Saturday, November 05, 2005

Commercials That Are Cheese-Grater-On-Your-Balls Bad


Kitty Can Scratch sums up perfectly how I feel about those two knuckleheads in the Yoplait yogurt commercials... You know the ones. "This yogurt is blank-blank-at-the-blank good?" The funny thing is I actually like the yogurt. The other funny thing is if I saw either of these women on the street I'd swerve my car to kill her.

The Hamper Industry Is Screwing You!

Lisa's "Still More Things That Seem Obvious" is brilliant, as always, but I will disagree with her slightly on one thing: She says, "If you put your clothes in the hamper right when you take them off, they won't be on the floor in the morning." She's right... up to a point.

See, hampers are a scam! Don't buy one!

You have a hamper. A big metal one! It's called a washing machine. Just put your dirty clothes in there when you take them off, and you're good to go.

And that's about the extent of my wisdom.

Oh, What the Hell...

Let's have another picture of Heidi Klum:

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Tech Things I've Learned

Stealing from Lisa Arch's awesome series "Things That Seem Obvious" I am going to post some "Tech Things I've Learned" every now and then. Some of them may be familiar or obvious to you, but some may be new. I hope they're useful:

When you're joining a TiVo'd program in the middle, always hit the TiVo button before you turn on the TV. That way you'll be sure not to see any spoilers.

When you're in TiVo's "Now Playing" screen hit Enter and you'll get the choice of how you want to sort your shows. I prefer folders, so all my Daily Shows, for instance, are in one group and not scattered about.

Last TiVo trick, and it's one a friend just called this week to ask me about. Yes, it's true, there is a hack/easter egg that lets you add a 30-second skip to your TiVo. While you're playing a recorded program, hit Select, Play, Select,3,0,Select. You should hear three "pings" to let you know you succeeded. Now whenever you hit the Forward Skip button while watching a recorded program, you will jump 30 seconds ahead. But if you ever have a power outage or reset your box, you will have to program it in again.

Drill Oreo-sized holes in the back of a small apothecary cabinet, one for each drawer, then mount a power strip on the back Then you can charge small electronics inside the drawers out of sight. You can also store the accessories and dongles for each device in the same drawer.

If you are browsing the web using Internet Explorer, you are using a terrible and unsafe browser. Firefox is the new gold standard. Download it for free, use it, and never look back.

One tweak for Firefox: Go to Preferences, then Privacy, then Cookies, then check the box marked "for the originating web site only." This is the only hole in Firefox, and look how easy it was to plug. And by the way, as far as I know, you can't do this on Internet Explorer, so that should tell you something.

When your parents, or someone else similarly non-tech-savvy, calls you to say they're having trouble with their TV, nine times out of ten they are watching the wrong video input.

The tenth time, it is because they have an older TV, which might have reset its functions after a power failure and now needs to "relearn" that it even
has more than one video input. Just talk them through running the setup again.

Whenever you have a choice between using USB and Firewire, usually it's best to use Firewire. Especially with external hard drives.

When making any electronics purchase, do your research online, not in the store. Check out reviews at sites like cnet.com and ignore everything said to you at the store and you'll never buy a lemon.

Even better, never set foot in a store. Just go to Froogle and find the best price online. Even if the price is the same online as locally, sometimes the shipping is less than the sales tax and hassle would have been.

The best deal for frequent online shoppers is Amazon Prime. If you shop there, as much as I do, it's a steal: pay an annual membership fee, and 2-day shipping is free, overnight is $3.99, no matter how much you buy.

If you have an Audible account and an wi-fi Palm PDA or Treo, you can now download your Audible content to your phone without a computer, with a great new app called Audible Air. It's especially great for subscription programs, because you can set it to download automatically.

Speaking of Treos, the most miraculous software I've ever seen is called Clicker, and it allows over 90 different models of handhelds and cell phones to be used as remotes for Macs and PCs, controlling Itunes, Powerpoint, Keynote, Squeezebox, DVD players, VLC and so on. You can even remotely control your email app. It's remarkable. I have a Mac Mini as a media server, and Clicker lets my Treo becomes a bluetooth remote for iTunes.

Speaking of bluetooth, when you're out in public with your phone or your laptop, turn off the bluetooth. You'll be more secure, and you will save your battery.

Same goes for wi-fi. Unless you're at a hotspot and planning to use it, shut it off.

