Fake: IRS Refund For Your VISA or MasterCard!

The following is a copy of an email I found in my Junk EMail. I always go through it in case there’s an old friend or something that I might actually want to see. Usually it’s a necessary waste of time. But I thought you might like to see this.

Notice that the return address seems to go right where it ought to go: irs dot gov. If you type that into your address bar you will go to the US Internal Revenue website. But right after that is where the 1st tip-off is found. See all that “Add to Address Book” stuff? Trust me, the government could care less whether they are in my address book. And they certainly don’t want to be in my phone…or do they?

Looking at the subject line, we find that there is a “Tax Refund” on my VISA or my MasterCard. Hmm, they don’t know which one? That is clue #2. Come along and I think in the end we’ll have a bit of a giggle:


From: “Internal Revenue Service” <refund@irs.gov> Add to Address BookAdd to Address Book Add Mobile Alert
Subject: Notification of Tax Refund on your VISA or MasterCard Now
Date: Thu, 29 Nov 2007 10:48:06 -0500

> Notification of Tax Refund on your VISA or MasterCard Now,

> After the last annual calculations of your fiscal activity we have
determined that you are eligible to receive a tax refund of $329.30.

Hey, cool! I could use $329.30 right about now. What perfect timing!

>A refund can be delayed for a variety of reasons.
Fox example submitting invalid records or applying after the

Wow, I didn’t submit any invalid records! Sure hope the deadline hasn’t passed… It was nice of them to include that “Foxy” example, just so I would know what to look for…

> Sorry for any inconvenience this may cause and thank you for your

Gee, these are the nicest IRS guys I’ve ever heard of!

> To access the form for your tax refund please copy/paste the link
below in your browser (or click the link below)

ok, nobody use that link, ok???

Huh? “host217-36-235-101.in-addr.btopenworld.com:84/”? Is the IRS outsourcing their refunds?

> Note: For security reasons, we will record your ip-address, the date
and time.
Deliberate wrong inputs are criminally pursued and indicated.

Well, guess these guys aren’t so nice after all! Or very bright, either. I wonder how far they plan to pursue me. And how, exactly, will they indicate me? And for what?


Internal Revenue Service

© Copyright 2007, Internal Revenue Service U.S.A.



I especially like all the seemingly random letters at the end. I guess they were trying to imitate a hash of some sort? Who knows?

Well, we had ourselves a little chuckle here, but the sobering thought is that somewhere, somebody believed this. I can only hope they haven’t lost alot of money over it. We are gullible, people. Maybe not me or you, maybe not this time, but sometime or the other we just choose to believe, regardless. Given just the wrong circumstances, the right motivations, we can be fooled.

Let’s all be careful out there. And in here.

I am Jon, and I am indicated.

Just 20 Reasons You Should Go To Galaxy Zoo

The Recap
Some of you guys who have been following Wordout for awhile will remember Galaxy Zoo from a piece I did about a year ago. For the rest of you, who may not have heard of Galaxy Zoo, let me recap.
Galaxy Zoo is an internet project with the stated aim of classifying a million new galaxies from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. Computers would do an unacceptable job at classifying galaxies, mainly because each is so unique. That’s why they’re recruiting anyone and everyone to help out. From the Galaxy Zoo Homepage:

“The simple answer is that the human brain is much better at recognizing patterns than a computer can ever be. Any computer program we write to sort our galaxies into categories would do a reasonable job, but it would also inevitably throw out the unusual, the weird and the wonderful. To rescue these interesting systems which have a story to tell, we need you.”

So there you have it. Computers can’t do it. They need us humans. Isn’t it nice to be needed?

Some Of The Most Beautiful and Bizarre Things You Will Ever See In 20,000 Words Or Less

If a picture is really worth a thousand words, well, then here is the motherload. Just look at this sample of pictures they want you to sift through! And they say they have a million of them! These are just a few that I found while classifying, and a few I found over at the old Galaxy Zoo Blog. Even though that blog is now defunct, there are still lots of photos there to be gawked at. If you like these, head over there for more eye candy.

Or better yet, head on over to Galaxy Zoo and check out the million or so treasures, just waiting there, to be discovered by you! Like the man says:

The universe, with its majestic star-cities, is indeed a wonderful place. – Sir Patrick Moore

Without further ado, I present just 20 reasons you should go there. Click on a thumbnail to view the full sized picture.

Image 10Image 9Image 8Image 7Image 1Image 5Image 6Image 2Image 0Image 12Image 20Image 19Image 18Image 17Image 16Image 15Image 3Image 4Image 11Image 14

I am Jon, and I’m wondering. What are you still waiting for?

(photos courtesy of Galaxy Zoo 2007 and copyright by Sloan Digital Sky Survey)

Funding for the SDSS and SDSS-II has been provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, the Participating Institutions, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Japanese Monbukagakusho, the Max Planck Society, and the Higher Education Funding Council for England. The SDSS Web Site is http://www.sdss.org/.

