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Online Privacy


Online privacy – an option

The other day as I was cleaning out the cookie files on my computer, the sheer number of them was appalling. It sure seems like I cannot go to any website without my user data being grabbed and used by the advertising/data mining/market research companies. I know that this is repeatedly excused as "this is why the internet is free", but give me a break!

You know what I am talking about . . . go to a website and next time you open the browser, all the ads (from multiple companies) are targeted at what you expressed an interest in when you entered that other website. Sort of convenient I guess, but what it represents is a grab of your information by one of those internet marketing/research companies (Doubleclick, Google Analytics, Predicta, MerchantAdvantage, etc.) that is then sold/provided to the companies that put those ads on your browser page. Somehow this doesn't make me feel real comfortable. What to do? I found an interesting and useful extension that is available for most browsers that shows you who is grabbing your data on each website, and allows you to block it.

GhosteryGhostery ( is a free extension that provides at least a level of comfort as you access the web. In the screen shot (from Firefox v.10) you can see the listing for the home page of a popular tech site. It shows that when you hit that page there are five companies gathering data. In this case I have the extension set to block all of these companies – they got nothing from me. You can whitelist a website, after you see who is watching. This is what is generally supposed to accomplished with the "don't track me" standards that the W3C is working on now with the browser companies. I suspect it is going to take quite a while for all this to work itself out, but in the meantime what do you do?

I have been playing with Ghostery for a few days, and it seems to work well, has gotten positive reviews in the tech press, and lots of kudos from users. Give it a try!!

Public Telephone Sighting!


Considering that every other ad on TV seems to be for a new mobile phone, it is little surprise that the plain old public phone is a difficult thing to find anywhere these days. The assumption must be that since everyone has their own phone, there is no need for public phones.

Joyce and I were in Yellowstone Park last weekend, and quickly found out that there is virtually no mobile phone access in most of the park. So what option is there? That's right, pay phones. There was at least one in each of the developed areas (i.e. Fishing Bridge, West Thumb, Canyon, etc.), and they were often busy. It was a bit of a surprise to see them, but it sure made sense. The only place we found mobile coverage was at Old Faithful, and there were a lot of people talking on their phones – making up for lost time and that sense of being cut off from the world.

As we drove across Wyoming, we were also out of range of the cell towers, and if something happened, you weren't going to call AAA from the side of the road. Those white areas on the mobile phone coverage maps sure get bigger out here in the wide open West.

It was nice to be concentrate on enjoying our trip to the park (what a wonderful place) and sit around with our group of friends uninterrupted by the sound of phones ringing.

Easy Screen Shots


When you need a screen shot (capture), it is one of those things that you just want to get done as quickly as possible and get back to what you were doing. Unfortunately, without a little preparation, it just isn't that easy.

Traditionally, the way to do it is to press the "Print Screen" key. So far, so good, but what that does is put the image of the entire screen (I only wanted a portion!!) on the clipboard. You can then paste it into your document. If you did in fact only want a portion of the screen, you have to open an image editing program, paste the file, crop it, save as a file and then import it into your document. Not exactly a quick and easy process. Enter Gadwin Systems Print Screen software.

Once installed, this Windows freeware application allows you to press the Print Screen (or other hotkey choice) and select a portion of the screen with your mouse. The selected portion goes right to the clipboard (or to a file for later use), which you can then paste into your document. That is the way most people would expect the process to work. Configuring the application is quite easy and has a nice clean interface.

There are lots of screen capture programs available, but this one seems to be one of the easiest, which is always a good thing. You can download the application directly from Gadwin Systems ( The software works on any version of Windows (all the way back to Windows 98!), and uses 10 megabytes of RAM. It can be loaded at Windows startup or called as needed if you are a bit short on RAM.

I know this is a real basic subject, but if you have been struggling with screen shots, try this and get back to your real work.

Cable Madness


A month or so ago, we had to upgrade our satellite receiver/dvr. It came with a short HDMI cable, but I needed a 10' one, so a shopping we will go. I have known for years that one of the biggest scams in technology is cables. Whether it is a USB cable, monitor extension, DVI cable or whatever, the price of these things is silly. The HDMI cables are the worst!

