Other WelchWrite Blogs: A Gardener's NotebookCareer OpportunitiesMy WordCareers in New Media

Home -- Contact Me -- Search Welchwrite.com -- Subscribe to TechIQ
Douglas' Events, Appearances and Seminar Calendar

Friday, August 31, 2007

Better and Better: Google Earth’s Hidden Surprise: A Flight Simulator

Hot on the heels of the inclusion of Google Sky, an astronomy viewer in their excellent Google Earth program, I see this accouncement from TechCrunch that the lastest version also includes a built-in Flight Simulator. How cool is that?

I have just played around with it a bit and found it simple to use, with very basic features, but fun as all get out! What a great way of using all that great imagery in another unique way.

Google Earth’s Hidden Surprise: A Flight SimulatorWe’ve always known that Google has wanted to challenge Microsoft’s desktop dominance in a number of areas, but to date we didn’t know that extended to gaming.

Hidden inside Google Earth is a secret Flight Simulator that takes full advantage of Google’s extensive satellite imagery.


(Via TechCrunch.)

An anonymous commenter passed along this link to a YouTub video demoing the new Flight Sim Functions...

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Blog Day 2007 - 5 blogs for you!

Blog Day 2007

What is BlogDay?

BlogDay was created with the belief that bloggers should have one day dedicated to getting to know other bloggers from other countries and areas of interest. On that day Bloggers will recommend other blogs to their blog visitors.
With the goal in mind, on this day every blogger will post a recommendation of 5 new blogs. This way, all blog readers will find themselves leaping around and discovering new, previously unknown blogs.

In the spiirt of BlogDay, here are my 5 picks:

AnimalBytes withg Keri Dearborn

This blog and podcast focuses on all things natural, from the backyard to around the world. Recent posts include Creating a Garden That Attracts Wildlife, Of Mourning Cloaks and Hummingbirds and Beneficial Wild Creatures In Your Garden.

Goosing Your Muse with JoAnn Braheny

Need help being a bit more creative, check out Goosing Your Muse. News, creativity exercises, insight and more. Recent posts include 7 Ways to Help Yourself Recognize Opportunity, Writing Tips - Paul Graham, and 7 Ways to Help Yourself Recognize Opportunity.

Dumb Little Man: Tips for Life

We all need some good advice sometimes, and Dumb Little Man brings it right into your RSS feed reader. Recent posts include How to Teach Children and Learn from Them Too, 9 Ways to Have a Better Day than Yesterday, and Finding a Healthier Lifestyle - Committing to Change.

Managing with Aloha

This blog (and the author's book) apply ancient Hawaii philosophies to our modern world. Delving into this (for me) foriegn world provides an invigorating mental challenge that allows me to think in new ways.

Chris Brogan.com

I came across Chris Brogan's blog through some common Twitter friends and I have been following him closely since then. Chris is all about digital community -- what it is, how it can be used, what it means for all of us. As I expand my own work into this realm, Chris provides a welcome guidepost along the way.

I hope you enjoy these blogs, especially if they are new to you.

Do you blog? If so, check out BlogDay2007 and highlight 5 blogs that you find exceptional.

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Check your bills...regularly!

This post from Blogging.la points out why it is so important to check each of your utility bills, especially your telephone and cell bills as often as possible. Since I pay the bills in my family, I can usually tell if a bill has increased dramatically from the last month, but I still make a point of reading each bill -- IN FULL -- at least every couple of months.

The truth is, as the article notes, scams like these are rampant. Worse yet, they are facilitated with the knowledge of your phone provider. Technology can be used for good, but it can also be used for evil, so beware of those might try to take advantage of you.

Make sure you aren't paying more than you should for anything. Those dollars belong in your pocket, not the bank account of some scammer.

Class Action Lawsuit?

...I look at the messages, and they are all from 90900, the Joke of the Day mobile phone service (jokemobi.com).

The first message gives me the PIN I will need to start the service, and the next two messages are a second invitation and the first joke.

I NEVER ASKED TO GET THIS and I din't reply with the PIN number to start the service, but just to be safe I call AT&T and what do you know, WITHOUT MY PERMISSION they have enrolled me in this and already charged me $9.99.

(Click for complete article)

(Via Blogging.LA.)

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Samson H2 Handy Recorder

(Updated 8/31/07 530pm : A review of the H2, along with audio examples, can be found at Michael W. Dean's site, StinkFight.com)

My fellow Friend in Tech member, Victor Cajiao, from the Typical Mac User podcast, mentioned he is picking up one of these units, so I started to check out the specs.