The SDSS is managed by the Astrophysical Research Consortium for the Participating Institutions. The Participating Institutions are the American Museum of Natural History, Astrophysical Institute Potsdam, University of Basel, University of Cambridge, Case Western Reserve University, University of Chicago, Drexel University, Fermilab, the Institute for Advanced Study, the Japan Participation Group, Johns Hopkins University, the Joint Institute for Nuclear Astrophysics, the Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology, the Korean Scientist Group, the Chinese Academy of Sciences (LAMOST), Los Alamos National Laboratory, the Max-Planck-Institute for Astronomy (MPIA), the Max-Planck-Institute for Astrophysics (MPA), New Mexico State University, Ohio State University, University of Pittsburgh, University of Portsmouth, Princeton University, the United States Naval Observatory, and the University of Washington.

Spinning Iran – Here We Go Again?

With apologies for waxing political, I offer this for your consideration.

The Reuters news service today published a story eerily reminiscent of the days leading up to the invasion of Iraq by the US. From an article with the plain title, “US Report Contradicts Bush on Iran Nuclear Program”:

“A new U.S. intelligence report says Iran halted its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and it remains on hold, contradicting the Bush administration’s earlier assertion that Tehran was intent on developing a bomb.”


“Tensions have escalated in recent months as Washington has ratcheted up the rhetoric against Tehran, with U.S. President George W. Bush insisting in October that a nuclear-armed Iran could lead to World War Three. But in a finding likely to surprise U.S. friends and foes alike, the latest NIE concluded: “We do not know whether (Iran) currently intends to develop nuclear weapons.”

The Bush response was a typical spin to throw a terrorist light on this good news:

“Today’s National Intelligence Estimate offers some positive news,” Bush’s national security adviser Stephen Hadley said in a statement. “It confirms that we were right to be worried about Iran seeking to develop nuclear weapons. It tells us that we have made progress in trying to ensure that this does not happen,” he said.
“But the intelligence also tells us that the risk of Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon remains a very serious problem.”

Quotes from the National Intelligence Estimate report:

“We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program. We also assess with moderate-to-high confidence that Tehran at a minimum is keeping open the option to develop nuclear weapons.”


“Tehran’s decision to halt its nuclear weapons program suggests it is less determined to develop nuclear weapons than we have been judging since 2005.”


“Iranian entities are continuing to develop a range of technical capabilities that could be applied to producing nuclear weapons, if a decision is made to do so.”


“We judge with high confidence that Iran will not be technically capable of producing and reprocessing enough plutonium for a weapon before about 2015.”

Personally, I have no idea what the Iranians are planning. If I were them, I would be a bit afraid of the US. We did, after all, invade a neighboring country under what turned out to be (similar)false pretenses. Coincidentally, according to the report, the Iranians stopped their nuclear weapons program the same year. I am thinking that the “international pressures” cited in the report is nothing more than our invasion of Iraq.
The Iranian subject is a hot one in the lead-up to next year’s US general election. For the American people to understand who is blowing smoke and who actually has the fire, we need to make it a habit to go to the source to get the facts. In this case, the source is the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Click the link above. It’s only 9 pages, easily readable, large type, in a downloadable pdf file. Go ahead. Then you can say you read it yourself.

I am Jon, and I think we should all read the report for ourselves.

gPhone? This, That, And The Other Thing

There’s This

It appears to some that Google is thinking about getting into the mobile phone business. From the press release this past Friday:

“As part of the nationally mandated transition to digital television, the 700 MHz spectrum auction — which begins January 24, 2008 — will free up spectrum airwaves for more efficient wireless Internet service for consumers. Advocacy by public interest groups and Google earlier this year helped ensure that regardless of which bidders win a key portion of the spectrum up for auction (the so-called “C Block”), they will be required to allow their users to download any software application they want on their mobile device, and to use any mobile devices they would like on that wireless network. The winner must ensure these rights for consumers if the reserve price of $4.6 billion for the C Block is met at auction.”

“We believe it’s important to put our money where our principles are,” said Eric Schmidt, Chairman and CEO, Google. “Consumers deserve more competition and innovation than they have in today’s wireless world. No matter which bidder ultimately prevails, the real winners of this auction are American consumers who likely will see more choices than ever before in how they access the Internet.”

Other companies have chosen to team up with established players in the industry to gain a foothold. That’s a good strategy if you’re planning to produce some merchandise for sale. Google’s application to the FCC will list no partners. Could it be that there is no “GooglePhone”? So why would they care what happens with all that bandwidth?

There’s That

Let’s look at something else Google has been doing lately.

Earlier last month, Google announced the release of its open source Android mobile operating system and development software. The guys at Android say this in their “Introducing Android” video: “There is no gPhone

So if there’s no gPhone, what’s the deal? Google might be the “Do No Evil” company, but they are definitely into “Doing Some Profits”. How will they profit?

