Thursday, May 14, 2009

Google Chrome

I've started playing with Google's Chrome bwser. At first, I thought it was mostly a toy and not a good replacement for my trusty Firefox. However, the funniest thing has happened. I've started to grow to like it.



Why do I like it? Well, there's no one compelling reason that I can point to that makes me choose it. Instead, it's a small number of little things. I think the biggest reason may be that it's new and something for me to play with. As a nerd, that's definitely one of the things I like is to play with new things.

But in addition to that, I do find it oddly compelling. The UI is simple and on my Lenovo S10's small screen it tends to stay out of the way. And that's never a bad thing. In addition, it feels rather fast (faster than Firefox), but that could just be my perseption and not reality. Will it completely replace Firefox for me? No. But is it a great 2nd browser? Yah, you betcha. (sorry, I'm writing this while sitting in a bar in St. Paul, Minnesota).

There are a couple of things that will drive you nuts at first. For starters, the tabs are not under the menu and control bars, but are instead part of the title bar. Supposedly Safari 4.0 does it the same way, but I haven't really tried it yet to be able to say for sure. In addition, the location bar and the search bar are the same thing. Now, this isn't as big a deal as it seems because now you can just type in what you're looking for and Chrome will just try and sort it out. Finally, there's no menu bar, and in its place, the menu items are all pushed into two submenus on the right hand side (the wrench and gear icons in the screenshot above).

None of these things are major, but just something to be aware of before trying it.

Feedback loop

So, something really interesting happened to me the other day. My wife and I were pondering which fridge to get to replace our then dead Frigidare. A couple of trips to Home Depot and Best Buy, plus plenty of web surfing later, I had settled on two: a Kenmore (Whirlpool/Frigidare/whatever) and an LG side-by-side. Both were about the same price and both were comparable in size. However, on (where I was looking to buy because they could get it to us before my family arrive in DC), the LG was lower rated than the Kenmore.

My problem was the LG looked better and (for some reason) was more appealing to me than the Kenmore. Maybe part of the problem was the Kenmore was a direct replacement for the one that just died on me. And by direct replacement, I mean everything was identical, so it felt like the same fridge. Plus the LG just plain looked better.

As the decision time drew near, I ended up tweeting about my dilema. Now, I've heard the digerati talking about how they ask questions of their Twitter minions and getting good answers, but I've never found that to work for me. Maybe I have too few followers (46 at last count) or maybe they just ignore me (and based on my occasional inane tweets, I can understand why).

But apparently, my friends on Facebook do pay attention because by the morning I already had a few people telling me to go with the LG. And the best part is it was based on their personal experiences.

So, we now have a new LG side-by-side refrigerator and it seems to be working well. The ice maker is a bit sub-par, but that was the common refrain from the web and my Facebook friends, but no product's perfect, right?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

More Google Apps

In playing more with Google Apps, I just discovered that you can use custom subdomain names for accessing services such as mail, documents and calendar. It's just a matter of logging into the Google Apps domain console -> Service Settings -> Service and under the General tab, clicking change URL under the web address.

Once you have your address set, you'll need to add a CNAME to your account (just as was done when creating the blog link in my previous article). And then, as they say, lather-rinse-repeat for all the desired services.

I'm still waiting for my domain changes to go through, but so far everything appears exciting. The only recommendation I would make is to make the CNAME changes about 24-48 hours before enabling the subdomain in Google. In doing so, you will minimize downtime waiting for the changes to propagate throughout the DNS system.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

The joys of home ownership ....

So, it's been one of those weeks here at the new house. Well, I guess the problems really started last week when the temperatures in DC hit 94F (34c) for about 3 days in a row. Those days revealed how warm the upstairs in our 1913 row house could get and really meant we had insufficient insulation in the attic.

On Saturday, then, I finally climbed up to the attic to survey the situation. And yes, there was not just too little insulation, there was NO insulation in the attic. Why the previous owner didn't bother installing any when he retrofitted A/C into the place, I'll never know.

To make matters worse, in looking around, I found a couple of cracked roof beams that need some TLC. And of course, given the way the house is arranged, you can't just climb into the attic and fix the beams. Instead we're going to have to go through the ceiling in the second guest bedroom.

And then finally, on Thursday of last week, the refrigerator gave up the ghost. At first, I thought it was the defrost timer, so I replaced that. Turns out that was a problem because when I plugged it back in and turned it on, the relay did kick over to turn on the fridge ... and then the circuit breaker popped. Turns out the defrost timer was burnt out because the compressor had kicked the bucket. So, now we have a new refrigerator too.

This whole house thing is becoming expensive. But hey, at least we can control how these things are fixed.

Sunday, May 03, 2009 + BlueHost + Google Apps for Domains

So, I've been playing for the past week or so with consolidating and rearranging my domain names into a more cohesive set of services that Feli and I can use for e-mail, hosting and calendar sharing. Up to now, I've been using Speakeasy for my hosting and e-mail (as well as my DSL service). I've been rather happy with the, but the lack of a good calendaring service (and just needing to decide what to do with my other domains) got me thinking.

I started playing using as my registrar and finally figured out how to do things like subdomains (ie:, integration with Blogger and Google Apps. So, what I hope to do is give a quick HOWTO on getting all of this to work together with Though this is specific to, but basics should work for other sites.

Step 1: Enable DNS management with

Before you can make any custom DNS changes, you need to enable's DNS management. If it's not already done, you can add it for free using the Add Services menu item on the control panel.

Step 2: Disable page forwarding and e-mail forwarding

For each of these, go to Manage from the domain page and select "Remove Service".

Step 3: Configure a Google Apps for Domains account

You can sign up at By default it will offer you a Pro account, which is a bit much for just a personal set of services, so pick the Standard settings and work through the configuration and setup options

Step 4: Authenticate the domain

Google (for good reason) requries you to authenticate your ownership of the domain in question. The easiest way to do this is to create a CNAME record on, so when authenticating your domain, pick this option. Google will offer you a name that looks like "google<numbers/letters>". Copy that and go to the DNS settings page. Paste the name into the CNAME record field and enter on the second field. (I'll enter screenshots as I have time)

Step 5: Configure E-mail

While creating the CNAME record, enter the MX (e-mail) records. Google currently has 6 entries that need to be created. You'll enter each one individually into the MX field on that page and hit update. You can find the settings when you go to activate e-mail in Google Apps or in this answer page. Once you've added all 6 items, you should be able to receive e-mail.

Step 6: Configuring Blogger

If you want to use your blog as your primary website, log into Blogger and go to blog settings -> publishing -> advanced settings. From here, enter your domain name and submit. If you want to do a subdomain (ie, you can select Advanced settings again and type in the full domain name and hit submit.

Step 7: Add the CNAME record for your blog

Back in the control panel, add another CNAME record, this time either leave it blank for the default website (ie or the subdmian name (ie blog for and in the host add Hit update and your blog should be ready.

Step 8: Configure BlueHost

To use BlueHost as your primary webhost, add 2 more A records (www and ftp). To get the appropriate IP address, you will need to contact BlueHost support.

At this point, you should be good to go. For me, the nameserver propagation took about 2 hours, but it could take up to 3 days for everything to clear out. If this doesn't work for you or you see soemthing wrong, please leave comments and I'll update this.