Jun 30, 2011

Amazon fires affiliates as California passes Idiotic Law

Internet IconAmazon has fired all of its California affiliates over a new idiotic California sales tax law. Ars Technica has the story:
Amazon to shut down California affiliates over new sales tax law

Having gone through this in Colorado let me try to explain the facts.

All Amazon affiliates in the state PAY INCOME TAXES. That's right, they are already getting tax revenue from the program. Or should I say WERE getting tax revenue. California just wiped out millions of dollars in income taxes overnight by passing this law. Now they will get zero dollars in income tax and zero dollars in sales tax. For about $1000 annually you can setup a business in Wyoming or Nevada which has no income tax or silly Amazon tax. The large bloggers and web sites will go out of state and they will continue pretty much unaffected. But they will pay $0 in California taxes. Reducing tax revenue even further in a state that needs the money desperately.

In addition, this law really hurts the small bloggers who are just starting out and making a a couple hundred dollars a year. A few hundred dollars may not mean much rich elites on the Net. I have seen their posts in Colorado. However, a few hundred dollars means a lot to struggling families in a bad economy.

Amazon is stupid for not fighting these laws. They have the money and the lawyers to take the states to court and win. This is settled law. Mail order businesses have existed in the US for many decades and they never had to collect sales taxes. Several Supreme course cases support this position. And essentially, Amazon is nothing more than a mail order business without the paper catalog. However, they choose to instead fire their associates and let them fight it out in court on their own. Thus taking years to get a resolution.

The stupidity of the whole thing is staggering. And yet, state after state continues to shoot themselves in the foot.

In Colorado, the state House passed a repeal of our stupid Amazon law almost unanimously. However, the Democrat control Senate refused to have a hearing on the law this year. Hopefully it will get repealed next year.

And that is about as political as I will ever get on this blog. :)

Jun 29, 2011

Google+ Social Network is Here

Google LogoWell they finally gone and done it. Google has announced they are gonna join the social media game with Google+. Here is a long story and a short one with the details.

Inside Google+ - Wired (Detailed story)
Google Guns for Facebook with Google+ Social Network | PCWorld

Everything sounds promising. Facebook has a pretty horrible user interface and there is no way to group friends or content. To me, reading a Facebook stream is really tough. What if I want to read just the posts from my family? My co workers? etc...

I want to control that and I want to be the only person to know how I am filtering the feed.

Five Good Reasons to Download Firefox 5

Firefox LogoAll the good stuff happens while I am on vacation. Firefox 5 was released last week and PC World has the story.

If you read some of the linked stories, you will see that Firefox is moving toward the Google Chrome update model. Chrome updates the browser all the time in the background. A change from version 8 to version 9 is completely invisible to the end user.

For most users, this is a good thing as upgrading a piece of software is quite a chore. Not sure how this will play with IT departments.

Five Good Reasons to Download Firefox 5 | PCWorld Business Center

Jun 28, 2011

Jun 27, 2011

Nook Touch Battery is not Holding Charge

I just got back from a week long trip. Much to my frustration, my brand new Nook Touch can't hold a charge longer than 4 days. This is not good for a device advertised to hold a charge for 2 months under normal use.

So to eliminate possible issues I:
  1. Turned off Wifi
  2. Removed my 8gb MicroSD card
The Nook showed no improvement. If anything it got worse.

So I called tech support this morning. First person was clueless. Second person disconnected. Third person (who was helpful) suggested I drain the device 100%. Then let the device charge for 4.5 hours to see if that resets the battery.

That should take 24 hours to try (for the battery to drain all the way). I will report back with the results.

Update: I fixed my Nook. Details can be found in a newer post here.

Jun 23, 2011

Cyberduck FTP/SFTP/DAV Client also Available on Windows

I just wanted to mention today that my favorite FTP/SFTP/DAV client for the Mac is now also available for Windows. The same great interface and functionality as the Mac client. You can download the Windows client for free at:

Cyberduck Site

My initial testing with the Windows version has been very positive. So I suggest you check it out.

