"Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth." - Sherlock Holmes

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Read Receipt Macro for Outlook

Know when your email is read

One of the annoying things about email today is not knowing when or if your email has been read. This is particularly annoying when sending a very important message that is somewhat time sensitive. Not everyone responds to the emails sent to them, and with spam filters employed on almost every computer, you just don't know if the message got through.

Most email applications do have a "return-receipt" option, but that requires the receiver of the email to be a participant in the process. Most people, as far as I can figure, turn off this feature. There are services available on the web that will allow you to track your emails. Two such services that come to mind are SpyPig and ReadNotify. SpyPig is a free service, whereas ReadNotify is fee based. I tried SpyPig but couldn't get it to work in my Outlook 2007. So, I decided to create my own.

The process to track your email is relatively simply and not new. Email marketeers have been using this "technology" for years. It simply requires inserting an image, whether visible or invisible, into the message in such a way that the image is not displayed on the recipients computer without first connecting to a server where it can be tracked.

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Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Temporary Links Script in PHP

Creating Links That Expire

I've always been uneasy about creating a download page with permanent  links for my software products. That just makes it too easy for some individuals out there to publish the link to the page and there goes potential revenue. I used to think that my software was not that amazing that someone would actually want to steal it, but was astonished when one day I did a Google search for some titles and found links to various cracks. For the most part, all these titles are now available free from this website.

Probably the best was to protect your software and encourage sales is by using temporary download links. These are links that "expire" after a certain number of clicks or after a certain time period. These links are also known as expirable links. The true path to the downloaded file is always hidden from view so there is no way for the person downloading the file to know exactly where it is stored. Once the link expires, the user is directed to another page advising them that the link is no longer valid.

Temporary Links Demo

I wrote this PHP script for use on this website. The process is relatively simple, requiring the use of PHP and MYSQL. All parameters for the temporary link is kept in a MYSQL table. This is where we track how the link will expire, the current status of the link and the true download path. A unique id is created for each link or record. Instead of being directed to the download file itself. the user is provided with a link to the PHP script with the unique id. When the user clicks the link, the id is checked and if it matches and is still valid, the user is provided the desired file and the status is updated in the database.

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Tuesday, October 19, 2021

A Home Inspection Checklist For The First-Time Buyer

Are You Ready for That First Step?

First Time Home Buyers House. You have probably heard it said many, many times before that buying a home is probably the most important purchase you will ever make. Never is this more true than when purchasing your very first home. Its purchase holds the potential to be financially rewarding or degenerate into a nightmare if unexpected problems are discovered after the deal is closed.

The time to find problems is before the check is written, and preferably even before an offer is made. Though most real estate agents want you to sign an Agreement to Purchase and have the home inspection as a condition of sale, it is much harder to walk away from the deal once that agreement is signed, even if the home inspection finds problems. Your best line of defense is always a professional home inspection, whether you have it done before or after you sign the agreement to purchase. However, there are a few observations you can easily make yourself to determine if you want to take that next important step.

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Monday, September 27, 2021

MagicJack: Lessons Learned

Still Great In 2010

MagicJack is not new. This little device has been around for a few years now, saving a lot of people lots of money on long distance telephone services. When I first heard about MagicJack a couple of years ago, I figured it was some sort of scam, or if not a scam, a service that just didn't seem quite legal. Well. it's not a scam and it is legal. After much thought, I finally decided to purchase one. Here are a few of the things I discovered about using MagicJack.

Living in Canada, I purchased my MagicJack online from a company in Hamilton, Ontario. The advertised price was $39.95 for the device and first year of service. Each year after the first would cost about 20 bucks. This is a little misleading as by the time you figure in shipping and handling and tax, the cost is a little over $65.00 for the device. I could have purchased the unit at a local tech store for about the same price. My MagicJack arrived in just three days. The confirmation email I received said 3 to 10 business days, so this wasn't bad.

The instructions on how to use the MagicJack are pretty simply. Just plug it in a free USB port on your computer and let it install itself. Takes about 3 minutes. You are warned not to interrupt it was it is loading. Though I'm not sure what would happen if you did, it seems like good advice. So just let it do its thing. It's also recommended that you use a USB port that plugs directly into the computer, not a USB hub. Though some reports indicate that a powered USB hub is okay.

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Thursday, September 2, 2021


I Don't Get It

Every now and then I get the urge to change up my desktop and try something new. Recently, my laptop running Windows 7 crashed giving me a perfect opportunity to try Ubuntu. I did a search and found there was a relatively new version of Ubuntu released.  Great! I downloaded the latest version for desktops (there are versions for desktops, netbooks, and servers) and burned a CD. You can test the OS by loading it directly from the CD or by installing it as the main OS or side-by-side with Windows. After a quick test running it from the CD I decided to load it as my main operating system as my Windows 7 was already gone.

I was looking for a fast, clean and lean OS. I always liked the look of linux systems. The Ubuntu website boosts these very features:

"Super-fast and great-looking, Ubuntu is a secure, intuitive operating system that powers desktops, servers, netbooks and laptops. Ubuntu is, and always will be, absolutely free."