If I have the opportunity to "lay hands" on this unit at the Podcast and New Media Expo in September, I will give you a review and more information.

Samson H2

Link: Samson Web Site

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Video: Impromtu Technology Video Conference from Friends in Tech

Friends in Tech (FiT) Members, Victor Cajiao, Douglas E. Welch and George Starcher just had an impromtu video conference on iChat. Victor used CamTwist to send it over to uStream. You can check it out below.

We talked about some technology issues and more!

Watch the video!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Web: FotoFlexer Raises The Bar On Online Photo Editing

Here is another online photo editing service that allows you to do all sorts of crazy things to your photos. The truth is, most of us don't need something as powerful as the expensive Adobe Photoshop or even the free, GIMP image editing program.

FotoFlexer Screenshot

FotoFlexer Raises The Bar On Online Photo Editing

Online photo editors keep getting better and better. For hardcore image manipulation, desktop software like Photoshop or Gimp will always have its place, but online editors are free, easy to use and a lot of fun.


(Via TechCrunch.)

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , ,

Thursday, August 23, 2007

LIVE from the Library - August 23, 2007

TechnologyIQ Podcast LogoThis is the podcast audio for today's LIVE from the Library Internet Seminar. A video of the first 40 minutes of the seminar is available in an earlier post on the page. Watch it now!

Listen to LIVE from the Library - August 23, 2007

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

LIVE from the Library - Tonight at 630pm PDT

We are LIVE from the Library tonight with our twice monthly Internet Seminars and I will be using a new video streaming service to broadcast live tonight. You should see is in the player below, once we go LIVE.

Got to Operator11.com to join in this class and view the chat room!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Things I Believe: I (or your consultant) could get hit by a bus tomorrow

Many of my clients have heard me discuss my methods of computer consulting over the years, but for those of you who have missed it, I wanted to write up some short articles on my consulting philosophy. Mainly, this is summed up with the simple phrase, "I could get hit by a bus tomorrow."

Despite this depressing idea (especially for me), I think it shows something very fundamental about the way I work with all my clients, whether I am setting up their computer or network or helping them to get started with a web site, blog or podcast. Everything I do is meant to insure that the client could continue to work, and be productive, even if this theoretical bus and I had our fateful meeting the day before.

I began describing my actions in this way after countless consulting calls where I was following up after another consultant or staff member. I am often called in to complete, modify or clean-up projects that have failed for one reason or another, More times than I like to contemplate, this has involved starting over from the beginning -- mainly because the previous consultant never provided basic, extremely necessary, information to the client. Thankfully, most of the previous workers weren't hit by a bus, but even worse, they simply disappeared. They had simply abandoned the client for some reason.

For me, typical consulting situations involve network routers with unknown password or odd settings where no one remembers the reason -- lost, missing or forgotten ftp passwords which prevent individual and companies from updating their web sites -- domain names registered in the consultants name, meaning that my client can't update or change their web hosting company or move their web site -- missing software critical to daily operations and more.

After facing so many of these issues myself, I do everything I can to insure that anyone who follows me into a client's office will have all the information they need. After all, as I said at the beginning, I could get hit by a bus tomorrow. (Of course, here in Los Angeles, I am much more likely to be involved in a traffic collision than a bus accident, but that is another story) Furthermore, if you work in any sort of consulting or IT role, you should do the same thing for your clients, for the same reasons.

I know that some consultants who are reading this are rolling their eyes and saying to themselves, "...But this is how I tie my clients to me to insure a steady income. If I give them all this information, they will just do it themselves." First, you're wrong. You develop loyalty in your clients by doing great work, not by withholding information. Second, you're also wrong. Most clients much prefer paying you to do the tech work than doing it themselves. Frankly, they would rather being doing the work they love, making money for their company and themselves, than fiddling with router addresses and installing software. Third, if you get hit by a bus tomorrow, you're not really going to care about who is doing the work, anyway, so why make it more difficult for them (or me).

Finally, if you're the client, you should demand the same consideration from your consultants (and internal IT workers) that I try to give my clients. Do you have ALL the passwords you might need? Has someone documented the procedures for accessing and managing ALL your critical systems, including your telephone PBX, alarm systems, etc. Could your company continue functioning if you needed to hire someone new today?