As I said in an earlier post, always email files to yourself. I keep gmail accounts for file storage, and regularly email drafts of documents to those email addressed as I revise them. At 2GB per free account, why not?

Any computer magazine will tell you that the cheapest way to speed up your Windows PC is a memory upgrade, and that is true when it comes to upgrades... but there's a free way. Go to START... RUN... and type "msconfig" without the quotes. In the Startup tab you will see a mind-boggling number of programs you don't need that load every time Windows time does (such as Real Networks and Logitech Messenger). Uncheck everything you know you don't absolutely need to have running all the time and click Apply. When you reboot you will have a noticeably faster computer.

You can also download Ad-Aware for free and scan your machine. I just did so for a friend's PC and found over 150 pieces of spyware and malware. Get rid of it, and pay for the real-time scanning upgrade while you're at it.

You can also speed up your Windows system by uninstalling anything with the word Norton in it. But that's just IMHO.

If you use a wireless controller with your Xbox, you can still talk on Xbox
Live. Just buy a bluetooth headset for non-bluetooth phones and plug the
transmitter into the memory card jack.

Text messaging from your cell phone can be a fun way to have a quick
conversation with friends, but it can also be a powerful tool using Google
Mobile
and other services like it. If you haven't tried it, do so and you'll be addicted.

And finally, because the fuel of tech is sugar, just text message "mcflurry" to 73260 and you'll get an e-coupon for a free McFlurry (at least in L.A.). The Snickers one rocks.

Friday, November 04, 2005

New TiVo Feature: Overlap Protection


Or call it "Must-See TV Insurance." Anyway, if you don't already have it loaded to your TiVo, you will soon. It's called Overlap Protection, and here's how TiVo describes it.

New TiVo service feature!
Get 'em both with Overlap Protection: In the past, if two of your favorite shows overlapped by a minute or two, you could only record one or the other. Now, with Overlap Protection, your TiVo box can record both shows back-to-back by clipping just enough from the end of the first show or the beginning of the second show, based on which has the higher Season Pass priority in Season Pass Manager.


Sounds good to me. Another reason why every home should be TiVo'd, and why this company should me making a lot more money than it is.

Just make sure you go to Season Pass Manager and rank your priorities accordingly.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

My Answer to Moore's Law

I've come up with a bit of wisdom in response to people who ask me to help them pick out a computer.

Call it Mike's Law:

"The less you know about computing, the better and more
powerful a computer you should buy."

Of course this is within reason... We're not necessarily talking Voodoo or
Alienware here. (and I use both of those as examples of absolutely kick-ass PC's I'd be proud to mention here every day as being "kick-ass PC's" if it would get me free gear.)

But people who know nothing about computers tend to buy cheap, underpowered
computers full of no-name parts with bad warranties, when they're exactly
the kind of users who won't want to pop open the case and start swapping
out and modding and tinkering.

If you're a computer novice, buy the best computer you can afford.

Now then: Mac or Windows?

After fifteen years using Windows I am now firmly a Mac
user, and I would suggest the same for anyone who wants a hassle-free, safe
multimedia experience.

But here's the best answer. Find the person you know best who knows the
most about computers who likes you the most and lives closest to you... The
person who would always do you a favor if you asked. Ask that person what
he or she uses, because when you have problems, that's who you should call
to come over and help you.

And don't forget to take them out to a nice dinner every once in a while.
Your geek friends have to eat, too.

By the way, there is a companion rule to Mike's Law, and it's called Markowitz's Law: "The less someone knows about computers, and the more of your time they take in getting your advice on which computer to buy, the more likely it is they will then completely ignore that advice and buy the wrong computer anyway."

But that's a story for another day.

Meanwhile, did I mention that Alienware and Voodoo make kick-ass PC's?

I've Never Tasted It...


...but Skyy just might be my favorite vodka.


I Risk Being Stoned as a Tech Heretic: Don't Back Up Your System!

We hear it all the time, we've heard it all our tech lives. Back up, back up, back up. We hear the stories of people who wish they'd backed up, we get nervous that we don't back up as much as we should, we buy this back-up product or that...

I'm going out on a limb. Maybe we shouldn't back up our systems at all.