Command Line Aliases for Windows

Microsoft Logo
Over the years, I have used Mac OS X and Unix quite a bit for work. However, my current job requires me to work with Windows XP and Windows 7. The Unix Bash shell has an alias feature which allows you to create short commands for commonly used commands. For example, typically I will setup an ll alias for the ls -l command on Unix. However, Windows doesn't have an equivalent. Or does it?

I have found that you can set up Windows batch files to work just like aliases in Unix. For example, let's say I want to set up aliases for ls and ll (which my brain is always trying use anyway). With a text editor create files that look like this:

ls.bat
@dir /w %1 %2 %3 %4 %5 %6

ll.bat
@dir %1 %2 %3 %4 %5 %6

The "@" symbol prevents the command from being echoed to the console making the batch file act just like a normal command. The "%" numbers are command line parameters passed to your command. This allows you to type ls C:\ and still have the command work.

To use the files, they must be placed somewhere in the path. Either a directory you have added to the path or the C:\windows\system32 directory. Once you have done this you should be able use the commands to your hearts content. Here are some examples I typically setup for all my Windows machines.

c.bat - CD to the root of the C Drive
@C:
@cd c:\

home.bat - CD to the current users home directory
@cd %homepath%

Simple command files like these can save you a lot of time when you work with the command prompt a lot.

Jun 22, 2011

Cyberduck FTP/SFTP/DAV Client Now on Mac App Store

Cyberduck (by David Kocher) has been my favorite FTP/SFTP client for the Mac for a number of years. It essentially has a folder interface with which you can drag and drop files to or from your destination. It includes a bookmark system that is very easy to use. And most important, it supports SFTP, in addition to FTP, which is the defacto standard for copying files on the Internet. Recently I also discovered that Cyberduck has full DAV support which works great with the Oracle Beehive server at work.

Cyberduck is still available for free as an open source product. But it is also available on the Mac app store for $24.95. A great price considering what a great product this is.

Cyberduck - Mac App Store
Cyberduck Site

Jun 21, 2011

App Week

This week I am going to write about some apps and Mac apps I use a lot or have used a lot in the past.

The Mac app store was announced quite a while back, but I never used it until a few weeks ago. Much to my surprise a number of my favorite apps now are on the store. Simply purchasing the app on the store, makes it available on all your Macs. Thus, the App store allows you to sync your purchased apps to all your Macs. Hope you like these apps as much as I do.

Smultron OS X Text Editor - Now in Mac App Store!

I have written about Smultron before a few times. A free open source text editor for the Mac that works really well. However, the original author, Peter Borg, no longer had time to maintain it so the project was on life support. So I stopped using it.

A few weeks back I got some good news. I found Smultron was on the Mac App store for $5. Smultron is back!

Smultron - Mac App Store

That is a great price for such a useful tool. I purchased it right away and now I am using it again on all my Macs. So if you want an easy to use, yet powerful Mac native text editor, check out Peter's site for more information: Peter Borg Apps

Jun 17, 2011

Impressive ePub3 Book

Cult of Mac has a cool link to a sample ePub3 book. The amount of interactivity is quite impressive. I did not know something like this was possible.

Of course, I not sure it would look real great on a Black and White Kindle or a Nook.

Jun 15, 2011

Nook Touch Cannot Read Anything on MicroSD Card

After copying some epub books to the MicroSD card of my new Nook Touch (the My Files/Books directory), none of the books can be read. Instead the following error message is displayed:

The Nook cannot read this file. It may be an unsupported format.

Note: They are valid books files and work fine when copied to the free space on the Nook.

Solution: Create a new directory in the My Files directory named My Documents. Once that is done, you can read the books in the My Documents directory or the Books directory.

As to why? It beats me. I called tech support. Got help right away. Waited for the dude to research about 5 minutes. He came back with the answer. It works. Kudo's Barnes and Noble for great customer support.

Jun 14, 2011

Change the Default Font Size of App Fonts in NetBeans

Installed NetBeans 7 yesterday on Windows 7. The application fonts (menus, tab titles, and such) were way too small and I was wondering if there is a way to increase their size. There is.

