Archive for the Web Site Category

Find Out if You Are Getting The Net Speed You Pay Your ISP For?

Posted in Entertainment, Web Site on February 19, 2009 by Ethan Dickenson

This site provides you with an interface to test the speed of your internet connection and then it provides you with a graphical display that summarizes how your speed compares with the average in your city/state/country…  Everyone should run this so they understand what they are getting.  I was surprised and upset when I figured out that I was not getting the service I was paying for.

The test is easy to do, so just go to this site and choose a server location.  The ads are a little confusing so stay away from all those, just choose a server that is close to your geographical location and it will take care of the rest.  When the test is complete, click on the ‘my summary’ tab at the top.   You can run the test several times and it will keep track of each test and display the results, this way, you’ll know it wasn’t a ‘fluke’…  I’ve only run my test 3 times over 2 days…  I’ll keep testing, but at this point, I’m fairly certain these figures are typical of the throughput I normally get.    More details on my personal ‘tail of woe’ are at the bottom of the page, after the information on


My Personal Tail of Woe…

I’ve often wondered why it sometimes seems to take a long time for me to navigate from page to page on the internet.  I’ve tuned my PC, bought one of the best ISP packages available in my area, I use Mozilla and have tried other popular browsers, I spent time tuning my browsers and tweaking the way they handle cash…  but I always seem to be slower at home than I do when I log onto some other network.  I’ve been unsatisfied with Time Warner Cable’s Road Runner service for other reasons but this is something new.  The other reason I’ve had some frustration with this ISP is because my line drops about 10 times a day and the only way I can fix it (after investing time with their tech support) is to reboot my router.  About a year ago it dropped my line and when I rebooted my router it didn’t fix the problem.  They told me my router was old, which upset me because it was a linksys router, nothing had changed on my end, and it was a very popular product… but I bent over, ‘assumed the position’ and went out and bought a new Netgear router and I was up and running again, but my line still drops at least 10 times a day…  Once I got so frustrated that I tried to cancel my service and I spent over 2 hours on the phone talking with customer service people and running into dead ends and finally they referred me to the phone number for their ‘customer attrition center’ which rang busy every time I called.  To make a long story short…  I just let it go because I didn’t have time to dork with it.  I’m paying 150 bucks for my phone, Road Runner, and the most basic cable you can get (that has the box, which I need so I can get Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon for my kids).  If I were getting excellent service and great speed out of my internet connection it would still be too much but to be paying above market prices and then receive below average (market specific) quality…  it just adds insult to injury.   So now that I’m sure of the cause and what is to blame…  I’m going to figure out a way to resolve the situation and either fix the problem or cancel the service.  Who has time to deal with this kind of crap…

It seems like, in today’s economy, the consumer has to fight so hard to get a fair deal from so many of the companies we do business with.  The frustration and stress that we have to live with are unprecidented in human history.  If you don’t watch everything you pay for like a hawk you’ll end up on the short end of the stick.  What’s worse is that sometimes you need to fix a situation but you can’t do it, and the reason you can’t do it is because the company has knowingly used a strategy to frustrate you so you will go away and put up with their low quality or damaged or misconfigured product.  Between banks, insurance companies, heating and air conditioning (maybe I should just say contracting in general), wireless phone companies, and all the other products and services we must buy to keep our world running…  we spend so much time dealing with crappy customer service that it drives us all nuts.  Why is it that all these companies are out to deliver poor quality and a terrible customer experience.  Corporate America deserves to have the shit hit the fan.  A generation ago business practices like this would have been considered illegal.  These strategies designed to knowingly frustrate the customer are unacceptable and shouldn’t make sense in a healthy fair market.  And when the government then bails out these crooked companies it really screws everything up.    We should never have started giving money away because now the companies can screw the consumer all they want and they won’t go out of business and they probably won’t have to lay people off!  How will they know the difference between right and wrong?  What ‘control’ is there to ensure the customer gets what they pay for?  Big business will frustrate and steal from the consumer whenever they can get away with it and for as long as they can get away with it.  Eventually, America’s economy will collapse and the American consumers will all end up in funny farm somewhere,  having been driven completely crazy from the insane stress of having to deal with business practices designed to frustrate them so they won’t get their issues resolved.  It’s a rediculus and awful situation and the American businesses that utilize these tactics deserve to go out of business and they should be ashamed of themselves.   It’s a sad situation because eventually we’ll probably decide to put government regulations in place to protect the consumer from the people they are doing business with.  The free market is a wonderful thing.  Through it’s nature, it resolves all these issues.  But when our government ‘bails out’ and provides ‘stimulas packages’ we are screwing with the ‘nature’ of the free market and everything falls apart.  The only role government should play is to ensure the free market is exactly that so everyone can open up a business and compete at the same level.  The minute it becomes viable (and it’s coming) for me to utilize the Internet as my feed for my television, I am going to say goodbye to the cable company.  If they were smart, they would be working hard to build customer loyalty instead of squeezing every cent out of their installed base and cutting their business costs so close to the bone that they can’t support their comittments.  The whole situation is infuriating to me!!!


