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Robert Alonso’s Thoughts on Technology and More…

Archive for the ‘Advice’ Category


Enabling the Partner Repository in Ubuntu 10.04 (Linux)

Posted by Robert Alonso under Advice, Software

I am in the process of setting up Alfresco Community Edition on Ubuntu 10.04. In case you don’t already know, Alfresco is an open source collaboration suite that is a replacement for the Microsoft SharePoint offering. It requires that you install the Sun Java Development libraries. These are not a part of the Ubuntu repository. You must update a file called sources.list and run a command to obtain access to the partner repository which includes the Sun Java JDK. Here’s how you do it:

1. sudo su root

(enter password)

2. vi /etc/apt/sources.list

3. Uncomment the two lines that I have bolded and italicized below:

## Uncomment the following two lines to add software from Canonical’s
## ‘partner’ repository.
## This software is not part of Ubuntu, but is offered by Canonical and the ## respective vendors as a service to Ubuntu users.
deb lucid partner
deb-src lucid partner

(save the file)

4. apt-get update Once this update is finished, you are ready to install the Sun Java JDK and all the other components that are required.

(I know that is entry is a bit more technical than most that I write about, but it is something that I am sure is holding up a lot of people. It took me a little while to figure it out.)

Robert Alonso
Alonso Consulting

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Amazon Opens Wireless Store

Posted by Robert Alonso under Advice, Hardware

I have to confess that I am a major fan of Amazon. They have consistently delivered on time and provided me with exceptional customer service. Whenever I have complained about anything, they have immediately taken action and not tried to blame UPS or some other third party. This is in sharp contrast with Borders. I recently ordered a book from them and was informed that it was on back order. After two months of waiting, I still had not received the book. When I complained and told them that I was cancelling the order the operator said she had to e-mail the warehouse and that I would get a confirmation once it was cancelled. No apology was offered and I also had to wait 10 days to get the credit back on a mailed gift card since the original order had been placed on a card. This is horrible! I expected to be credited immediately so that I could buy an alternate book that I wanted. Instead, I purchased that book and four others from Amazon. Amazon delivered the books the next day even though I was only eligible for two day free shipping. That is what I call service. I think in the world of ecommerce, Borders is doomed and should give up now.

The fact that Amazon is so good with books, computer parts and computers has gotten me excited about a new web site that they have put up for selling wireless phones and service plans. You can get to it by clicking here. I recently purchased a Mi-Fi router for my iPad through Amazon and can tell you that I was very satisfied with the transaction. It cost me $.01 with a two year plan. This was cheaper than the price on Verizon’s web site. You can get any of the following popular phones for $.01:

Motorola Backflip Android Phone Blackberry Bold 9700 HTC Tilt 2 Windows Phone Palm Pre Plus Phone
Samsung Mythic a897 LG Shine II GD710 Samsung Convoy U640 BlackBerry Bold 9000

If instead you want the Motorola Droid or HTC HD2 Windows phone, you can get the Droid for $19.99 as of this writing and with HD2 for $99.99.

Motorola Droid A855    

HTC HD2 Windows Phone

Happy shopping!

Robert Alonso
Alonso Consulting

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CardScan 800c = Excellent Support

Posted by Robert Alonso under Advice, Hardware, Opinions, Software

I purchased a CardScan 800c based on a recommendation from a colleague. I saw him scanning a stack of business cards effortlessly and asked him what he was using. He told me that he was using a scanner called “CardScan Executive.” He stressed the “Executive” part because he said that he had purchased a lower end unit from the company that he did not like. The “Executive” version is also known as the CardScan 800c.

The scanner is extremely easy to use. You connect it to your computer, load the software and start placing your business cards into it one by one. The unit will scan the card, save the image of the card and then recognize the relevant company, address, phone, fax, web site and e-mail fields. The data is automatically entered into the included organizer software. You can then verify that it has obtained the correct data by looking at it and the image of the card on the screen. From experience, I can say that it is over 90% accurate. It sometimes gets confused with elaborate logos that are placed on cards in lieu of the spelled out company name.

Once the data is in the organizer software you can have it synchronize with Outlook manually or automatically. This is a great feature and a time saver. I have it set up to automatically sync with

Outlook. Since I have my iPhone automatically synchronizing with my Outlook contacts, all it takes a simple and quick scan of a card to get all its data into my iPhone. This is how gadgets should work.