The same way they always have, through advertising. Think about this: if our pc’s tell companies so much about us, and those companies are buying all that info to target each of us with our own personalised ads, how much more personal can our phone records be? And with social networking rabidly infecting everything we do, marketers should be able to tie our online habits of both types together with ease. Google stands to make at least a hundred dollars.

I’ll try to leave you with this quote I found on Broadband Reports:

“Imagine an iPhone where the whole thing is a screen and the bottom eighth is banner ads running across,” said Iain Gillott, a wireless analyst at IGR. “Spectrum is king; you own everything.”

And The Other Thing

Of course, he may have it wrong about the ads. There is also this video, called “If I had a Magic Phone“. Maybe this is what Google is thinking after all….

I am Jon, and I want my phone to fix me a sandwich, please.

Piracy In France – The Smokescreen

Nothing For Us, Something For Nothing for Them

Last week, French President Nicolas Sarkozy endorsed a new law aimed at punishing those who share music and movies online. The new law creates an agency to sift through data that ISPs will be required to hand over about their highest-volume bandwidth users. Offenders will receive 2 warnings, and then be subject to disconnection.

This concept is the brainchild of Denis Olivennes, chairman of the retail chain Fnac. Fnac is one of the largest entertainmnet chains in France, and so has a definite interest in “physical-format” items such as CDs and DVDs. The theory is that, if downloads (non-physical) can be curtailed then sales of CDs and DVDs will go up. Seems like a conflict of interest to some.

How It Works:
ISPs monitor your bandwidth usage, identifying high-bandwidth users by name.
ISPs provide a list to the newly created agency.
The agency sends out “electronic warning messages” to individual users.
After 2 warnings, users are subject to disconnection.
Filmmakers agree to release physical DVDs faster.
Music firms support DRM-free tracks in music stores.

The WTF Factor
ISPs have always monitored bandwidth usage. That is, after all, what they are selling. They have an “inventory” of available bandwidth and, like any other business with an inventory, must know how much they have available.
P2P networks demand alot of bandwidth, so lowering the amount for a group of users will make more available across their system. This translates into increasing their supply, and probably their profits.

I’m not against more profits. But I am uncertain about any value this will add to anyone in the public. In the past, any customer of any ISP in the “free” world had some assurance that their personal info was kept confidential. This will not be true anymore. What will be true is that the ISPs are now providing that very personal information to an agency created by the government to help these two industries become more profitable.

Also to be considered is the reality that this strategy can only work in an area that’s pretty well saturated with cheap high-speed internet services. ISPs in other countries seem to be a bit reluctant to cooperate with efforts like these. File-sharing, questionable or not, is one of the biggest motivators for buying a high-speed connection.

Here’s a few quotes I’d like you to consider:

“In return for agreeing to monitor net use, film-makers agreed to speed up the transfer of movies to DVD and music firms pledged to support DRM-free tracks on music stores.”

Physical DVDs and CDs generally do not contain any DRM already, so the promise of no DRM on CDs is only smoke. And DVD releases are already fairly rapid. If they really thought this was cutting into their sales, they would just speed up DVD releases anyway. More smoke. The film-makers and music firms are not the ones doing the monitoring, the ISPs are, so this statement is all just smoke from its premise.

“The group who brokered the deal said the measures were intended to curb casual piracy rather than tackle large scale pirate groups.”

That quote, right there, tells the whole story. Large scale pirating, if pirating were the problem, would be the real threat to go after. But this is not about “pirating”. This is about increasing profits in 2 industries that are already increasing profits daily.The truth is that bandwidth is getting cheaper by the minute. By. The. Minute. ISPs can do nothing and their profits will go up. Record producers usually lose money on a per artist basis, but they have cut back on new artists and their profits are up. This is all what I can’t help but call, Bullicus.

From a well written critique of the RIAA(and others) assertions about online piracy. “If piracy is the problem, why is it that sales didn’t start declining until AFTER the RIAA had Napster shut down?”

Well, that’s a very good question. Could it be that the buying public now sees itself as an adversary to the recording industry? We’ve known all along that most of the artists got squat from their recording deals. Maybe we’ve changed the way we look at that, after several years of being treated like thieves.

So Who Benefits?

ISPs – less bandwidth used and therefore lower cost of operating services
FNAC – hoping for more physical item sales
IFPI etc – maintaining what little bit of control over where the money goes
Artists – can’t see any benefits here….

I am Jon, and I am calling Bullicus.

New Firefox Update

I learned through the Internet Storm Center that Firefox has a new update available. The latest update is version, which fixes a bug in the way Firefox handles some images. This may not affect you, depending on the sites you visit, but it never hurts to have the latest version.

Interesting facts: Did you know that the release fixed or upgraded over 11,000 items in Firefox? Did you know that every day over 10,000 individual people test Firefox’s latest developments?

I am Jon, and I am keeping you up-to-date.

“You’re not even listening, are you?”