If not, why not? If not, do it today! Otherwise, a bus with my name on it, might have yours, as well.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Elsewhere Online: Robots: PicoBotz Let You Build Your Own Robot on the Cheap

I love playing with robots and this little platform looks to be a great entry-level kit for you and your kids. It sounds like it might even be a bit hackable, once to you assemble it and get it working. I could see putting in some circuits I have found in other books and web sites, like photovore/photophobe behaviors and more. With a big enough solar panel you could probably also use the sun to power it.

For more infor on robots check out these great resources:

Previous mentions of robots on WelchWrite.com
Solarbotics - Robot kits, parts and more
BEAM Online - All things beam robotics
How to build BEAM Vibrobots
BEAM Robotics page @ Wikipedia

Robots: PicoBotz Let You Build Your Own Robot on the Cheap

30529-95-1.jpgThese $77 PicoBotz kits are the perfect thing to let the budding engineer (your kids) get their hands on some robotics. The "robot" has 180 programmable commands and operates in three modes, obstacle avoidance, sound repositioning mode, and line tracing mode.

It also runs on two AA batteries, just like the Cylons from Battlestar Galactica. It's also a good thing these bots have their "kill all humans and enslave humanity" mode removed. That first version didn't sell so well. [Scientifics Online via MAKE via Slashgear via Uber Gizmo]

(Via Gizmodo.)

Technorati Tags: , , , , , ,

Elsewhere Online: Stuff We Like: decTOP $100 personal computer

There are some really cheap computers out there, if you don't mind being a bit of a computer "gear head". I would probably want to add a little memory to this unit and then run Puppy Limux on it. I suppose I could also replace my old Win 98 retiree and use this as my file server. It would be a lot quieter and take up a lot less space.

Stuff We Like: decTOP $100 personal computer

The decTOP (originally created by AMD) is marketed as a personal internet communicator made specifically for browsing the web. In actuality, decTOP is a fanless personal computer that weighs in at three pounds and runs off of eight watts of power. DecTOP comes without an operating system (though it supports Windows CE and Linux) and although it comes with low level specs (128 MB RAM, 10 GB hard drive, 366 MHz processor), its hard drive and RAM are both upgradeable. DecTOP sells for $100 and includes a mouse and keyboard. If you're looking for a cheap computer for the kiddies, a Linux server, or a computer to run without a head, decTop is a great candidate. Mine will be shipping in 24 to 48 hours!

(Via Lifehacker.)

Technorati Tags: , , ,

Thursday, August 16, 2007

News: Skype Suffers Major Outage (Duncan Riley/TechCrunch)

I have come to depend on Skype more and more, esepcially for doing remote podcasts, so this doesn't make me feel very well. Alternatives include, AOL Instant Messenger and Gizmo. There are some online alternatives like uStream.tv, too, which allows 1-4 people live video conferences.

Skype Suffers Major Outage (Duncan Riley/TechCrunch)

Skype Suffers Major Outage  —  Skype has suffered a major service outage that started from approximately 3am PST Thursday.  —  Skype advised that their engineering team had determined that the downtime was due to a software issue, with the problem expected to be solved "within 12 to 24 hours."

Source:   TechCrunch

Author:   Duncan Riley

Link:   http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/08/16/skype-suffers…

Techmeme permalink

(Via Techmeme.)

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Real World Example: Computer-Aided Embroidary

Just to show you how technology has become an intimate part of our lives, I wanted to relate a support call I had today. A client called about checking out a new Windows Vista laptop she purchased, along with the device pictured here...a Husqvarna Viking Designer I USB.

While the PC issue mainly had to do with lack of memory, the embroidery machine fascinated me. Here was what looked like a sewing machine, but instead of the usual direction and thread tension controls was a sizable LCD screen. On the side was a USB port, exactly like you would see on a printer. In fact, that was exactly what this machine was...a printer.

The machine even has firmware that has to be updated, just like your Internet routers and high-end printers. To apply the upgrades, we "booted" the machine into "software update" mode and then shipped over the firmware from the PC.

It just goes to show that even the most fundamental crafting is finding a way to put technology to use.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Podcasting for Writers Class at UCLA Extension

The UCLA Extension calendar for Fall 2007 is now accepting admissions. Among the offerings is our new class, Podcasting for Writers -- a 10-week online course.

If you, or someone you know, would like to join us for this class, here is the complete information.

Rosanne and I are really looking forward to the class.

