Finally cut the cable cord. How I did it.

“We’re sorry that you’re canceling your service.  Can we ask the reason you are canceling service with us? If it is the price then we can provide you with some promotions for valuable customers”. That’s what the cable customer service representative said from their sales script. This only made me more frustrated. If you could have offered me a better deal shouldn’t I already get it instead of having to threaten to cancel. But I digress.

 

I had gotten the triple play package which included internet, phone, and cable tv including sports and some premium channels. I found myself flipping through a few hundred channels, a dozen of them music, and found that I was giving up and staying on a certain channel or just going to Netflix to watch a favorite show. At first, it was a reasonable cost, but once the “promotion” was over the price rockets up. What I came to realize was I was really paying for services that I was not using. So began my search to replace the service with free or lower cost solutions.

Cutting Phone Service

 

The old phone I had connected was collecting dust and would ring once a month and it was wrong numbers. I primarily use my cell phone to make and receive phone calls but I felt comfortable having a landline “in case of an emergency”. I only gave this number to a handful of people and of course, they would call my cell phone first. I realized at some point that the phone ran over the internet and if you lost internet you lost the phone service too. So my cell phone was actually better in the case of an emergency since it ran over cellular service. But what if I had lost/broken my cell phone. How could I get in touch with people? The same way the cable phone works; over the internet. Services like Google Voice, Skype, and Amazon Echo let you make free calls and texts over the internet.

 

Cutting the cable cord

The cable company touts all the channels that they have available, but I found that essentially I was not watching the station, I was watching certain shows on that channel. Identify the shows that you enjoy and I bet you would find them on streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Sling, Amazon, or Youtube.  You don’t need to have all these services since you would end up just paying the same amount that you were paying for cable in the first place.

If you want live TV, there are a dozen or so channels that are available “over the air” that you can tune into using an antenna. Several antennas are available from Amazon that will get you these channels by connecting directly to your television.

Internet

Of course, you will need the internet for all of the solutions mentioned above. They provide the flexibility to watch the shows you want from anywhere you can get internet. This is where you can use the promotional strategy to your advantage. Contact another internet provider in your area and get the “internet only” promotional package. If you are in a city then there should be a few internet providers available in the area. They might sign you up for a year or two, but you would be saving a lot more than before. You can do the same trick with the other providers after your contract is up to keep cost down. If you are in a rural area then satellite internet may be the only option. In rare cases, you might need DSL from the phone company.

Dreamweaver Alternative – Microsoft Expression Web 4

Using Adobe Dreamweaver to develop websites is very convenient but expensive. Microsoft Expression Web 4 is a free download that has many of the features that are found in Dreamweaver. Edit code your code and see the results in the preview pane. Setup an FTP site and upload directly to your web hosting site. Support for ASP, PHP, HTML, and JSP for whatever your application needs making site building easy and free. I remember the days of Microsoft FrontPage but Microsoft Expressions is far off from that. I enjoy being able to switch back and forth from code view to design view easily. Whether you are just starting out in web development or a seasoned pro, Microsoft Expressions is worth a look.

Clonezilla good alternative for Symantec Ghost

If you clone drives for desktops or servers you are probably familiar with Symantec Ghost program or TrueImage.  if you are on a budget Clonezilla is a good alternative. It is free and opensource software that allows you to copy an entire computer hard drive from one computer to another hard drive creating an exact copy of the computer.

This is useful to just have a backup of your computer or if you are running a business and need to deploy many identical standard desktops for your employees. Two versions are available a Live version which is booted from a CD-ROM and suitable for a single PC and a Server edition that can deploy a computer image to up to 4o PCs.

 

Who Deleted My Files

If your work in a collaborative environment you share files. A hazard of sharing files with others is someone will at some point delete or modify your files. Too many cooks in the kitchen spoils the soup. Varonis created a good document explaining how to enable auditing on your server so you can discover whom tampered with your files

https://blog.varonis.com/someone-deleted-my-file-how-can-i-find-out-who/

Ok. So you see that Fred deleted your file yesterday. You have a backup, right?

Backups are great but there is another way to get back you file without having to restore from backup.

Previous versions is a feature you can enable on you Windows server or desktop. On a server you would enable shadow copies on the disk where the files are located.

Recover your pictures from an SD card

Oops! You formatted your SD memory card and deleted all those pictures and music. Don’t fret yet. There are a few things to get your files back. First, do not use the memory card for anything. Don’t put it back in your camera or phone. In order to recover the files you will need to connect the memory card on your computer. If you don’t have a SD card slot on your computer, get a SanDisk ImageMate All-in-One USB 3.0 Flash Memory Card Reader (SDDR289A20). After you connect the memory card con your computer the next step is to run some software. Download and install zero assumption recovery tool. There is a free trial but it will only let you drill down 4 levels deep into folders. If your pictures are important to you you should shell out the $30 for the software. The website has a nice tutorial for recovering pictures from a SD card.

Where is Disk CleanUp in Windows 2008 Server?