Now I'm not talking about data. Back up your data. ALWAYS BACK UP YOUR DATA. By that I mean your pictures, your documents, your emails, etc. But you don't need a back-up suite for that. You can just drag 'em onto a CD, or a thumb drive, or even onto that Ipod Shuffle you bought but now don't need because the Nano is so damn amazing.

Or do what I do: just start a Gmail or Yahoo mail account or two or three. Name them something like mybackupphotos@gmail.com or whatever's available and appropriate. And start emailing things like a crazy monkey. Email documents to one of these accounts, Email the serial numbers for your shareware programs, forward important business or personal emails to these accounts, make it part of your routine. Set up a Rule in Outlook or Mail or whatever program you use, so that emails from certain people or with certain subject lines will automatically get forwarded to those accounts. Set it and forget it.

When you back up your system, what you're doing is making an exact copy of the spyware, adware, cookies, bugs, dead registry entries, and all-over crap that might have helped make your system crash in the first place. It definitely was what made it run so slowly.

So back up your data regularly, and if your system crashes, take it as an opportunity to do a fresh, clean install, and marvel at what will seem like a brand new, super-speedy computer. Then use the next year or so to clog it up again with downloaded animated screensavers and buggy card games.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

America's Next Smeared Faces


I am finally getting to catch up on my backlog of recorded America's Next Top Model, and I am reminded of my least favorite aspect of the show: the process by which it takes beautiful, crazy-hot women like Ashley, above, and smears their faces with hideous, multicolored schmutz in an attempt to render them unlovable (see below). It is high time that straight men picked up torches and slingshots and took the fashion industry back from ugly women and gay men. These evildoers have been allowed to poochify our babes for too long.

Hotness is our most precious natural resource. It's a tragedy to waste it.

I Miss "House Calls" Already


Hi, sorry I've been AWOL, but I've been away for a couple of days, and I haven't quite figured out how to make the mobile blogging work.

Anyway, I drove to Vegas and back, and to keep me company on the drive I had an Ipod filled to bursting with podcasts. I was particularly psyched to enjoy the last few weeks of "House Calls" the Big Brother talk show (archived and available in video and podcast form), hosted by the phenomenal Gretchen Massey and Marcellas Reynolds.

Now you are all very lucky that I didn't have this blog during the run of Big Brother 6, because that show was my obsession. I would have written of very little else but how much I hated the Fiendsheep, and how much I wanted the Sovereign Six to kick their smug, duplicitous asses.

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you really missed something. Seldom in reality TV... Hell, seldom in TV at all do you have two teams so clearly divided along the lines of good and evil. And let's not forget they divided themselves into those teams. And that the evil team actually thought, all the way to the end and to this day, that they were on the side of the angels. It made for fascinating TV.

Just a sampling of what made it so interesting? Nothing in the show was what you might expect... Unlike other reality shows, no one fit neatly into a stereotype. In fact, stereotypes were flipped on their ears, then flipped again.

Eric, a.k.a. "Cappy", the firefighter devoted to his children? An asshole! Howie, the male stripper, unabashed chauvinist and weatherman-wannabe? The most likeable doofus in the galaxy. James, the self-professed scheming liar? Oddly faithful to the end. Jennifer, the all-American cheerleader? A conniving bitch you'd gladly hit in the face with a socket wrench. Ivette, the fiercely independent lesbian? Pathetically clingy with any man who paid attention to her, and a gullible idiot who believed whatever she was told.

You'd expect Maggie, the ER nurse, to be a noble figure... but she was a cold, scheming villain, despised by America. While Kaysar, the Iraqi-born Muslim American defied red state expectations by being the most beloved (and loved by the ladies) contestant in the show's history. And believe it or not, the picture below is of Janelle, the most brilliant player in Big Brother history!

Photo from Bedazzled! Blog

And through it all, whenever America got to vote for a reward for one of the teams, and voted for a reward for the Good Team... the Evil Team fumed. They cried. They cursed. They blamed everyone but themselves. One of the more deluded players, April, actually said that if America didn't see that her team was better than the other team than the people that watch this show are "pieces of shit." Way to win over the crowd, April! And this from a woman whose stated goal was to emerge from the show with a K-Mart endorsement deal.

(Hilariously, April spent the entire summer drawing a sneering distinction between Janelle's plastic surgeries and her own, implying that somehow there was a difference between vanity and... what? Wanting to look good? But that was the way the Fiendsheep worked.)