I am very happy with the scanner and with the results. I am even happier with the customer service that the company provides. Dymo is the company that sells the CardScan. My unit would not work after an upgrade to Windows 7 on my machine. I am not sure what happened to it, but after suggesting I try a new driver, reinstalling the USB cable and other things that I had already tried (I am a computer consultant.), the customer service representative thought that it might be a hardware failure. He sent me an RMA number so that I could return it to the company. Being without the unit for a few days and having to pack it up and send it were not an exciting prospect for me. However, the next day I was pleasantly surprised to receive a box from the company with a replacement unit and a prepaid Fedex slip to use for sending the defective one back. I unpacked the new unit, plugged it in and it has been working perfectly. I sent the other one back in the new unit’s box. That is what I call excellent service. I will buy products from Dymo before I ever buy from a competitor based on this excellent experience. Kudos to Dymo!

I wholeheartedly recommend this product.

Robert Alonso
Alonso Consulting

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Have You Heard Any Good Tiger Woods Jokes?

Posted by Robert Alonso under Advice, Service

The scandal surrounding Tiger Woods is unfortunate. His name, however, is an easy target for jokes. Some are more tasteless than others. My favorite is that he is changing his name to Cheetah Woods.  Since this is a mostly a technology blog, you are probably wondering why Tiger is relevant here. Strictly speaking, he isn’t, but getting news about him is.

I was recently asked by a friend what would be the best way to get notified of news stories surrounding Tiger Woods. Since I have been taking advantage of Google News Alerts for over a year, I knew that the easiest way to track any item of interest is to set a Google Alert on it. I have alerts on “health care reform,” my customer’s company names, my name, my wife’s name and many other topics and people of interest. Google dutifully sends me a daily e-mail with a recap of all the web, news and blog mentions of each subject. I told my friend about the alerts and you could immediately see that he grasped how useful Google Alerts could be for business.

If you want to set an alert on news about Tiger Woods go here. You can also use the page to set alerts on any other topic that might interest you.

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Upgrading the Memory on an Apple Mac Mini in 26 Steps

Posted by Robert Alonso under Advice, Hardware

The Apple Mac Mini comes in a variety of configurations and price points. If you buy the base model, it typically does not have enough memory to handle the Adobe Creative Suite. You will definitely want to upgrade it. Although it It is relatively easy to upgrade the memory, it looks daunting when you look at the Mac Mini case. The case looks like a solid piece of plastic with no screws or openings. The trick is to pry the upper portion of the case off the body. The upper portion is the section of the Mac Mini that has the Apple logo on it.

I am providing 26 easy steps to upgrading your Mac Mini. I hope this helps you. Please remember to be careful and gentle. The case is delicate and it is better to spend a little extra time to get it right than to damage your case.

Step 1. Buy Memory and get a spatula, small flat head screwdriver screwdriver and kitchen knife. One of the technicians her at Alonso Consulting was able to forgo using a spatula. However, I think it is easier with a small, sturdy spatula. Before you proceed, unplug all cords from the Mac Mini and place everything on a padded surface. You can use cloth for this purpose.

1. Memory & Apple Mac Mini

Step 2. Start opening case by prying it open with spatula or kitchen knife. Be careful and take your time. You do not want to break any of the plastic tabs that grip into the sides of the Mac Mini case.

2. Apple Mac Mini Case Opening 1
Step 3. Use hands to pry the case off once you have popped off the sides.

3 . Apple Mac Mini Case Opening 2

Step 4. You can also use the small screwdriver to hold a side up so that it does not clip back into place as you work around the case.

4. Apple Mac Mini Case Opening 3

Step 5. You will start to see the bottom separating from the top of the unit.

5. Apple Mac Mini Case Opening 4 
Step 6. Continue to move around the case until you pry it apart completely. Apply pressure away from the upper section with your fingers. Be gentle.

6. Apple Mac Mini Case Opening 5

Step 7. Once this is done, you can  lift the bottom section off the top and see the insides of the Mac Mini.

7. Apple Mac Mini Inside 1

Step 8. You can place the bottom of the unit which contains the electronics on a flat padded surface.

8. Apple Mac Mini Inside 2

Step 9.  Locate the wireless antenna. It is in one of the corners. Remove it gently without separating the cable from the rest of the unit.

9. Apple Mac Mini Wireless Card

Step 10.  Remove screws that are found on each corner. Be careful about placing these somewhere in the order that they were removed. They are not all the same length.

10. Apple Mac Mini - Remove Screws

Step 11.  Now lift the electronics off the bottom plastic very gently.

11. Apple Mac Mini Lift Motherboard 3

Step 12. You can lift from the side using your thumbs.