After 20 minutes of trying to figure out what happened to the Disk Clean up utility in Windows Server 2008, I found the Technet article that describes where to find it. There are 2 files already on the computer located in:

C:\Windows\winsxs\amd64_microsoft-windows-cleanmgr_xxxx

and

C:\Windows\winsxs\amd64_microsoft-windows-cleanmgr.resources_xxxx

where xxxx is a bunch of numbers depending on your Windows version

Place the cleanmgr.exe.mui file in C:\Windows\system32\en-us

Put cleanmgr.exe file in C:\Windows\system32
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Family Sharing App

I was looking for an app that I would be able to share a shopping list and memos with my wife since I always seem to forget something when grocery shopping. And since everyone is on a budget these days, I would prefer something free. My first stop is usually at google. Google is always coming up with great free solutions, but in this case, the closest thing Google had was to share a document using google docs. That’s not exactly what I was looking for.

Then my wife found cozi.com. The site is designed for family-centric information sharing. It reminds me of the refrigerator door but on the Web. Share shopping lists, to do lists, memos, and calendar appointments, meal plans, and recipes. Ok, here comes the best part, they have a mobile app for your smartphone that will synchronize with the site to make and check updates on the go. The simple interface is easy to navigate and use. Be prepared for some ads on the free mobile app but that seems to be the norm. If you upgrade to Cozi Gold you get some additional features such as additional reminders and sharing appointments with others and of course no ads.

 

Cheap Upgrades for Big Performance


In challenging economic times like these it’s a tough decision between PC upgrades and the bills. Here are a few inexpensive upgrades that will make a big difference in performance.

Solid State Hard Drive

Technology has gotten to the point where the slowest component of the computer is the hard drive. The hard drive is a mechanical device and is the most susceptible to failure. Solid state drives (SSD) use non-volatile memory chips similar to the ones in usb flash drives. This results in a speed increase in data retrieval and a quieter and cooler running system. SSD drives are commonly used in netbooks. The price point has finally dropped to make it an affordable upgrade. In my opinion, this is the biggest bang for your buck. A 64Gb SSD as of this writing is under $150 and replaces the noisiest, least reliable, and slowest device in your box. Check out a previous post about SSD maintenance.

Update: Check out Engadget’s best SSDs for a quick performance boost.

Graphics card
If you are using the integrated video card on your motherboard you will see a decent improvement in performance by upgrading to a low to mid-range graphics card. This upgrade could cost you more than you bargained for if you don’t do your homework. Some performance graphics may require additional power consideration and motherboard support So you can’t just pick a high-end graphics card and expect it to be a quick upgrade. If you do your research you will be surprised what a difference it can make even if all you do is write word docs or play Farmville on facebook.

Memory
RAM is the cheapest it has ever been thanks to progress in process and technology. Newer operating systems and application have higher memory requirements and the feeling about memory has always been the more the better. Again you should do your research here and find out how much and what type of memory is compatible with your system. Cruicial.com is a good resource for memory research. When buying memory it is not just the amount but the speed. Make sure you get the highest speed RAM that works with your system. This makes a larger difference than you may think. Keep in mind if the memory you have is slower speed than the upgrade you would want to replace the slower memory rather than add it to the faster memory since the RAM speed will be lowered to match the slower speed of the installed memory. Your memory will only be as fast as the slowest memory stick.

Even one of these upgrades can make a significant increase in performance.

 

iPad as a Tech Support Tool


The Apple iPad is light, user-friendly, and offers a ton of useful applications. The popularity of the iPad with technical people iPad makes it a potential tech support tool especially when you are on the road. The iPad has built-in wireless and can provide internet access from anywhere.
However, this is not the first thing I would reach for if I were troubleshooting a server problem. The executives think the iPad is the best thing since solid state hard drives but I not sure if it’s the best tool for the job. If you just need a terminal session then it should do the job. If you are determined to use the iPad,  you could remotely control a remote computer where you had all the tools you needed to do tech support then you might be able to justify using the iPad. The limiting factor for the iPad platform is you can only install applications from the app store and it does not have the computing power to handle some tasks.  LogMeIn has an iPad application for remotely controlling a PC from the internet or you can use remote desktop if you are on a local network. This might be the deciding factor if your company has a strict software policy and does not allow the use if Log me in. Even if your remote to another computer, the problem with Windows-based applications is the iPad do not translate right-clicks and drags well and make it difficult to use.  So the verdict, you can use the iPad for a quick check on a server or PC, but an affordable netbook provides the portability and flexibility for a useful support tool.

Make Sure You’re A.R.M.ED


If you work with servers, you know you should take a backup of the server before making any change. Right? Well, servers are built for redundancy with dual power supplies, multiple network cards, and multiple hard drives to reduce downtime. Of course, your hard drives should also have redundancy. A typical scenario is to mirror the operating system drive so one drive can fail and the system can continue to function. You can take advantage of this feature by making sure you’re A.R.M.ED!

Always
Remove
MirrorEd
Drive

By removing one of the mirrored drives before making any changes gives you a back out in case things go wrong. You can put the drive back in once the work is complete and the drive will synchronize the changes. If things go wrong, you can remove both drives and put back the drive that was removed before the change was made and the server will come up like it did before you screwed up.

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