Anyway, through it all, every day, Gretchen and Marcellas were right there, every morning, spinning it all with good humor and a wonderful charm and energy that most morning talk shows can only envy. If this were a TV show, it would be my favorite TV talk show. These two were easy and funny, delightful, unpredictable... comfortable without being boring. In short, everything you'd want a broadcast partnership to be.

But on the way home from Vegas, listening to what might have been the best "House Calls" ever, I heard the sad news that it was the last show until next year. I think that CBS is really missing a bet here. They spent months getting me in the habit of going to cbs.com every day, and now they're telling me no thanks, don't bother, nothing for you to see here, move along? Doesn't make sense.

If they asked me (which they didn't) they would keep Gretchen & Marcellas on, doing a weekly webcast, chatting about the week's shows on CBS-TV. Highlights of the week past, what's coming up, phone and in-studio interviews with CBS stars, promos for sweepstakes and series premieres... It can't be that expensive to do a weekly webcast. Why stop?

Am I crazy? CBS has spent months giving its website two extremely talented and easy-to-look-at faces. Why shut off the lights on Gretchen and Marcellas when we're not done looking at them?

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Monday, October 31, 2005

Still Time For Another Halloween Costume


If there's one thing kids love, it's pretending to be mixed up with the Mob.

You can pick up this costume at BuyCostumes.com. It doesn't say if it comes with a cauliflower ear and a hotplate for cooking all your meals on.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

I Am Loving Alias This Season!


Aw, who'm I kidding? I'm just loving the new cast member, Rachel Nichols. I mean, sure, she's hot... but she's also beautifully playing a character whose world has collapsed around her, a sort of doppelganger for Syd... and Rachel has proven to be a much more interesting partner for the always-amazing Jennifer Garner than Nadia (a.k.a. Frau Farbissina) ever was.

Things Lisa's Learned

In my pal Lisa's blog she has a few life lessons, big and small, that she's learned. Some I knew, some I didn't. She knows stuff. Check it out at What does Lisa Say About It? ("Things That Seem Obvious")

A Brilliant Mix of Pets and Technology


This remarkable invention uses an image-recognition program to determine whether or not to allow the owner's cat, Flo, in through her electromagnetic cat door. A camera snaps a silhouette of Flo's head and sends it to the computer, which instantly analyzes the picture.

If Flo has a mouse or bird in her mouth, the door won't open. If she's behaving herself and flying solo, the program recognizes that her head is shaped as it should be, and opens the door for her. The whole process takes less than a second.

Learn more about the program at the Flo Control Project website. It's amazing.

McClellan: Libby Resignation Leaves White House "One Asshole Short"


Embattled White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan announced to a shocked press corps that the indictment and resignation of Irving Louis "Scooter" Libby, Chief of Staff to the Vice President, "has unfortunately left the Administration and the President in a situation where we are one Asshole short."

McClellan noted ruefully that Libby's troubles "couldn't have come at a worse time. With Harriet Miers, we lost The Brown-Nose, and now our Asshole is gone."

McClellan went on to reassure reporters and the nation that "Vice President Cheney will, for the time being, continue as The Scumbag while filling in as Asshole as best he can. And of course it's a huge relief that The Douchebag wasn't indicted, despite all the press speculation."

McClellan noted that Libby's indictment was a personal blow to Cheney. "Sure he regrets losing Scooter under these circumstances, instead of taking the fall for Halliburton stuff as was originally planned. But we're confident we'll find someone new soon. Maybe, and I know this may be pie-in-the-sky stuff, someone who can be both Asshole and Prick. The American people deserve the best."

Asked if the President had sanctioned his remarks, McClellan said, "I can only say that The Idiot is looking forward to putting all of this behind him and spending a relaxing holiday season with The Twat and The Drunken Sluts."

Later that afternoon, a visibly shaking McClellan returned to the press room and denied having made the remarks at all, saying only that "we need to refrain from commenting until the investigation is concluded and all the facts are in." Asked what "investigation" he was referring to, McClellan appeared uneasy, then said, "The, um, investigation. You guys know. The investigation?"

Pressed further, McClellan amplified his remarks, saying the investigation in question was "y'know... the one about the retarded guy chained up in the basement."

When asked if this was a reference to a storyline on the popular ABC television show Desperate Housewives, McClellan feigned a seizure. He was carried out by paramedics, and remains in guarded condition.

The White House and ABC could not be reached for comment.