Good-bye PC Magazine (Print Edition)

This morning it was announced that the print edition of PC Magazine will end with the January 2009 issue. Former Editor-in-Chief Michael Miller blogged about this on

Memories, memories. I started at PC Magazine very shortly after Michael Miller became Editor-in-Chief in 1991. In fact, my first interview was with the previous Editor-in-Chief, Bill Machrone.

I confess to mixed feelings about the end of the print edition.

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Configuring Pidgin from Behind a Firewall

PidginI use the open source, instant messaging client Pidgin to connect to multiple IM services at once. From my home computer, I had no problem configuring the program to work with AIM, SMS messaging (my cell phone), MSN Messenger, Google Talk, and Yahoo Messenger. But at work I encountered firewall problems with the last three.

Here’s how I was finally able to connect (listing only the changes from the default). I’m running Pidgin 2.5.2. All the setting changes are on the “Advanced” page of the account setup dialog. Of course, what worked for me might not work for you, but hopefully it will help.

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The Immigration Issue No One Talks About

256px-Statue_of_Liberty_7Why do so many people attempt to enter the U.S. illegally? The answer is not just that this is a desirable country to live in. That doesn’t explain why, for example, so many Mexicans risk their lives crossing a desert on foot rather than getting a proper visa. Why not come here legally?

I asked this question of a very nice man who has worked at a store in my neighborhood for years, and came to this country by risking his life walking through the Mexican desert. (The trick to survival, he said, is to cross in winter when it’s cooler.) Why did he do it? The answer is simple – there’s no way he could have gotten a visa. Coming here legally was not one of his options.

  • Poor people looking for opportunity cannot get visas to enter the U.S.
  • Desperate people fleeing persecution cannot get visas to enter the U.S.

If you’re educated and have a job waiting for you at a big American company, you can get a visa. But if you’re a poor Mexican who wants to come to this country for the opportunity it offers for education and advancement, forget it. If your life is in danger in your home country, you can die waiting for permission to enter the U.S.

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A Connection to the Ship that Rescued 705 Titanic Survivors

My great grandfather emigrated to the U.S. from Hungary in 1907 with his wife and two young sons (one being my grandfather). In 2002, my mother found his passenger record on the Ellis Island Web site, and forwarded it to our family in email. It contains a detail we didn’t notice at the time.

The ship that brought my great grandfather to America was the Carpathia. Less than five years later, this same ship would answer the Titanic’s desperate distress call.

To maximize speed, Carpathia’s captain cut off heat and hot water to the cabins and diverted all available steam to the engines. The ship finally reached the Titanic lifeboats at 4am, and rescued 705 survivors.

And there’s video – video of the very ship that brought my great grandfather to the U.S., as it returned to port with Titanic survivors.

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2 Elegant Little Programs

I’m still trying to decide how I will use this blog, now that computer technology is no longer my main focus. But yesterday I installed the latest WordPress software, imported posts from my old MovableType blog, and wrote an .htaccess file to preserve the old MT links, so I have computer technology on the mind. Here are two great utilities – one for programmers, one for everybody.

What Color Is That?

"Color Cop" color pickerI use Dreamweaver 8 (Macromedia version) for Web development and while I like it a lot, it’s a resource hog – so much so that I can’t launch my bitmap editing program at the same time to access its color selection feature.

I wanted a color selection program with a tiny footprint – something that does everything I need but nothing more. After looking at over a dozen of them, I finally found one that’s just about perfect – all the more so because it’s free: Color Cop. (Voluntary donations are accepted.)

Color Cop lets you identify any color on the screen, enter a color code to see what it looks like, use a standard Windows color selector to find a color, determine whether a color is Websafe, snap to the closest Websafe color, and sample colors using multi-pixel averages. It’s nicely designed, intuitive to use, and the entire executable is just 96K.

The elegance of Color Cop reminded me of another very elegant program I found that has nothing to do with programming.

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Experiences of a First-Time Canvasser

First published on DailyKos, 28-Sep-2008.

Until yesterday, I approached politics as a spectator sport. I watched every “game”, yelled at the TV in support of my candidate, and complained bitterly when the best person didn’t win.

But this election is too important to spend on the sidelines. If Obama doesn’t win, I truly am afraid for this country. I’m not sure we can survive four more years of the last eight years. I’m not sure the world will ever forgive us for passing on our best hope.

So yesterday, I did what is practically inconceivable for someone like me who is essentially an introvert. I joined the ranks of Obama volunteers and went canvassing in northeast Philly – a swing area. I knocked on doors and talked to strangers. It was very scary at first, but that evaporated over time. I had fascinating conversations at house after house. I learned a lot about the electorate in this country, and I was able to convince some voters that Obama really can help get this country out of the hole it’s in.

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Fix for Windows Update 5 Errors

Ever since Microsoft pushed Version 5 of Windows Update onto my XP SP1 system, I have been unable to access Windows Update – until just now. I found it!! I just accessed Windows Update and successfully downloaded and installed updates to my system.

The particular error message I was getting was 0x80072F78 (appeared when Windows Update tried to find the updates for my system), but I think this solution will fix the problem on systems getting other error messages as well. If your error code starts with “800”, I think there’s a good chance this solution will help.

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Creating an Online Store

To select wisely from the blizzard of options, you must understand the basics.

This is an expanded version of my article in PC Magazine on creating an online store, posted here due to popular demand. I received many requests from readers for additional information.

Online stores have become an essential element of doing business, but selecting wisely from the blizzard of options is difficult without an understanding of the basics. Depending on your choice, you can pay anywhere from 2% to 20% of each sale, not to mention monthly, annual, and startup fees.

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For Developers: How to Get Crash Reports on Win9x/2000

My article on XP’s Windows Error Reporting system for O’Reilly’s was targeted towards end-users, so a developer section on how to get crash reports on non-XP systems didn’t really fit. Still, it’s interesting for developers, so here is the section that was cut. For background, please refer to the published article.

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How to Install Movable Type

This article was originally posted in a MovableType 2.661 blog – now imported into WordPress, which is much easier to use.

The Web Log you are now reading was created with a server-based publishing system called Movable Type. Installing server-based software isn’t difficult, but it requires many more manual steps than installing a program on your local computer. Before you can run an installation script, you must first put the files in the correct places on the server, set the correct permissions, manually create any necessary databases, and correctly specify configuration parameters.

This is not hard to do if the software comes with precise, complete, and clearly written instructions. But unfortunately, the Movable Type installation docs are not as good as the software itself. So my first blog entry is a tutorial on how to install Movable Type, focusing on the parts that were unclear to me when I was doing it.

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