In the etc directory of the NetBeans installation directory you will find the netbeans.conf file.

Open the file and you will find a variable that looks like this:

netbeans_default_options="-J-client -J-Xss2m -J-Xms32m -J-XX:PermSize=32m -J-XX:MaxPermSize=384m -J-Dapple.laf.useScreenMenuBar=true -J-Dapple.awt.graphics.UseQuartz=true -J-Dsun.java2d.noddraw=true"


To change the default font size for the application (which is 11pt) you use the the --fontsize command line option. Add the option and the point size you want to the variable shown above. When done, it should like this:

netbeans_default_options="-J-client -J-Xss2m -J-Xms32m -J-XX:PermSize=32m -J-XX:MaxPermSize=384m -J-Dapple.laf.useScreenMenuBar=true -J-Dapple.awt.graphics.UseQuartz=true -J-Dsun.java2d.noddraw=true --fontsize 14"


The next time you restart NetBeans the application fonts should be bigger. For more information see the Netbeans FontFAQ. That is all.

Jun 13, 2011

Windows 7 Tip: Turn off Auto Snap Maximize Feature

Microsoft Logo
I feel blessed to run across this fix today. Ever since I started using Windows 7, the number one thing that drives me crazy is the auto tile and auto maximize features known as aero snap. Examples of this behavior include:
  • Drag window to the top of the screen. Snap, the window is maximized.
  • Drag a window to the left side of the screen. Snap, the window takes up the left side the screen.
  • Drag a window to the right side of the screen. Snap, the window takes up the left side of the screen.
But what if you just want to drag a window to the top of the screen? Or hang a window out to the left side of the screen to look at two windows side by side? Then the aero snap feature is freaking infuriating. Especially on a laptop where you have limited screen space.

So here are the steps to turn it off.
(1) Click Start --> Control Panel --> Ease of Access Center --> Make it easier to focus on tasks
(2) Scroll to the bottom of the screen.
(3) Under Make it easier to manage windows
(4) Check: Prevent windows from being automatically arranged when moved to the edge of the screen.

No more surprises when moving to the edge of the screen. Yay!!!!!!!!

Please note that this also turns off the following key combinations:
Win+Up - Maximize
Win+Down - Restore / Minimize
Win+Left - Snap to left
Win+Right - Snap to right

Jun 11, 2011

Google eyes iMessage, readies rival service, death of text messaging?

Google LogoI had not thought about this before. But if Apple and Google both provide free messaging services, this could have a huge impact on phone companies. The big question is, will they make their services ubiquitous? Google would seem to be the best candidate for this. I could see them making an app or web app that would allow anyone to message on any device. I can never see Apple creating an Android app. But I could definitely see the reverse.

Report: Google eyes iMessage, readies rival service | Mobile | Macworld

Cellphone Carriers Face Pressure Over Texting - WSJ.com

Jun 10, 2011

Apple Reverses Course On In-App Subscriptions - Mac Rumors

Well Apple is listening to me, sorta. They haved backed off on their in app subscriptions. Now you can include items sold outside the app store, as long as there is no link to your app store.

So I think the reduces the chance of an instance anti-trust law suit. However, it still has got to make Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and just about every newspaper really angry. Expect more HTML5 clients like the financial times app. And lots more Android devices from the big book stores. Here are the details from MacRumors.

Apple Reverses Course On In-App Subscriptions [Apple Confirms] - Mac Rumors

Jun 8, 2011

OS X Tip: Two Hidden Airport Wifi Features

OS X pictureRan across a couple of Airport wifi features today that I did not know about.

First, there is a built in airport command you merely need to add a link to. Once you do that, you can do a number of queries on the command line. Details can be found here:

airport – the Little Known Command Line Wireless Utility

Second, just hold down the option key and click on your Airport icon on the menu bar. This provides some pretty detailed information about your connection.

HTML5 Cheat Sheet Part I: A Simple HTML5 Template

I posted a link to my Markdown Cheat Sheet earlier this week. This is the first post on the key steps I went through to create that HTML page.

