Friday, February 12, 2010

Cool, free stuff


Not so long ago, there were about four ways to get useful applications for a computer – buy a book and key in a program (usually in BASIC) from it, write something yourself, buy commercial software or engage in piracy and steal what you need.

We’re a long way from those days. Books and magazines listing out computer programs are long gone and most computer owners aren’t hobbyists who have an interest in learning to program. Fortunately, another thing has changed – there’s a lot of great things out there for free.

So I figure on spending some time mentioning my favorite free applications out there. The programs I’ll mention are always top notch and quite often compete favorably against commercial applications.

The first one I’ll mention is Windows Live Writer. That little application is surprising for at least three reasons – it was developed by Microsoft and it actually works, it was developed by Microsoft and it’s free and, finally, it was made by Microsoft and it doesn’t feel like a pale copy of a better piece of software.

What is Live Writer? A content management system that makes the ones bundled in with most blogging software look downright pitiful. Windows Live Writer is, in essence, a front end that works well with Blogger, Wordpress and most blog services.

Live Writer makes it a snap to link to sites, post photos, slap nifty effects on those photos, put videos on your blog and a whole lot more. It’s easy to set up, integrates easily with your favorite blogging service and acts more like a decent word processor than those often feature-depraved content management systems that are built into the likes of Blogger.

One of the best things about Live Writer is that content is saved locally – that means making changes is a heck of a lot easier than using a blog service to wander through a few screens, edit or update posts, etc. Creating new categories is a breeze, too.

Ah, and then there are the plug-ins. Yes, you’ll find things that will let you easily share your posts on Twitter, put Digg buttons with copy and such.

If you’re blogging and using Windows Live Writer, you should give it a try. It’s simple to use, flexible and there are a wealth of plug-ins out there so you can customize it to your particular needs. This free application is so great that I’m still surprised that Microsoft made it.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Yes, Toyota will be fine


Yes, the news has been full of reports about Toyota’s woes these days.

As we’ve been reminded time and time again, Toyota has recalled a slew of cars because of accelerator pedals that might stick. The Prius suffers from rotten brakes and those have been recalled, too. Oh, and the steering could be faulty for those owning a late model Camry.

The press has been breathlessly speculating about the downfall of Toyota as of late, too. Phooey on that. Toyota will be fine.

Let’s not forget that Ford once knowingly sold a car that killed people, Chrysler was so poorly managed that it had to be bailed out by the federal government and then had to be bailed out again 30 years later. At the same time Chrysler was getting survival money from the feds for the second time, GM had its hand out for a bailout, too.

So what happened? Ford recovered and is now the only viable U.S. car company left standing and Chrysler was applauded for turning around things so quickly after the Carter administration bailed it. Meanwhile, Chrysler and GM took their lumps after the feds had to zip and and save them – the public and press seem to have given both companies a second chance.

Did Toyota mess up a bit? Sure it did. However, the company is taking steps to correct those problem and – if history is any guide – all will be forgiven in time and Toyota will be just fine.

Of course, I’m highly biased. I’ve almost driven the wheels off of my 2003 Toyota Matrix and love the thing. It’s cheap, reliable and gets great gas mileage. My wife has a 2009 Toyota Siena which is expensive, reliable and gets almost tolerable gas mileage and we haul the kids around in style in that thing. Will we buy another Toyota? You’d better believe it. My 13-year-old son will get the Matrix in a couple of years and then I’ll probably be down at the Toyota lot picking out something new.

Why? I’ve driven Oldsmobiles, Fords, a Mitsubishi, a Subaru and a Chevrolet before I got my Toyota and I’ve not owned a car that lasts longer or stands up better to the sheer neglect and abuse which I inflict on all my vehicles.

Toyota will make things right and the company will be just fine.

One thing that annoys the hell out of me about Toyota’s troubles is that a bunch of lawyers have started filing class action suits against Toyota. Most of these things are from angry Toyota owners who are mad that recent reports of the company’s troubles have caused their vehicles to decline in resale value.

Seriously? I should have filed suit against Ford for the last few of those vehicles I owned that started losing value as soon as I took possession of them and drove them home. Only in America could a bunch of attorneys file a slew of ridiculous lawsuits and face no consequences.

You’ve also got some families that have been legitimately injured by faulty Toyotas who are suing for legitimate reasons. Good for them. Hopefully they’ll file product liability suits as individuals because class action suits are for suckers – the plaintiffs win a few bucks and lawyers get fat off of contingency fees in those things.

Meanwhile, Toyota will come out of this fine. If not, my mother has been extolling the virtues of Hondas for years and that new Ford Mustang GT looks great. Maybe I’ll look at one of those next…

Monday, February 8, 2010

Music Monday - ‘Do the Bear’

Kind of reminds me of Vic Snyder – a Democrat representing the 2nd District of Arkansas – in Congress, what with the mumbling and all…

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