Friday, February 22, 2008

eBay's Ridiculous Forgotton Password Process

Yes, I know that this week is eBay strike week, but I had to log in to take care of something. I decided I wanted to change my password, which I did. It then brought me to a login screen to log back in to eBay with the new password, which I tried, but it failed to recognize my password. Of course I tried the old password and that didn't work either. I clicked the "I forgot my password" link and it took me to a page asking me the answers to my security questions. I answered them, and moments later I received an e-mail asking me to click the link to reset my password. I click the link and see the following screen:

I entered my User ID and clicked continue, expecting to be allowed to reset my password, but instead I was prompted to login! How ironic.

I went through eBay and did the live chat and got connected to Katen who asked me one more time around to go through the same process, and guess what? The same thing happened!

Sometimes you just wonder with these companies if they can ever do anything right.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

AT&T and Verizon Announce Unlimited Calling for $99.99

Verizon and AT&T (formerly Cingular) both announced this week the release of a new, $99.99 Unlimited Calling plan. Before this change, the $99.99 plan from both carriers gave you approximately 2,000 minutes, and if you wanted more minutes there were even higher plans up to $199.99/month. For those of us who talk a lot on our cell phones, this is a very good deal which was previously only available as a promotion through 3rd party resellers such as Boost Mobile.

A few differences I've noticed between the 2 carriers:

If you'd like to add unlimited text and internet to your plan, with Verizon it is a total of $149.99, and with AT&T it's $15 cheaper at $134.99. UPDATE: After further reviewing the matter, I've confirmed that Verizon's price is $139.99 for unlimited everything (even data) on a regular phone, and $149.99 for unlimited everything for a blackberry or PDA/smartphone. AT&T's price is $134.99 for unlimited everything (even data) on a regular phone, and $149.99 for unlimited everything for a blackberry or PDA/smartphone. See comments for more details.

Both carriers allow you to switch to this plan with no contract extension, however with AT&T the deal is even sweeter. Their
press release states as follows:

Existing customers can choose unlimited calling without extending their contract. New customers have the option of a month-to-month, 12 or 24 month contract.

The sentence above in bold clearly states that new customers can walk into a store or go online, sign up for this plan (presumably there will be a standard $36 activation fee), and walk away without signing a contract. If you try getting it and they refuse, just point them to their own press release. They couldn't have written it any clearer.

As far as Sprint and T-Mobile are concerned,
Gizmodo is reporting that T-Mobile is also offering the $99.99 unlimited voice and messaging plan, however I don't see that on their website. Gizmodo is also reporting that Sprint may be undercutting the competition and coming out with a $60 or $80 unlimited plan. I guess we'll just have to wait and see.
UPDATE: Sprint announced a $99.99 unlimited EVERYTHING plan. That's correct, unlimited talk, txt, picture, push-to-talk, TV, and web. As they put it - "The other guys just give you talk, we give you the whole shebang". Check it out at

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

USB Safely Remove

I've been using this program for a few days now and I'm very happy with it. I constantly have USB keys and external hard drives plugged into my laptop, and frankly, using Windows built-in Safely Remove Hardware can get annoying. This program allows you a one-click option to safely remove a device, and if the device is in use, the software will tell you which process is holding the file, and which file it is. Check out the screenshots for more details. The software is normally $20, but this week only (until Feb. 16th) it's available for free from the developer using the link below.

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My Vista Re-installation - A long journey

This past week was a hectic one. I'm finally finished reinstalling Windows Vista on my computer. I initially had a not-so-legit version of Vista running on my computer, and with that version, I would not be able to install Service Pack 1. I decided that a reformat was long overdue (I usually format every 6 months and it's been over a year since the last one), and I was gonna take the plunge.

My journey started with obtaining a Dell version of Windows Vista Ultimate so that once installed, my copy of Windows would be legit. The thing was I only had a Dell Vista Home Premium CD. That problem was quickly fixed by my friend (Thanks P), by replacing the pid.txt file in the \SOURCES directory with a Dell Vista Ultimate pid.txt file we found. Ok, so now I had a Dell Ultimate CD, but it's annoying to install Vista and then install SP1 on top of it. I wanted to slipstream SP1 into a DVD that I could have for the future. Here came the second problem...Microsoft does not allow slipstreaming SP1 into the Vista installation media. And here's where Google comes into the clutch - as usual. I found a very nice guide describing how to reverse engineer SP1 into a Vista installation. Excellent. Now that that was done, I tested it and it worked beautifully.

But as we all know, Vista comes with a ton of programs, services, and system utilities that I don't need - and I especially hate the number of things running in the background constantly. A few things I can think of off the top of my head are: UAC, Security Center, System Restore, Superfetch etc. Lucky for me, I found vLite which helped me create an installation of Vista which was much smaller and lightweight than the original. I ended up getting my Vista installation files down to 966MB, a drop too big to fit on a CD, so I started wondering if I could install Vista from a USB key. Of course, if there's a will there's a way, and I found this guide describing the very simple steps how to accomplish this.

Once my installation was on the USB key, I rebooted and simply selected "Removable Device" from my boot menu, and I was instantly in the Windows Vista Setup screen. The installation took about 16 minutes from start to finish, which is awesome considering with the full version of Vista it takes MUCH longer.

After installing the drivers for my system, and my essential programs (AVG, Mozy, SpyBot S&D, AvantBrowser, Foxit PDF, RoboForm, TeamViewer, uTorrent and WinRAR) along with Office 2007, I was very surprised to see that my computer was running much more efficient. On my old Vista installation I had constant HD activity, and on the new installation there was almost none. I would attribute that to the removal of SuperFetch from the Vista installation. But in general, thanks to vLite, my computer is running much faster.

It took a long time, and many test installations in a Virtual Machine, but in the end, it was worth it to have a quick-booting, quick-running version of Windows.

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Monday, February 4, 2008

Best 2008 Super Bowl Commercials

I had originally intended to have a write-up with a short paragraph of what I thought of each commercial this year during the Super Bowl. But as the night went on I realized how pathetic they all were. There were a few that stood out though, and those are the ones I wanted to mention. If available I will try to link to the commercial if it's available online.

And there you have it - in my opinion, the best Super Bowl commercials of 2008.

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