The first step was to create a basic, simple HTML5 template. Here is what I came up with.

Simple HTML Template

   1 <!DOCTYPE html>
   2 <html lang="en">
   3 <head>
   4   <meta charset="utf-8"/>
   5   <title>Simple HTML5 Template</title>
   6 </head>
   7 <body>
   8 
   9 <h2>Header 2</h2>
  10 <p>This is a very simple HTML 5 template.</p>
  11 
  12 </body>
  13 </html>

html5-template.html.txt
html5-template.html

The key lines are 1, 2, and 4. On line 1 the new DOCTYPE is set. After that, just set the language and character set. Once I added these 3 things, the page would load in any modern browser (Firefox, Chrome, Safari, IE9).

See my detailed How-to for reference material here.

Jun 7, 2011

Financial Times End Runs Apple App Store

I think this is a big deal. As I have written before, Apple has changed their terms of service requiring any in-app purchases to go through them. This gives Apple a 30% cut of any transaction. This is not possible with many businesses like newspapers and books. Their margins are simply to small to make this possible.

The Financial Times is the first major publication to develop a HTML5 web app that requires no store. With an HTML5 app, you download the app directly over the Internet. Since it is HTML5, it will work offline or online. So on any device, it will work just like an app. This is great for HTML5 and the development of web apps. This whole stance by Apple is silly. All it does is create competition for their app store.

But in this case, what is bad for Apple, it good for the Web.

The Financial Times Tries an Apple End-Run – AllThingsD

Jun 5, 2011

Opening Safari with a Blank Page

Ran across a great tip from MacWorld this weekend. Whenever you open Safari in an iPhone, iPod or iPad, the last page you used in the browser tries to reload. This can be a big of a pain if there is a lot of data on that page. Dan Frakes at MacWorld has the answer. Add a blank page icon your app home page. The article provides a step by step guide for setting up the icon.

Open iOS Safari to a blank page | Browsers & Add-Ons | iOS Central | Macworld

Jun 2, 2011

Markdown Cheat Sheet

The best way to learn about something is to create some sort of project. So to learn about HTML5, CSS media queries, and offline web page storage I created a cheat sheet template. The first example, a Markdown syntax Cheat Sheet.

Markdown Cheat Sheet

The page uses JQuery to allow you to show or hide sections. The interface should work both with a mouse and with touch. There is a CSS style sheet for any page the size of a iPhone 4 or smaller, and a style sheet for anything larger. The page has a manifest file so it can be used offline.

I will write up the things I learned from this little project in other posts.

Berkeley DB, SQLite and Java

Duke WavingI learned a few things about the Berkeley DB which is developed by my employer, Oracle. So let me share. Berkeley DB first came to my attention as an option for MySQL. But it is much more than it, it can store data for projects that range in size from kilobytes to petabytes. In addition, it can used as an embedded database, an XML Database or an SQL database. You can read about the all the possibilities on the overview page.

Berkeley DB Overview
Note: Before I forget, Berkeley DB is distributed with an open source license. You can use it for free for personal use or as a part of an open source project. If you wish to distribute your own DBs for profit, you can get a commercial license from Oracle.

Two things really jumped out at me. First, the latest version of Berkeley DB comes with an SQLite front end. So if you are familiar with SQLite, you can jump write in and try it out. You will find online documentation here:

Getting Started with the Oracle Berkeley DB SQL APIs

Second, Berkeley DB includes a Java embeddable flavor that allows you to persist collection structures in the database. Check out the tutorial here:

Berkeley DB Java Edition Collections Tutorial

Cool stuff.

Jun 1, 2011

Keyboard Case Turns iPad 2 into Netbook

iPhone iPad pictureWant to turn your iPad 2 into a NetBook? Check out the Logitech keyboard case by Zagg. Looks like this cool case will get the job done. Works in portrait or landscape mode.

Mashable: Keyboard Case Enhances iPad 2 With Its Sleek Matching Design

Buy it from the Zagg Site