Thursday, January 31, 2008

Portable Applications for your new multi-gig flash drive

With flash drives getting bigger and bigger and cheaper and cheaper, I was at a loss for what to do with so much space. I bought a bigger flash drive just because I could. As I was looking around, there's a ton of stuff you can put on there that will help you fill up that space. Some of the options I've discovered include:
  • You can put an entire operating system on it, and boot off of it. (Puppy Linux )
  • You can install all the apps you normally use so you don't have to fret about not having the same firefox configurations from computer to computer. Some portable apps I've installed:
    • Firefox: Web browser
    • Clam AntiVirus
    • Notepad++: advanced text editing software
    • WinSCP: ftp client
    • 7Zip: file compressor/ uncompressor (works with tar balls)
    • OpenOffice Suite (files compatible with most MS Office files, includes word processor, spreadsheet, presentation, etc.)
    • GIMP: Free alternative to Photoshop
    • Gaim: multiple IM app
    • Thunderbird: email client
    • etc.
  • You can use it to store a password vault, so you don't have to worry about whether this web browser has that really long, difficult-to-remember password stored in it's cache
  • Use Ceedo to portabilize any application (if you're willing to pay for it), or there's a free alternative called MojoPac.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Our Solution to the Phone Problem

For background on this issue, check out this post. We canceled our phone line with AT&T...mostly. According to, AT&T has been forced by the FCC to offer "unbundled naked DSL Internet service to customers around the country." This means you can just order DSL from AT&T for $25/mo and not have to worry about paying for a land line. We considered doing away with a land line completely, but we're not on our own cell-phone plans yet, and thus don't have complete freedom with the use of our minutes.

We found that Vonage has a very appealing service plan ($15/mo.) allowing for 500 minutes of outbound (including long distance) calls and unlimited inbound calls (unlimited outbound calls are only $10 more per month). They have a nice online web interface that allows you to see your call log, check your voice mail, and add new features and tweak settings (voice mail, have your number ring your cell phone too, set a number to route calls to in case your internet service is down, etc.). One thing that is also a plus is that you can set up any voice mail messages you received to be sent to your email address! As far as I can tell, the sound quality seems even better than what we had with AT&T. You do have to make sure they have 911 calling in your area, apparently some areas don't, but they have some possible workarounds for those who don't.

The one drawback to this service is that your phone is completely dependent on your internet connection being up. We haven't had hardly any problems that couldn't be solved by simply unplugging and plugging the DSL modem back in, but there are those few occasions that no internet can be very annoying, especially when it includes your phone service. What we did to eliminate this issue (including power outages where your phone adapter and modems don't work anyway) was to keep a stripped down phone line from AT&T for $5 a month. We can then plug our phone into any jack with a DSL filter on it to make any emergency phone calls we need to make.

On top of all of this we're experimenting with GrandCentral, and really liking it. We're able to give that number out no matter what phone lines we keep or get rid of, and we don't have to tell everyone about a new number. You can choose customized voice mail greetings for specific callers, you can post call buttons on your webpage, and use Google's state of the art spam filtering against telemarketers.

Though all this does seem rather complex and convoluted, it's working for us and saved us $40/mo. The next thing on my to do list is to set up a PBX speaker system in the house :)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Memorizing the Proclamation

My wife and I set a goal to memorize the Proclamation of the Family to the World. I had read several articles on the LDS church website with regards to the proclamation and there were several accounts of people memorizing it and being blessed for doing so. As it was given in General Conference for the world we felt that it was important to ingrain its teachings in our lives, so we decided to memorize it. We missed our first deadline, but we have made it through about two-thirds of the way, and we'll plan to have it done by our little munchkin's first birthday.

I found a cool website that can turn an 8 page document into a pocket sized book that you can carry wherever you go. So, I took the Proclamation, the testimony of the Twelve Apostles of the Saviour Jesus Christ, and all 100 mastery scriptures (just the location and brief summary) and made an 8 page booklet for us to carry around and practice our memorization skills. You can download the booklet for your personal use here if you're interested, and the instructions on how to fold it are here. Hope you find this useful! Let me know if you have a hard time with the folding instructions, I could post my own if necessary.

Memorization Booklet