12. Apple Mac Mini Lift Motherboard 4

Step 13. As you lift, you will see the memory sockets. There are two SODIMM sockets.

13. Apple Mac Mini Lift Motherboard 5

Step 14. Here is a better look at the memory.

14. Apple Mac Mini Memory Area 1

Step 15. Remove the installed memory and replace it with your two SODIMMS.

15. Apple Mac Mini Memory Area 2

Step 16. You should buy memory that will max out your Mac Mini so that you will not have to do this again. I installed two 2 GB memory modules for a total of 4 GB on my Mac Mini. Please note in the picture that the modules were inserted sideways under the electronics with a lot of gentle care.

16. Apple Mac Mini Insert Memory 1

Step 17. Here is a closer look at the memory modules in their slots.

17. Apple Mac Mini Insert Memory 2 
Step 18. In this step, the technician is putting firm pressure on the two memory chips so that they snap in place. You will hear a slight click.

18. Apple Mac Mini Insert Memory 3

Step 19. Set the electronics back into place in the plastic case.

19. Apple Mac Mini Closing Up 1

Step 20. Replace the screws that you removed earlier.

20. Apple Mac Mini Closing Up 2 
Step 21. Replace the wireless card that you removed. Make sure that it clips into place and is not sticking out. If it is, then you will have problems putting on the cover or getting wireless networking to work.

21. Apple Mac Mini Closing Up 3 Wireless 
Step 22. Here is a picture of the Mac Mini electronics ready to be put back together with the upper portion of the plastic Apple cover.

22. Apple Mac Mini Closing Up 4

Step 23. Start by placing the electronics into the case as pictured. Make sure you line up the back potion with the cable ports correctly. You will not be able to close the case any other way, so this should be intuitive.

23. Apple Mac Mini Closing Up Case 1

Step 24. Apply gentle, but firm pressure all around the case. Please note that a padded surface was used to avoid scratches on the case.

24. Apple Mac Mini Closing Up Case 2

Step 25. For the final steps, squeeze the upper portion of the case down around the back with the connectors. For some reason, this section required more pressure.

25. Apple Mac Mini Closing Up Case 3
Step 26. You are done. Relax, plug in your Mac and watch a nice movie on it from iTunes.

26. Apple Mac Mini Upgraded

The same steps can be used to replace the hard drive. It is located behind the memory in the electronic core. I hope this has been helpful.

Robert Alonso
Alonso Consulting

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Windows 7’s Great Backup Utility

Posted by Robert Alonso under Advice, Software

Having lost Norton Ghost’s backup functionality when I upgraded to Windows 7, I began looking for an alternative that would keep my machine safe in case of a catastrophe. I have years worth of documents on my machine that I do not want to lose to a virus or hard drive crash. I looked at third party software and open source options and found that nothing is ready for Windows 7 yet.

Since Windows 7 is not being sold on retail shelves yet, one could argue that I was being a bit unreasonable in my search. However, you would think that someone had developed software for Windows 7 backups in advance of the release of the operating system. It turns out that someone did–Microsoft.

Windows 7 comes with an integrated backup program that will create images of your hard drive and will also backup files incrementally. I decided to give it a try. The following screen shots and text show how to set up the backup software.

Type “backup” in the search box that comes up when you click on the Windows Start menu. You will see a program called, “Backup and Restore.” Start it. Once you do, you will see the following image.

Click on “Set up backup.” A dialog box like the one below will be displayed as the software scans for backup destinations.


Read the rest of this entry »

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Microsoft Security Essentials

Posted by Robert Alonso under Advice, Service, Software

The bane of all PC users existence is malware, virus, trojan and spyware infections. It can make the PC unusable, send out hundreds of unsolicited SPAM messages to your friends and colleagues and/or consume a day or more of time to remove it. The lost productivity and tech support costs can be significant. Fortunately, there are commercial and free applications that do an adequate job of protecting against malware. Kaspersky, Trend Micro, Norton, McAfee and AVG are all good solutions.

Microsoft has finally decided that they should offer protection—something I believe should have been part of the operating system since the fist malware was ever detected years ago. The new offering is free and is called, “Microsoft Security Essentials.” You can download a free copy with updates from here.

I recommend that every reader of this blog install one of the anti-malware products mentioned here. If you don’t, one day you will discover that your machine is infected and that you have very little recourse but to call tech support. If you have tried the free support from companies like Dell, then you know that their solution is to do a system restore from the manufacturer’s CDs. You will lose your data if you do this. Paid support like the one my company, Alonso Consulting, offers will result in the removal of the virus and the saving of your data, but it will not be free. It is, therefore, in your best interest to install one of these tools now. What are you waiting for?