Let’s all go to LOL LOL Land…

Okay, maybe it’s because it’s nearly 1am on a Friday morning. Maybe it’s just that I have worked, like, 80 hours since Sunday.

Or maybe it’s because this is truly funny, but I am going to write something not many self-respecting computergeeks would even think:

Microsoft got this right. Watch the video. You will laugh.

It’s only funny because it’s true.Thanks to Read/Write Web for pointing to the video.

I am Jon, and I am still lol. Well, I was… really. ?:^D

Google Wants You! (to fix their maps)

A Hot Date Heads South

Several months back I went to a Def Leppard concert in Charlotte, NC. (think you know how old I am? I’m older than that!) I’m not a big concert-goer anymore, but there was a woman I really wanted to go out with, and that’s where she wanted to go. Before heading out, I looked up the address online through one of the map services, I don’t remember which one now. After printing the map and directions, we headed to Charlotte with plenty of time to spare. Once we got to Charlotte, we followed the map as it led us deeper into the heart of the one-way massacre that is downtown Charlotte.
An hour of downtown Charlotte later, I gave up looking for the parking lot (I had paid for a premium spot… trying to impress this beautiful young lady) and just paid for parking in a garage I thought was at least somewhere close to the ampitheatre. On the streets, lots of people were heading toward what we thought was the Def Leppard show. We followed the crowd, only to find that we had been led right to the bowels of some street-filled chaos which had absolutely nothing to do with rock and roll. So I did what anyone might do, I found the closest police officer and asked him how to get where we going.

I Mean Heads Way South!

He looked at the map. He looked at the directions. He showed it to his partner. He looked at us, and laughed. Evidently we were several miles from the correct ampitheatre. He gave us directions and we thanked him and left. As it turns out, his directions led us all the way down I-77 and into South Carolina. We finally found the correct place, which was nowhere near where we thought it was, at about 9:30. We missed Styx, and Foreigner, but did arrive just as Def Leppard was taking the stage. They were great, as usual. But I haven’t been able to get a date with the beautiful young lady since….(as an aside, you really ought to click that Foreigner link if you like their music. You will like it…)

If you’ve ever used the internet to find a map, you may have run into a similar situation. It’s understandable. There’s alot of area to cover to create a map, and mistakes are unavoidable. The map says turn right but you need to turn left. The map says the address (1026 Somestreet) is here, but the addresses seem to stop at the 900 block. The list of mistakes is endless.

Google To The Rescue!

Well, the guys over at Google must have had that happen one too many times. They have started a program with GoogleMaps which allows you to go in and correct the things you know are wrong. It works like this: Go on over there and type in your address. A map appears showing the location you just entered, with a bubble that has the information they have associated with this address. One of the options listed within the bubble is “Edit”. Click on edit. (If you’re not signed into Google, you will be prompted to sign in, or create an account.)

Once you click “Edit”, another bubble will appear. Click on “Move Marker”, and drag the green arrow to the correct location. Then click “Save”, inside the little bubble. That’s all there is to it!

Go now, and fix the map!

I am Jon, and now you can find me..

Procrastination Flow Chart – The Update

You saw it before, now see it again!

Oh, you didn’t see it? Try it now… I’ve found a different link to a normal jpg file. Remember, you can click anywhere on the image to bring it into focus. I’m still trying to verify the author of the chart…

I am Jon, and I didn’t forget you.

Ruff PC – They Ain’t Skeered!

A bit of background: The Thinking Blog and RuffPC are sponsoring a free laptop giveaway contest. The rules and such can be found through the link above. Originally, I thought, “yeah, this would be a cool thing to win…” so I checked it out. I’m glad I did. These machines are some of the toughest and coolest computing devices I have seen since my days in the USAF. I would certainly still like to win the laptop, but I would write this review regardless. So enough about the something for a (little bit of) nothing. Check these guys out….

UPDATE: Go to The Thinking Blog and vote for Wordout!
Just click the link above and it will take you to the voting page. It’s free and it will really help me out! No registration, no email required, just your vote for Wordout, Entry #33!
To see the Entire Video Parade on RuffpC by Wordout, click this link!

UPDATE: The Thinking Blog and RuffPC changed the rules of the contest AFTER THE CONTEST WAS OVER! Wordout won the laptop according to the original rules, but I never was acknowledged as the winner, and I never received the laptop.
Just so you’ll know.

The New Site

First off, let me say that the site over at RuffPC is extremely easy to get around in. There’s a video that should play on their front page that I couldn’t get to work in my Firefox, but the site has only just gone public and, from experience, I know there are things that can take a bit of extra time. I’m certain, after looking through the rest of the site, these guys will soon have it all working for all of us.

The new site may have just gone public, but these guys have obviously been at this for a good while. Just look at some of their long list of customers:

US Air Force, Navy, Marine Corp and Coast Guard, Department of Defense (China Lake), U.S. Geological Survey, Armed Forces Radiobiology Research, Lockheed Martin, Rocky Flats, Honeywell, Boeing, and NASA.