Podcasting for Writers (Online)
X 430.27 Film & Television 3 units $525

Podcasting has given writers direct access to a worldwide audience and freed them from absolute dependency on television networks, radio stations, and publishers to buy and market their work. To the audience, podcasting is "what you want, where you want it, when you want it," while to the podcast creator and producer, it is the ultimate creative freedom. This course covers the current state of this new medium; the basics of writing for it; and strategies for publicizing your podcast and expanding your readers, viewers, and listeners. Guest speakers available via audio and video podcast interviews, live interactive podcasts, and video conferences introduce you to the variety of ways you can use the medium. The course goal is to develop your own podcast based on individual professional or personal needs, interests, and goals. For technical requirements click here. Enrollment limited to 18 students. Additional technical requirements: Students need a recording device with microphone that is compatible with their computer; built-in microphones on laptops are acceptable. Students must have Apple iTunes software and access to audio recording software, such as Audacity or Apple GarageBand, to perform course exercises. High-speed Internet connection is required.

Course Open Reg# T3254U

No Textbook Required

Online Course
October 10 -December 12
$55 nonrefundable.

Rosanne Welch, writer/producer; WGA member whose credits include five seasons as staff writer, executive story editor, and producer on the CBS series Touched by an Angel. Ms. Welch also has written for Fox Broadcasting's Beverly Hills, 90210; Picket Fences for CBS and David E. Kelly Productions; and is the author of The Encyclopedia of Women in Aviation and Space.

Douglas E. Welch, writer and computer consultant, whose work has been published in Wired, MacWorld, and Los Angeles Times. Mr. Welch is a member of Friends in Tech, and produced his first show, Career Opportunities, in 2004. He has written and produced over 300 individual episodes and conducts podcasting seminars for schools and businesses.

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Friday, August 10, 2007

Computers for students: A back-to-school guide

August is here and thoughts (and retail advertising) are already turning towards the start of the next school year. This was driven home quite clearly this week when I visited my local office supply store, only to be overwhelmed with row after row of notebooks, pens, pencils, calculators and, increasingly, computers.

The truth is, computers are becoming part of every school-age child's toolkit, just like No. 2 pencils and college ruled notebooks. In the past, this was usually limited to college age students, but more frequently high school and even elementary school students can benefit, if not require access to a computer and the Internet.

In an effort to assist all my fellow parents, here are a few guidelines for what computer might be the best for your student and what features it should contain.

College Students

If your son or daughter is heading off to college for the first time, a laptop computer is almost certainly suggested, if not required. Laptops are nearly perfect for college students. They take up less of the precious space in a dorm room or college-sized apartment. Second, since most colleges have now installed campus-wide WiFi networks, students can be productive in their rooms, in the library or in the lounge down the hall. A laptop allows them to carry all their data with them...to class, to group meetings, to dinner, wherever.

When buying a laptop for/with a college student, here are a few basic thoughts to consider:

Pick your price threshold or how much you can afford to spend

You will find laptops out there for unbelievably low prices, but you are better off aiming for the mid-range of the prices. Cheaper laptops will be slower in processor speed and might be missing several important items detailed later.

Get the fastest machine possible

For your price threshold, get the fastest machine possible. This not only insures that the laptop won't be slowing down your student, but also helps to insure that it will last as long as possible. I try to make a computer last for 5 years before replacing it. If you make the best decisions now, you might be able to make this laptop last an entire undergraduate a career. That said, don't let this prevent you from buying a new one, if needs warrant. Laptops are exposed to many threats including liquid spills, drops and theft, so some replacements are unavoidable.

2 Gigabytes of RAM

More memory allows the laptop to work as fast is possible and allows the computer to easily run multiple programs at one time. Starting with 2GB of RAM insures that your son or daughter won't need to worry about memory upgrades when programs refuse to run or run slowly. This also increases the life span of the computer, as you are buying a bit of breathing room to allow for new, larger versions of software and the more complicated software and more complicated uses as the student moves through their last years of school.

Large hard disk

Today's students are expected to deal with more than just text these days. Digital photos, audio and video can take up extreme amounts of hard disk space. Insuring they have a decently sized hard drive now, will prevent problems down the road.


Along with these typical features of a computer, students will also find the following useful, if not required:

Printer - the smaller, the better, with cheap inkjet refills
WiFi wireless network adapter (should be built-in to any modern laptop)
CD/DVD burner
Keychain/Memory drive - for sharing documents and backups
Backup hard drive - for protecting all their data

High School Students

While high school students are beginning to have some of the same needs as college students today, a laptop might not be required, or advisable, for them. A standard desktop computer, with LCD monitor should be sufficient for the average student.