Robert Alonso
Alonso Consulting

Products mentioned:

Kaspersky Lab eStore

Trend Micro Internet Security 2010

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Norton Ghost Doesn’t Work with Windows 7

Posted by Robert Alonso under Advice, Software

One of my favorite tools for backing up my Vista machine was Norton Ghost 12. I had it set to automatically back up My Documents to an external drive on Tuesdays and to make a complete image backup of the hard drive on Fridays to the same external drive. The best part of this was that it ran in the background and was scheduled for times when I would be out for lunch.

Although not perfect, this backup strategy saved me from losing my Vista installation once. Something I installed, or a virus, caused my system not to start and to display a black screen with a blinking cursor. I took out the Norton Recovery Disk, booted from it and restored my entire PC from my last image backup. This process took a few minutes and left me with a completely functional PC.

Unfortunately, I do not have this safety with Windows 7. Norton Ghost 12 and even the newer version 14 do not work properly with Windows 7. The Windows 7 upgrade process even recommends that you uninstall them before upgrading. This is something that I ignored, hoping that the incompatibility would be minor and I could still use the program. I was wrong. It does not work properly.

The Symantec message boards have some messages saying that Norton Ghost 15 will include support for Windows 7. It will also feature user interface improvements and added functionality. There is no release date announced yet, but I can’t wait.

Robert Alonso
Alonso Consulting

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Snow Leopard Kills TivoToGo in Roxio’s Toast 10 Titanium

Posted by Robert Alonso under Advice, Software

If you thought that incompatibilities only occurred in the Microsoft-centric computing world, you were wrong. The new Snow Leopard upgrade (OS X 10.6) makes several applications not work correctly on the Macintosh. One that I had grown fond of came with Roxio’s Toast Titanium 10 application set. It is an application for transferring video from a Tivo to the Mac. It is appropriately named, “Tivo Transfer.” (Yes, I am a major geek who likes to connect all his electronic devices together.)

When you launch the application, it bounces a few times in the dock and then ends. If you look at the console, the error message that is displayed describes an error. It appears that the error is related to Apple’s removal of a Java to Cocoa interface. It is no longer possible to call a Cocoa framework from Java. Although this problem sounds irreparable, the good folks at Roxio have already made a beta fix available on their web site. The new version uses no Java and can then circumvent this issue. If you are a registered user, you can get the fixed version here.

Buy New! Toast 10 Titanium

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Windows 7 – Missing Microsoft Fingerprint Reader Support

Posted by Robert Alonso under Advice, Software

In a previous blog entry, I described how Microsoft Windows 7 recognized all my devices. This included the Microsoft Fingerprint Reader. In the past, I have used the reader to log into my accounting software and into a few web sites. This facilitated not having to type long passwords and helped me avoid typing passwords in front of other people. All I had to do is press one of my fat fingers into the device and I was in. I considered this a great productivity booster for under $30. I own two of these devices—one for home and one for the office. The office one also is a wireless mouse dock and came with a wireless Microsoft IntelliMouse. Well, Microsoft has decided that starting with Windows 7 it will not support these two devices. I am not sure what the reason is, but the Digital Persona software that is needed for the devices is supposedly not compatible with Windows 7. If you try to install the software, Microsoft Windows 7 blocks the install and says that the software will not work with Windows 7.

Not wanting to be left with two inoperable devices, I searched the Internet for possible solutions. There are some who claim that you can install the software and then set the application and associated DLLs (program functions in a separate loadable file) to run in Windows Vista or lower compatibility mode for all users on your computer. I have not tested this yet, because I first have to figure out a way to get Windows 7 to install the software in the first place.

If you are not into these convoluted workarounds, that may not work, there is an alternative. I found a mysteriously vague Microsoft web page that says that you can call a phone number if you are having trouble with the Fingerprint Reader. I called the number, worked my way through the various menu prompts to speak with a Microsoft representative and was told that Microsoft was discontinuing the product. The gentleman on the line then asked for my serial number and said that Microsoft would be mailing me a check for $39 in four to eight weeks. (I think this was the amount. I was in shock so I do not remember exactly.) That is not bad. It is more than I paid for the device. I am no longer angry at Microsoft, but I am also not sure why strange things like this occur during an upgrade—especially since the device is Microsoft branded. If anyone has additional information please email me or contact me through the link on the About page. You can visit the Microsoft page with the phone number here or you can call Microsoft at: 1-800-360-7561.

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