Ubuntu is certainly all that. And I would have continued to use it except for my biggest disappointment. Flash playback in full screen. Flash playback in normal mode plays fine, but playback is really choppy at full screen. I downloaded the latest Flash player with no improvement. I downloaded the previous version of Flash player as recommended on some forums, but still no improvement. After spending a couple of days browsing forums for a solution, I decided to throw-in-the-towel. Unfortunately, this was a deal breaker.

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Sunday, July 4, 2021

Optimizing the Acer Aspire REVO AR3610

I had the Acer Aspire REVO for a little over a month now. Right out of the box it actually runs pretty good. Note that I only use the box to stream TV and play movies. I'm not into gaming, so that was not a priority at all. For someone who in into heavy gaming, there are better boxes out there. For my purposes, the only files I had problems with were the MKV files, which after doing some googling I managed to get it working quite well. However, even after uninstalling everything I didn't want, I still found that simple procedures like opening up the file explorer was taking more time that it should. I like to run my machines lean and fast. So, this weekend I decided to reformat the hard-drive and reinstall Windows 7.

Reinstalling Windows 7
The Aspire hard-drive comes pre-formatted with three partitions. One partition holds the system recovery, one the system boot information and the third stores all the files and OS. I wanted to recover the space used by the system recovery and boot partitions. In order to do that, you have to boot the system from the Windows 7 install disk. As the Aspire does not come with an optical drive and I don't have a USB optical drive, I needed to setup the Windows 7 install files on a USB stick. It's easy enough to do, but you have to have an original Windows 7 install CD and the Aspire doesn't come with one. Luckily, I do have one I purchased. You can find instructions for creating a bootable USB install disk at Into Windows.

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Friday, May 28, 2021

Celebrity Wallpaper of the Month

I ran across this website that has lots of great celebrity wallpapers. Enough to change your wallpaper everyday for years. The site is www.WallpaperBay.net. Here is a blurb from there welcome page.

Welcome to WallpaperBay.Net, the online place to find over 35.000 female celebrity wallpapers. We have wallpapers of more than 700 celebrities from USA and around the world. All the hot female celebrity wallpapers are in 1024x768 resolution. Just click on the first letter of the celebrity name above to see the available wallpapers.

Here is one of my favorite wallpapers. It is of Eliza Dushku. Just click on the image to download.

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Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Acer's Aspire REVO

First Impressions

After spending the last year or more hooking and unhooking my laptop to the TV to watch movies and stream TV shows, I decided to get a computer dedicated to that particular function. My only criteria was that it had to be at least as powerful as my laptop, used a small footprint and came with an attractive price tag (under $400.00). I spent a few weeks looking around at a few boxes until I stumbled upon the Acer Aprire REVO. It seemed to fit all the criteria. As far as footprint goes, it's about the same size as my Bell 2-wire modem.

Before buying, I did a little bit of research on the product. The predominant feature of the unit was the NVIDIA Ion processor. I have to admit that I don't keep up with the latest hardware available. A NVIDIA Ion processor sounds good. The NVIDIA website describes the processor as:

"Next-generation NVIDIA® ION™ graphics¹ energize your PC with over 10 times the performance of integrated graphics. Go beyond simple Internet browsing with a media-savvy ION GPU. Experience full 1080p video on sites like YouTube HD or from Blu-Ray discs. Play the most popular PC games like World of Warcraft or accelerate popular video and photo apps, boosting performance of editing and converting videos, face tagging photos, and much more. Only ION delivers the Windows 7 Home Premium experience including the rich 3D user interface. NVIDIA ION packs a premium graphics punch at a fraction of the size."

Reviews I have read seem to suggest the processor does well with video after a little tweaking, but not so good with heavy gaming. Not to worry. I'm not into gaming.

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Monday, May 17, 2021

Real-Estate Agent Called...

I did a home inspection yesterday for a couple in Chatham, Ontario. The couple obviously wanted to use their own home inspector and found me on the internet. In fact, when they first called, there was no one in the office and they left a message. Usually when that happens, they end up calling whoever is next on their list. I called back about a half hour later and got their answering machine. I left a message and figured that was the last I would hear from them. But, they called back about a hour later. Obviously they wanted to use me. Great. We booked the inspection for early Sunday morning.

Saturday afternoon, their real-estate agent called. He just wanted to check on a couple of things and discuss the property. I always find it interesting when this happens. He said he wanted to make sure that I was certified and was bondable, which I am to both. It also appears that the sellers don't want to negotiate on anything the home inspector might find. And, he, the real-estate agent, wouldn't be at the inspection in the morning. Apparently, he doesn't like to work on Sundays, especially when the property is out of town.

This is what I find interesting. What makes the real-estate agent feel that he needs to "look into" the home inspector that the buyers decide to use. Would he also look into their lawyer and mortgage broker? I don't think so. Obviously I wasn't his choice. He would probably prefer to use someone who would ensure the sale of the house went easy, and since the sellers don't want to negotiate, his recommended home inspector wouldn't find anything to damaging to the sale of the house. That's my opinion. Other than a support beam beginning to rot and a couple of leaky pipes, their wasn't too much else wrong with the house.

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Saturday, May 8, 2021

Free Mother's Day eCard

I just created an eCard for Mother's Day. You can download it for FREE!

Works perfectly in Outlook 2007. Just follow these instructions to install.

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