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Google Co-op

Google Co-op allows you to create customized search engines to fit your search interests. .NET developers, you may want to give the following pre-customized search engines a try:

For me, Co-op is a good idea but for now I will stick with just regular Google, at least for .NET related searches. I gave SearchDotNet.com a try and was initially underwhelmed my the number of matches. For example, searching for “EntryAssembly” using the DotNetSearch engine above yielded two pages of matches. Regular Google returns 387 pages.

Test Your Web Site in Internet Explorer 6 Using Microsoft IE6 Virtual Test Image

We all know that it’s a good idea to test our web pages in all popular browsers (to me that’s the various current versions of Internet Explorer and Firefox). It’s also a good idea to back up your data frequently, to listen to your elders, to not take a bath right after dinner, etc. Ok, so I admit I didn’t test my latest WordPress theme in IE6. While browsing the web on a friend’s PC, I discovered that my blog did not render correctly in IE6. It was broken in a major way. The right side bar completely disappears. Ouch!

I needed a way to test my site in Internet Explorer 6 at home, and since I have upgraded all of my PC’s at home to IE7, it seems like it’s a good time to give “virtual appliances” a try.

It took me about an hour to download the Internet Explorer 6 Application Compatibility VPC Image, install it, and have the virtual machine up and running. It helped that I already had Virtual Server installed. Yes Virtual Server works with Virtual PC disk images just fine. The current IE6 image expires on 4/1/2007 but I am sure Microsoft will replace it with another one when the time arrives. There is a blog entry on IEBlog about the image here.

Now I can reproduce the problem on my PC using IE6. That’s going to be the easy part I am afraid.

IE6

Update (2/8/2007): I fixed the IE6 problem. Apparently I had some sort of error in my sidebar.php file which messed up the HTML code, causing problems with IE6.

Google Reader Mini Review, Sharing Google Reader Items

I have settled on Google Reader as my RSS aggregator since they came out with the last upgrade (9/2006). My last aggregator was RSS Bandit. Google Reader has a slick interface and the article summaries are pulled/cached on Google server(s) so they usually come up pretty fast. Reader uses a lot of asynchronous rpc calls (known to some of you as AJAX) to provide a responsive experience. I love the ability to use keyboard shortcuts to do things such as moving to the next article, mark all items in a feed as read, etc.

Some people find the Google Reader Start Page useless… I sorta like it ok. Anyway, with the latest version, you can override the default Start Page with your own.

Another unique thing that Google Reader does is that it collects your reading statistics. It can tell you how many feed items you read in the last week/month out of the total items received. While this data is interesting in itself, I can see the potential of using it to automatically determine the most interesting items based on everybody’s reading statistics. If you can accurately track how long people spend reading certain items (hint: check the keyboard, mouse and scroll wheel movements), there is gold to mine there. Oops, did I just give away the main idea for my upcoming Web 2.0 startup?

One problem I have had so far is an HTML rendering issue in Internet Explorer 7 with certain feeds. I have not seen it lately so perhaps it has been fixed.

Google Reader

If you are already a Google Reader user, it provides an easy way to share interesting items from your feeds. When you run across something you want to share in Google Reader, just press shift-s or click on the Share link and the item will show up in your Public Shared Items web page. You can insert a clip into your blog to display the shared items there too. For Bloggers users, there is even an easier way.

Speaking of sharing items, you can also do the same thing with any of the social networking service these days. Del.icio.us comes to mind. With del.icio.us, in addition to Network Badges and Link Rolls, you can also have the ever more popular Tag Rolls. More ways to help the occasional bloggers out there add some signs of life to your blogs without having to actually write original/substantial/interesting content!

Portable Photo Storage – Experience with the Wolverine ESP 100GB

Wolverine ESP 100GBWho doesn’t have a digicam these days? I love all of my gadgets, especially my digital cameras. Lately I have been using the video features on them more and more. One problem with the taking videos with my digital camera has been storage space. With a 2 GB Secure Digital card, I can take about 30 minutes of video. That’s not a lot.

One solution that I have found to work for me is to use a portable photo storage device. These devices are basically portable hard drives. The fancier ones have built-in displays and flash card readers. After extensive research, I finally got a Wolverine ESP 100GB Multi Storage Device from Costco.com. I used it on my 3-week trip to Vietnam last December it and worked out very well. I was able to transfer all of my photos and videos from both of my cameras to the Wolverine with no problems. The Wolverine also works very well as a USB2 hard drive.