These are just a fraction of their listed clients, and the entire list is impressive.

Extreme Machines For Extreme Conditions

But it’s not just the list that grabs your attention. Looking through their product page, you’ll find a portable pc for nearly any purpose. The RuffPad series includes a couple of models perfect for inventory management and similar tasks. They meet military standards for drops, vibration and temperature extremes, and are impervious to dust and water immersion. The RoughNote series are small pc’s with specs equal to or better than any I’ve ever seen, designed to meet or exceed the same military specs as the RuffPad. The RuffNote Scribe sports an Intel Centrino CPU, up to 1GB of RAM and a 120 GB hard drive, all in a small tablet form. Especially inviting is the RuffNote Tablet, a convertible laptop/tablet pc with a display that swivels 180 degrees and locks into place to make a large-form tablet.

As good as the smaller devices are, the more familiar laptop-styled models, the RuffBooks, are the real eye-catchers. The RuffBook Spec and the RuffBook Tech appear to be targeted at business users who might need a traveling laptop. Each features the Intel CoreDuo processor with 2MB L2 cache, 512 MB DDR RAM, 60GB shock-mounted hard drive, CD-RW/DVD-RW, and meets the same rigorous military standards as the hand-held units.

With a name like “Junior”, you would expect less features, but the RuffBook Junior is, as they proclaim, “the ultimate portable mini-notebook”. Do you need a machine that keeps working in temperature extremes? How about a laptop that doesn’t freak out in a pouring rainstorm? Or a dust storm? Check out the Junior.

But maybe you need a laptop with a bigger display. The RoughBook Max is probably what you’re looking for. With a larger screen size, the ability to switch between WLAN and optional 3G communications standards, and a built in TPM 1.2 chip, the Max is a secure and versatile machine. Or maybe you need the RuffBook Pro, with added security features such as a fingerprint scanner. The Pro also has the 3G as a standard feature.

At the top of the line is the RuffBook Ultra. The Ultra is simply a dream machine, in my opinion. It features all the great innovations I’ve mentioned above, plus EMI protection, expansion bays, and what appears to be every input or output connector you will ever need. Multi-layered security, hot-swapping batteries, removable hard drive… what more could you ask for in any laptop?

Final Take

My final take on RuffPC? I love what these guys are doing. Everything has daylight readable screens (Notice the image quality in their outside shots?!). Everything is designed to be water resistant, dust resistant, and drop resistant. There’s no sacrifice on performance either. They have desktop-style features in a compact package. Geez, most even come with carrying handles! What is there not to love?

These guys are not for everybody. They’re probably not even for me (unless I win the contest), but they make some of the best pc’s I have ever seen. They are pricey, but for the person who needs to know that their machine can take some abuse, these are the “go-to guys”. From temperature extremes to vibrations, drops, spills and even submersion in water for 30 minutes, these machines can handle the “tuffest” abuse you can throw at them.

With A RuffPC Laptop, I Can Rule The Galaxy!

I am Jon, and I am impressedconsidering legal action.

this post edited: added RuffPC video

Up and Coming

Up and coming subjects include:

A Review of Ruff PC – these are some amazing computers, even underwater!

Simple and Easy Firefox Setup – must have add ons bring flare, finesse and FUNctionality to your Firefox!

Google Maps – If they’re wrong, go fix them.

SmartLinks from AdaptiveBlue – Alex Iskold has the stuff you need, and I don’t need to be paid to say it!

DRM and Piracy in France – proposed legislation will crack down hard, but open up the formats.


meanwhile, back at Wordout, Jon has installed 2 different link drillers on this entry. That’s the little boxes you see beside the links up there, a blue one and a gold one. Do him a favor and try both kinds out. Take pity on his poor tired self and leave a comment saying which one you like best. Anonymous comments are allowed for this post so you don’t even have to sign in or register. Jon would like you to register, but no matter… you’ve been coming here every day and still haven’t signed up for his RSS feed. Besides, he’s on his way to Raleigh to pick up his mom as she returns from her Hawaiian Thanksgiving. He’ll never know the difference…


… be sure to click the FeedMe! link below or the icon in your address bar for the RSS feed… You don’t want to miss a thing!

I am Jon, and no, I don’t live with my mother, even though she is supercool….


Here it is, 24 hours later, and if you’ll look over to the right (you may have to scroll down a bit) you’ll find that even though there are still a couple of tweaks to make, SmartLinks is working! As you’re watching, you’ll see it generating thumbnail previews of my favorite sites. Clicking on any of the thumbs gives you a larger view and clicking on that will take you to the site. There’s a bit more you can do with it, but I will leave that for later. Go ahead, play with it. It’s fun!