Years ago, when I worked in a computer store, we would throw in printer cables or serial cables with every system sold. The retail value was $25 to $30, but our cost? Less than $5 each. Things haven't really changed that much, and people still are paying big bucks for cables (especially HDMI). There are some standards that cables have to meet to get certification at the various levels of HDMI (1.0, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4, 1.4a), but for most of us who are not totally into maximum home theater, it is a better idea to do a bit of web research shopping rather than take the word of the sales person in the store.

Just checking my favorite electronics website ( I have multiple choices for under $10. Just check and make sure they are certified to do 1080p video, and if you need one for your internet ready TV, look for one that has an ethernet cable built in to the HDMI cable (HDMI 1.4). If you have a 3D TV, do a little closer reading of the specs since you may need a HDMI 1.4a cable. My HDMI 1.3 cable is not going to be tugged on at all, so I don't need a real rugged (read thick) cable, but if you are planning on plugging/unplugging all the time, look for one that has a thicker cable.

Don't waste your money, take a little time to check online, and keep some bucks in your pocket.


Easy Image Resizing


All of us take lots of pictures these days, either with our digital cameras, our phones, or another device. The problem is the resulting images are all different sizes, and when you go to use them for email, printing, Facebook, your website or something else, they are never the right size. Not a big issue with a single image, but what happens when you come back after taking 50+ images (likely considering how easy it is to just keep on shooting).

I came across this freeware application the other day, and it really takes a lot of the effort out of the process. Freesizer is from WinBit Software, and allows you to drag and drop multiple images into the application, choose the intended use (E-mail, Instant Messenger, Social Networks, iPhone/iPod, or a user set custom size), press the button and all the images are resized.

This kind of software is an excellent example of small applications that make it easy to move data from use to another. Give it a try! Works with Windows XP/Vista/7 and available at

Do version numbers mean anything?


Every time I launch Firefox recently, I have gotten a popup telling me to upgrade to Firefox 5 from my current 4.01 version. The supported lifetime of 4.x was four months, and this appears to be a full number upgrade.

But is it really? No it is not. In general, the software industry used to consider integer upgrades (from 1 to 2 to 3 etc.) to be major upgrades with significant new features, many bug fixes, possibly significant interface changes, and so on. The next type of number release was a dot release (such as 3.0 to 3.1). This type of release had a few new features (unless it had been a long time from the last release in which case there might be a number of new features) and some bug fixes. The last type of release was a dot dot release (such as 3.1 to 3.1.1). This was usually minor bug fixes, or possibly a quick fix to a major bug that had just been found.

It sure looks like the software people have given up on giving the user any clue as to what is in a release. What is this all about?! I suspect that it is a bit of laziness and also a way to simplify release schedules. When I was managing software products, we used to decide on features we wanted to include in a particular release, and the list of bugs we wanted to get fixed. The release date would likely move, but the release definition was fairly clear. Toward the end of my time, we started to move to setting a hard release date, and whatever was ready to go got in that release. Mozilla calls this a "rapid release development cycle", and they claim "more than 1000 improvements and performance enhancements". I checked their features/bug list. I get 11 minor feature improvements/changes and 992 bug fixes. So by old standards, I suppose you could be really generous and call this a dot release. Sure as heck not a number release.

This type of release is becoming common, and I wish we would get some sort of definition from the software vendors as to what the numbers mean. Software (at least commercial software with a price tag) is usually upgraded to generate revenue, so you really do expect value for your money. I know Firefox is free software, but please, give me a clue as to what to expect, not just marketing hyperbole "new and improved"!


It looks different

Details has started off the month of July with a new look. The newly designed site has been expanded to better define the scope of the company, increase the visibility for Joyce Lohse's writing and speaking activities, and include the available technology services of Don Lohse.

We have also added a personal dimension to the site, detailing some activities and interests of ours, since all work and no play is no fun!

We hope you find the new informative, helpful, interesting, and visually pleasing. If you have any comments, please send them to us, using the "Contact Us" portion of the site.

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