The same guidelines mentioned above also apply to a high school computer. Your costs will probably be less, though, as desktop systems with similar speed, memory and hard drive space are usually cheaper than their laptop counterparts. The same list of accessories apply, although wireless might not be required, since the computer could be placed within wiring distance of your home's Internet router.

In fact, I would suggest placing the computer in a very public area of your home. High schoolers are still learning about the Internet and the appropriate uses as established by their parents. Placing the computer in a public area allows you to monitor their Internet activity without resorting to software that attempts to control their Internet use or monitor it after the fact. This doesn't infer that large numbers of children will be caught up in the illicit aspects of the internet as much as their attention might easily be caught by mindless entertaining videos (mentos and coke comes to mind) which will get in the way of their productivity. Trust me, I have seen it happen "up close and personal" with my own son. (SMILE)

Elementary Students

The needs of the typical elementary student are far below that of high school or college student, but they can benefit from access to a computer. Many parents attempt to share their computer with their children, but I would advise against it. It is better that the student has a computer where they can work and play when they want, without feeling they are infringing on your work. When they use your computer, your data and programs are at risk of deletion or damage. Don't put yourself in the position of fighting over the computer, especially if something goes wrong. In my case, my son uses a computer that I replaced with a newer system. He doesn't need the fastest or greatest computer at his age (9), but rather something that allows him to write, draw and access the Internet.

Finally, one of the biggest gifts you can give your young, computer-using child, is the gift of good typing skills. We all use a keyboard to work with a wide variety of technology so anything you can do to jumpstart their skills will reap wide benefits. There are a host of computer programs available for familiarizing children with the keyboard. Find one that your child likes and encourage them to use it. You might even want to try it out yourself. I know I could use some pointers on improving my typing and seeing you use the program will encourage them to try.

Whatever the age of your student, they can all benefit from access to a fast, dependable computer. These guidelines should provide you a starting point for your search for a new computer. The fact is, if you choose a computer between $500 and $1000 dollars, from a well-known manufacturer, you are almost guaranteed to get a fine computer. Once you have narrowed your choices down to a few, you can also check out thousands of reviews for particular models on the Internet, just to make you feel a bit more secure in your choice.

If you have any questions about computer purchases for your student, write a comment using the comment link below, send it via email to techiq@welchwrite.com or call our Reader/Listener Line at 818-804-5049.

Wishing you all a great school year!

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, August 09, 2007

LIVE from the Library - August 9, 2007

You can watch and listen to this week's LIVE from the Library Internet Seminar using this viewer or the "Listen" link just below.

Listen to LIVE from the Library - August 9, 2007

Technorati Tags: , , , , ,

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Get my newsletter and find great LA Events!

If you would like to receive my regular email newsletter, you can join my mailing list, WelchWrite. This newsletter highlights upcoming events, interesting sites and more.

Google Groups


Visit this group

You can also find out about some great Los Angeles Events by joining the WelchEvents mailing list. Here I highlight free or cheap, family events around LA that I enjoy. I monitor event calendars for many of hte museums and parks in LA and select thos events I will be, or would like to, attend.

Google Groups

Visit this group

Apple iLife, iMac, Keyboard announcments and updates

In case you didn't hear it somewhere else first, (how that would be possible I do not know), Apple introduced a new design for its iMac line of systems today, a new, slimmer than slim keyboard and significant updates to its iLife software suite.

Visit Apple.com

While I am not in the market for a new computer at this time, the updated features of iLife '08, including significant ones to the iMovie application might just find me at the Apple store soon.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

Friday, August 03, 2007

Web Site: The Cool Hunter

The Cool Hunter Screen ShotDespite my (ahem) advanced age, compared to other Internet hipsters, I love to find out about cool, new stuff as much as your average MySpace user. Bzzagent.com's service, Frogpond hooked me up today with this cool new site, The Cool Hunter.

Generically, cool hunting is find great new trends, products and services and sharing them with others. The Cool Hunter certainly fits the bill. Lots of cool new stuff in architecture, design, fashion, art and more! Even better, they have RSS feeds so you can subscribe to whatever interests you most or the entire collection of cool items.

Link: The Cool Hunter

Technorati Tags: , , ,