It’s late, I haven’t eaten, and tomorrow is a busy day. I just wanted to call your attention to it tonight because I just love it. I ‘ll be writing a review of AdaptiveBlue SmartLinks sometime this week. All I will say right now is that Adaptive Blue has some really great people. Be sure and check back for the details. As a matter of fact, why not just subscribe to Wordout right now, so you never miss a thing? Just click FeedMe!

I am Jon, and I am hungry.

New at Wordout – SnapShots and SmartLinks!

I’ve been doing quite a bit of work to the site lately, trying to add some fun and informative little extras. One of the latest things I am testing is Snapshots. If you look at the links in this post, you will notice a little box above and to the right of each link. (If you don’t see the little boxes, hit your browser refresh button. You are probably looking at a cached version of the page.) Placing your mouse on that little box will give you more information about the link.

Sometimes SnapShots brings you the information you need, without your having to leave the site, while other times it lets you “look ahead,” before deciding if you want to follow a link or not. Go ahead and try it out on that word, “cached”. Now try the SnapShots link. To close the SnapShot, just move your mouse away or click anywhere outside the SnapShot box.

You might decide that you don’t like Snapshots. That’s okay, you can turn it off. If you decide to disable it, please let me know through the Contact button above. If more people like it than hate it, I will keep it. If the majority of you hate it, it’s history. Either way, let me know what you think! If you decide Snapshots is not for you, just click the Options icon in the upper right corner of the Snap Shot and opt out.

Scrolling down the page a bit you will find another new widget in the sidebar. SmartLinks allows you to display your links visually. I’m really excited about about Smartlinks. Once I have wrapped my mind around it I will be able to display the “Recommended Reading” and “Links” in a way I think you will like. Meantime, about all I have working correctly as of Saturday at midnight, is the display.

Notice that the link to Smartlinks takes you to Adaptive Blue, founded by well-known software architect, Alex Iskold. Alex is also regularly found writing great content over at Read/Write Web and is referenced extensively across the net. He was kind enough to stop by Wordout a bit ago and gave me some pointers via emails. (Thanks Alex!) The page you land on hosts a cool plugin for Firefox which allows you to set up your very own Smartlinks organizer. Click the button to see the show.

Well, that’s about it for this week. I want to thank every one of you for dropping by. Seeing my readership increasing each day gives me a feeling that I am doing something worthwhile. Sometimes I find it nearly impossible to stop working, trying to make this site a place you will like and pass on to your friends. Tonight, even though I have reams of stuff to write about and more coding to understand, well, tonight just isn’t one of those nights. Tonight, I am simply too tired.

I am Jon, and I am taking a break….

Live Documents Integrates With Your MS Office

If you’re wondering why I have never commented on any of the web-based Office’s springing up all over the place, it’s because I have yet to see one that offers anything worthwhile. Each one seems to be concerned with only one thing, taking the customer base away from MS Office. And that, in my eyes, isn’t really helping me or you. I know, several large companies have recently started using Google Apps and Zoho. And maybe that’s going to save those companies some cash. But for you and me, who don’t feel the need to upgrade every time Microsoft redesigns the user interface, where’s the perks?

That all changed when I read Nick Carr’s review over at Rough Type of Live Documents, a startup based in India and founded by the guy who dreamed up Hotmail. You should go and check out their site, it’s nice. It has a clean feel to it.

Live Documents is free to individual users, and comes at a small price for businesses. But that is not its greatest strength.

Live Documents can fully integrate with the MS Office already on your desktop. This is a first. This is a real benefit. You see, all the other new web-based Office replacements are designed to do just that: Replace MS Office. Live Documents lets you keep your existing Office and expand it into a web-enabled management suite. They copied the MS Office 2007 interface and features. I think that means you will get the Office 2007 capabilities regardless of what version of MS Office you are currently using. Hey! A free upgrade!

Live Documents is not fully online as of this writing. At the top right of their homepage is a little link that will let you apply for an account. I did.

I am Jon, and I am looking forward to my Office upgrade.

The How To’s of Procrastination: A Flow Chart

Yesterday I got my first 4 diggs. Thanks guys…

While I was over there checking out the digg way of life I came across the

Procrastination Flow Chart. Finally, someone couldn’t put this off any longer…

I am Jon, and I am following the chart. (heh heh)

UPDATE: If you are using Firefox and the image doesn’t display, click here and do what it says in Step 1. Then try to see the chart again. If it still won’t display go back to the Mozilla link and try the rest of the steps listed there. If you have any further issues with images in Firefox, send me an email by using the Contact button here at Wordout.

Viral Videos Get Professional Help

Have you ever wondered how the most popular videos at youtube get so popular? It’s no accident, says Dan Ackerman Greenberg, co-founder of The Commotion Group. In a guest blog at TechCrunch, Dan gives us 9 secrets his viral video marketing company uses to get from 100 thousand to 1.5 million views.

According to Dan:

“There are tens of thousands of videos uploaded to YouTube each day (I’ve heard estimates between 10-65,000 videos per day). I don’t care how “viral” you think your video is; no one is going to find it and no one is going to watch it.

