USB device will automatically be connected to the Guest OS (Vista in my case).

Now, when I plug the TomTom 720 into my Macbook Pro, it is immediately recognized in Vista, and works as expected.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Humanitarian Grid Computing

IBM is supporting an effort to used unused processing time from hundreds of thousands of computers to develop stronger and more nourishing strains of rice. This type of computing "...packs as much power as the third most-powerful supercomputer in the world..."

Ram Samudrala, a 36-year-old PhD who leads a 30-member research team, says it would have taken them decades to complete their rice research using the computing power at their disposal. With access to the World Community Grid, he says, he could generate results in less than two years.

For obvious reasons, I won't install this on any work-related computers. But I'm about to install it on the PC in my kitchen. So the kids can be researching rice while playing Roller Coaster Tycoon.

This isn't a new idea though...I remember loading something similar several years ago to help in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. Check out SETI@home.

SETI@home is a scientific experiment that uses Internet-connected computers in the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Freecycle - Support Reuse! Toilets not welcome

In the past, I used Craigslist's free category to give away items. But many times, I'd have to sort through a lot of e-mail from people that don't live anywhere close to me...and they would need to drive from the other side of the city just to pick up the item. With the price of gas, that just didn't make any sense. People just weren't looking at the location before responding to pick up the item.

So I joined the Freecycle Network:

The Freecycle Network™ is made up of 4,363 groups with 5,106,000 members across the globe. It's a grassroots and entirely nonprofit movement of people who are giving (& getting) stuff for free in their own towns. It's all about reuse and keeping good stuff out of landfills. Each local group is moderated by a local volunteer (them's good people). Membership is free.

I like Freecycle better because they have very active local groups. My town's group has almost 3000 members. So if I post something, the people that are responding are usually within a few minutes of my house. You don't get a tax deduction for the donation. But its easy...and people come to me to pick up the items on my schedule.

Items I've Freecycled:

  • Crib Mattress

  • Toddler Bed

  • FAA approved Baby Flight Safety Vest

  • Game Boy Advance SP

  • Lots of Baby Toys

  • Toddler Swing

  • Old School 27" TV

  • Kids Shoes

  • Framed posters

The Game Boy elicited the biggest response. I had almost 50 messages in less than a hour after posting. That seems logical.

There were 2 items that received zero responses:

  • Sterling Brand Toilet (like new!)

  • Encyclopedia Brittanica Set

Out of everything I've listed, its the Toilet that's actually worth the most (I looked it up, its almost $200 brand-new. And this toilet is hardly ever used.

Surely somebody needs a replacement toilet. But I suppose free has its own set of values. And toilets carry an "ick" factor.

And the Encyclopedia is just a reflection on reality. Nobody wants them. They aren't worth the paper they are printed on. I can't even give them away.

Hotmail users can help a charity just by sending e-mails!

Last night while trying to fiddle with my Hotmail options, I noticed a new configuration titled "i'm making a difference". Curious, I clicked on it. It turns out that Microsoft is participating in a program which shares advertising revenue gained from e-mails with a charity of your choice! And its free to participate.

So if you're a hotmail user, consider enabling that option and giving some money to charity just by sending e-mails.

I'M is a new initiative from Windows Live Hotmail that shares a portion of our advertising revenue with some of the world's most effective social cause organizations. For every mail you send from Windows Live Hotmail, you help address the issues you feel most passionate about, including poverty, child protection, disease, environmental degradation and animal protection....You'll be making a difference and there's no charge to you.

The program is called I'm making a difference. As of May 14, 2008, the site claims $1,494,480 has been raised so far.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

When Apple wins, Microsoft wins too!

I stumbled on this article that shows that when Apple wins...Microsoft wins too!

Microsoft's Mac unit is set to disclose on Tuesday that copies of the new Office for Mac 2008 are flying off the shelves at three times the rate of its predecessor. The company wouldn't disclose sales numbers, but said the sales are the highest in the 19-year history of the unit.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

My love affair with TIVO is just about over...

I was one of the biggest and most vocal fans of TIVO for many many years. Several friends bought TIVO after seeing demonstrations in my home. And I currently still have 3 active TIVO boxes (a lifetime Series 1, and two Series 2).

But over the past year, TIVO began to do evil things to me....

My problems started last year, when TIVO mysteriously increased the monthly billing rate for my Series 2 system from $6.95 to $12.95 WITHOUT NOTIFYING ME! They had my credit card, so this silent increase continued for several months before I noticed it.

It took several phone calls just to get things back to the way they were. A credit was given, and a correction was made so everything should have been business as usual.

But, one month later, $12.95 again. I was upset enough that I tried to leave TIVO and purchased an entirely new high-end HP Vista Home Premium box with Windows Media Center. Luckily for TIVO, Media Center is total garbage and proved to be unreliable.

In full disclosure, there was a clause buried in the TIVO multi-box discount agreement. If a TIVO box with a lifetime subscription is inactive for 180 days, they assume the box is no longer in service and discontinue the multi-box discount. Reconnecting the lifetime TIVO after 180 days is not good enough. Apparently their Server software can turn the discount off, but it has trouble turning the discount back on. Nice.

Technically, I thought I was doing TIVO a favor by not taxing their analog phone lines with regular Series 1 phone calls. But TIVO sees things differently, they need to have it make regular phone calls. So now - in order to make TIVO happy - my analog Series 1 box sits alone in a quiet room. It's exclusive purpose in life is to make periodic phone calls to TIVO so it can "phone home". I hope TIVO is happy now.

My newest beef with TIVO has to do with their TIVO Desktop software. In prior versions of TIVO Desktop, Desktop included a feature for free which lets me transfer MPEG files from any PC in my house to my TIVO Series 2 boxes through my LAN. This effectively gave me a networked video-on-demand system! I loved this set-up.

But in a recent TIVO desktop upgrade, they moved this feature from the free version to the Plus edition. So now I must pay an additional $24 for a feature I've had for the past couple years. Unlike a typical software upgrade, this upgrade removed features. Transferring files has ZERO impact on TIVO servers because its completely contained within my LAN. So now do I stay with TIVO and upgrade to Plus? Or leave TIVO out of principal for removing a feature and expecting me pay $24 to get it back.

Maybe I'll build a MythTV Box....