While the Wolverine ESP can also play video and music files, it is absolutely no good as a personal music player. The only way to play something is to use the built-in file explorer. And you can only play at a maximum a folder at a time. There is no way to play all items, all songs by a certain performer, play songs in random order, etc. Basicaly it sucks big time as a music player. I don’t know what Wolverine was thinking. If you want a real music player, get yourself an iPod (or the current iPod killer).

Update (8/28/2007) – There is actually a way to create playlists on the Wolverine ESP. It’s certainly better than nothing. Be sure to download the latest firmware (V 1.28) as well.

Live Spanish League (Primera Liga) Soccer on Dish/Voom Worldsport HD

Ok, I know I live in the ole US of A and nobody here gives two bits about the sport of soccer, but in case you are one of the few that do care…

RenaldinhoWatch Ronaldinho, Lionel Messi, and Van Nistelrooy live on Dish Networks/Voom Worldsport HD! U.S. soccer fans now can view live coverage of Spanish League soccer, starting with the 2006-2007 season. Read rews release here. Yeah! It’s about time we get some real soccer around these parts. More info can be found on Worldsport HD web site.

Update on Verizon Wireless Samsung i730 Pocket PC Phone

i730I wrote earlier about problems I have been having with my Samsung i730 Smart Phone from Verizon Wireless. I have been trying to back it up but I have not figured out how to do it yet. In the previous versions of ActiveSync, there was a feature to backup your device from there. It seems that the backup feature is no longer a part of the latest version of ActiveSync (4.1.0). I tried to see if there is a utility on the device itself but I cannot find any. Apparently after I upgraded the thing to Windows Mobile 2005, the included backup utility Sprite Backup got wiped out.

So now it seems there is no way to backup my phone without buying a backup utility. Don’t you just love it.

I am sure I will get to backup the device some day so I can go ahead and get a replacement from Verizon but for now I seem to have fixed most of the problems myself by removing my 2GB Secured Digital card from the phone. I do remember reading somewhere that Samsung only recommends not using SD cards over 1GB in capacity. Argg! There goes my plan for using the i730 as a music player as well! Perhaps this is my excuse for getting a separate mp3 player :-).

Flickr and Picasa Web

Following the crowd, I moved my photos to Picasa Web (my old photos were hosted on my custom developed ASP.NET site). Picasa Web actually works very well for an online photo album. It’s the best in its class. Check out the pictures of my son Dat Do’s Page.

After deciding that I don’t have enough time to maintain my own photos site (and still be feature competitive with all the “Web 2.0″ stuff out there) , I first looked into Flickr. I liked almost everything about Flickr, but the deal killer was Flickr’s inability to display images at higher resolutions than the paltry 500-pixel-wide default. Hello! It’s 2007. Everybody has a 24” wide screen monitor now (ok maybe not everybody)! Yes, the viewer can click on “All Sizes” to see higher resolution versions but that has to be done every time.

Picasa allows for a much better viewing experience. The images are autosized to fit your browser window! Hmm… why didn’t anyone think of THAT before (rolling eyes and shaking head)? It seems that Google is the only company that consistently comes up with ideas that totally make sense like this one. Perhaps there is a reason why Google stock price is in the stratosphere.

Canon PowerShot S3 IS

Powershot S3 ISI’ve wanted to get a more advanced Point and Shoot Digital Camera for a while now and yesterday I decided to pick up a PowerShot S3 IS, after a fair amount of research. I learned that this class of digicams is called “super zoom compact”. The main features that sold me on the S3 are the movie mode and the Image Stabilization. After playing with it last night and this morning, I think the model is a keeper. It definitely takes better pictures than my PowerShot SD450… but the SD450 is much smaller so it’s not really a fair comparison.

DPReview gives the camera a decent review here.

I did find one dead pixel on the LCD so I will go back to the store and swap for a different one. Check out some of the pictures I took with the camera here.

9/6/2007 Update

The Canon PowerShot S5 IS is the latest model in this series. The major changes are higher resolution (8MP vs 6MP), Digic III, larger LCD, and higher ISO.

Samsung i730 Problems

I got a Samsung i730 Windows Mobile phone several months ago from Verizon Wireless to replace both my iPAQ and cell phone. My personal experience with it has not been good. The device frequently freezes, requiring a soft reset. The audio on phone conversations are often intermittently cut.

I decided to call Verizon Wireless yesterday about it. The support person wanted to walk me through a hard reset but I was not able to back up the phone then so I’ll have to call back. He said if the problems continue after the hard reset then VW will send me a new phone. Perhaps a new phone will fix my issues. We shall see.

Update: I seem to have found a fix for the freezing issues.

Update 9/7/2007 – Links for Windows Mobile devices:

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