The members of my startup are hired guns – our clients give us videos and we make them go viral. Our rule of thumb is that if we don’t get a video 100,000 views, we don’t charge.”

Even though it is a rather long piece (and coming from me, that’s saying something!), it was reasonably interesting to see how the phenomenon is actually orchestrated. Some of the techniques are so simple, it’s amazing. Other techniques might make you stop and go, hmmm….. For instance, the way they leverage social sites, manipulate online relationships, create false conversations about their project… aren’t these things basically being dishonest to get the job done? It may not be illegal, but is it ethical? What do you think about this? Does it even matter?

I am Jon, and I am going, hmmm……

State Forces Vaccinations Using Police and Attack Dogs

Search Google and you will find lots written about forced vaccinations in Prince George’s County, Maryland. This would be no big deal, really, except there is no law in Maryland requiring parents to vaccinate their children. Prince George’s county officials decided to team up with the department of health and force these kids to get their shots, threatening the parents with jail time if they did not comply. You can read about it at Newstarget.com.

In my mind, this story isn’t about the vaccinations. It looks like that is what everybody is focusing on, kicking up fluff all over the place about “Big Pharma”. To me, this is more about one more step we are gingerly taking into the wonderful political structure of losing our most basic rights. It makes me wonder about our future. Remember, there are no laws in Maryland requiring parents to submit their children to these vaccinations. Parents are free to choose what’s best for their families. That’s the law. And to me, that’s what this is about.

I guess that don’t matter much up there in Prince G’s county, just east of Washington, DC. What do you think about it?

I am Jon, and I am American.

Happy Thanksgiving!

When I think of the blessings in my life, few rank as high as each and every one of you. I just want you guys to know that you are at the top of my list of what-I-am-thankful-for. I will be thinking about you all today while I spend this time with the family. I hope your Thanksgiving is filled with good times, laughter and relaxation.

Enjoy the day!

I am Jon, and I am grateful for all of you.

5 Things You Can Do to Start Your PC Faster

Designed for Windows XP computer hardware logoImage via Wikipedia

This article generally applies to Windows XP, although the principles can be applied to any Windows based system.
Keepin It Real… Fast

Does it seem like your computer is booting slower than it used to? This is one of the most common complaints I get from new customers. Most are certain they have a virus or have been “hacked” in some way. Even though that is a real possibility, I have found that it’s usually not the case. Here are some tricks of the trade that I and countless other geeks use all the time to get Windows into high gear at the startup.

Some of this stuff may look technical, but it’s not. For it to be technical you would have to use your keyboard. You can do everything here with your mouse. (Well, there is a little bit of typing, but just a little!)

1. Scan For Malware

Any virus, worm or piece of spyware that gets on your system is going to slow it down. These things aren’t there to do nothing, after all, and no matter what they do they use up your resources. Many of them will try to attach themselves to real Windows processes, which makes it harder to shut them down and ensures to a degree that they will run every time you start your pc. Removing them is mainly a security matter, but it is certainly a performance issue as well. Always keep your antivirus up to date and perform a full scan at least once a week.

2. MSConfig/Startup Items

Instant messenger programs, pdf readers, office plugins, antivirus and other security products… you name it, somebody has made it start at the same time as Windows. If you want your pc to start faster, you positively have to cut back on some of these. Click on START and then RUN. Type in “msconfig” and the System Configuration Utility will appear. Select the tab that says Startup. You will see a window containing a cryptic list of items with little check-boxes to the left. Hold your curser on the dark line just to the left of the word “Location” in the columns at the top. Hold your left mouse button and drag the line to the right, so that you can see the middle column better.

Note: If you see an entry with no information in the center column, you definitely want to uncheck that one. Then, with an updated antivirus scanner run a complete system scan. This is probably a piece of malware of some type, and must be removed before you want to go any further.

If no one’s ever been in here, all the little boxes will be checked. These are the programs that are starting up with Windows and constantly running in the background. When you uncheck the boxes, these programs will no longer start when you boot your pc. You will still be able to use the programs, and some of them will start up on cue, right when they’re needed, without any help from you.

Look through the list. You want to make sure you DO NOT turn off your antivirus programs. In the center column, labeled “Command”, you will see the path that tells your pc to run these programs. If you’re running Norton Antivirus, you don’t want to turn off anything that has the words “Norton” or “Symantec”. If you’re running McAffee, leave the commands that have the word “McAffee” in them. If, like me, you only use products from F-Secure, then leave their commands alone. Other antivirus/firewall/intrusion detection programs should be recognizable to you as long as you know the names of them. We want to leave those settings as they are.

But you can feel good about turning off alot of the rest of them. Common boottime parasites can include anything from AOL, any instant messenging program, the Adobe Launcher for their products, Microsoft Office, Quicktime and most other commercial players. You will probably also see entries for updater services which don’t need to be started with Windows. Common entries are Jusched from Sun Java and Quicktime or iTunes and the updaters from major pc vendors. You might also find other items that you don’t recognize and I haven’t mentioned here. Turn off the obvious ones first, and see how it affects your start up time. To turn them off, just uncheck the box beside it. When you’re done hit APPLY and OKAY. A prompt will appear asking to restart your pc. We’re not done with this step yet, so click CANCEL.

Click on START, PROGRAMS and the STARTUP folder. If there’s anything in there, right click on it and delete it. Then you want to restart your pc. We’ll be restarting a few times during all this.

3. Temp/$NTUninst/Fonts

As Windows is starting up, it scans several folders on your hard drive. If we get rid of the unnecessary clutter in these folders, the pc should start faster because it’s not looking through all those useless files. One of these is the Temp folder. It’s buried deep, so getting there can be a chore for the inexperienced. But you can do this. Here’s how:

1. Open My Computer. Click on Tools and select Folder Options. Select the tab “View“. Towards the bottom of the window, check the box that says “Show hidden files and folders”. Select Apply to make it permanent, or just hit Okay.

2. Double click the C drive, then “Documents and Settings“, then your “username“, then “Local Settings“, and finally “Temp“. You can find your username normally at the top of the Start menu.

3. Click on EDIT and Select All. Then click on FILE and Delete. A box will appear confirming the delete. Just say yes. If there’s alot of buildup there, it might take a minute or two to delete it all. When it’s done, hit the Back button until you are back to the C drive.

4. Next we’re going to the place you’ve always been told not to go: the Windows folder. Open the Windows folder. A warning message may appear. Just tell it to show you the files. You will see that there are alot of them that are blue. The ones that have names starting with “$NtUninst” are the ones we want to get rid of. This probably will still leave some blue colored files in the folder, and that’s okay. The NtUninst files are left overs from all those Windows Updates you’ve been getting. You can select them all by clicking on the first one, then scrolling to the last one and while holding the “shift” key, click on it. This should highlight all of them between the first and last. Check again to make sure you only selected the ones beginning with $NtUninst. Then click on the File menu and select Delete.

5. Now that these files are gone, we need to check out the Windows Temp folder. You should be able to see it there in front of you. Open it up and select Edit, and Select All. Then select File and Delete. Some of these files may refuse to be deleted. Don’t worry about that. If you get a message saying a file cannot be deleted, just say OK and close out the window.

6. Now go to your Control Panel. Open the Fonts folder. Windows has to scan every font you have as it starts, so the fewer the better if you want a shorter boot time. Look through the Fonts folder and delete any you don’t think you will ever need. Be careful here. You can always get the fonts back, but that might not be something you want to have to worry about. When you’re done just close out that window and restart your pc.

4. Registry

Over time the registry just gets cluttered with old and useless information which Windows reads every time your pc starts up. There are lots of tools out there for cleaning up your registry, some good and some not-so good. Registry Clean Pro is a good one. I usually see a noticeable improvement when I use it on a customer’s machine. I won’t go into other registry cleaners here, except to say that Any time you make changes to the registry you should back it up first. Period. In case you want to know how, here it is:
Click on Start and Run. Type “regedit” and hit Okay.

Select File and then Export and then Save. This will save a backup of your registry in your My Documents folder. Now get out of there. Trust me, you do not want to experiment with settings in here.

If you have used a registry cleaner, then you will need to restart your pc again now.

5. Defragment

Now that we’ve made massive changes to the files on your hard drive, we probably need to defrag the hard drive. Open My Computer and right click on the C drive. Select Properties, and then Tools. Select the Defragment Now option. Select the Analyze option. Chances are, Windows will tell you that “you should defrag this volume now”. Go ahead and select Defragment, then get up and walk away for awhile. Depending on how much work Windows has to do to defrag the drive, this could take the rest of your night. There are situations when Windows will say it needs to perform a scandisk operation before it can defrag. If this is the case, you really should let Windows scan the disk.

Luckily, it’s the last step in this little dance and it will generally finish on its own. Seems like a great time to find a… a book. Good time to find a great book and relax for awhile. Remember? The way you used to?

I am Jon, and I recommend reading a great book.

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RSS Feed Changes

This week I have decided to use Feedburner as the RSS manager for Wordout. As a result, many of you who have subscribed in the past are no longer receiving the feed. (I know this because suddenly I realized I wasn’t getting it anymore.)

There’s a simple fix for this problem. Just delete the old feed, and then sign up for it again, using any of the many links I have provided here on the site. There’s one down there at the bottom left of this post that says FEED ME! Go ahead and do it now, and I’ll wait right here while you do…..

If you have any trouble with subscribing, just drop me an email or use the Contact button at the top of the screen. I’ll be happy to send you detailed instructions on how to get it all going again.

I am Jon, the guy who might have messed up your RSS feed. But I’m willing to fix it.