Budget in a SNAP With Mint!

Posted in Banking, Financial, Reporting, Web Site on December 3, 2008 by Ethan Dickenson

mintFor several years I’ve wanted to get a look at my financial data and see where my money was going. I wanted to figure out how much I spent on groceries, gas… and I wanted to be able to see my financial portfolio in one place. My computer came with Microsoft Money and for 2 years I fooled around with it but it never really worked the right way. I could force a spreadsheet into it and then look at some of the data and there was a ‘sync’ feature but it never worked properly for me… Eventually the OEM license that was on my PC ran out and I just resigned myself to defeat. But then I found Mint. I was not optimistic when I first looked at it (not for any other reason than my past experience trying to get Microsoft Money working…). But, I breathed a heavy sigh and gave it my account number at my bank. Then I found I could put in my account number at every other financial institution I dealt with. In less than a half hour I was done and I could look at more reports than I was able to get out of Microsoft Money after investing a significant amount of time in that program but I still didn’t have what I needed. I was pleased but I wasn’t completely thrilled until Mint’s system gathered my data for a couple of months. Now I’m really impressed… I get emails that tell me if I’ve spent more on gas this month than usual. I get an email that reminds me to pay my visa bill and there are all kinds of alerts I can set so the system notifies me automatically. Mint is the most useful financial reporting system I’ve ever used hands down. It’s really easy to set up and the value you get from the system is HUGE!!! The folks over at Mint got it right and I highly recommend going to their site and signing on. It’s the best way for someone who isn’t an accounting person to get insight into their financial spending. Now I’m working on creating a real budget. Which is something that I’ve talked about for years but never accomplished because of my inability to get at the data I need. Hats off to MINT! They made it easy for everyone to gather their financial information and many many have failed where MINT delivers. I recommend them without reserve, to everyone!!! Oh, one more thing… like everything else I recommend on this site… it’s free!

Fontashia Fonterrific fontellicious fontout fontorino fontolla fontetaboutit

Posted in Desktop Enhancement, Entertainment, Frequently Updated, Web Site on September 20, 2007 by Ethan Dickenson

OK today we’re talking fonts. It’s been a while since I ventured out into the font world to have a look at what’s available out there. I’ve done a couple of things that I hope will save you some time. I’ve picked through most of the free sites and I can fill you in on their individual strengths and weaknesses. If you don’t want to look through a bunch of fonts, and you trust my taste, I’ve linked directly to the fonts that I’ve installed on my system. One more thing before I turn you loose: the term ‘breedlink’ refers to something that links directly to a file and it will start downloading. So whenever you see that term, you’ll know that when you click on it a download will start. Below, I’ve given you a link to the sites and a ‘breedlink’ to the fonts on that site that I found to be something I could read and may use.

At Font Freak you can download an endless supply of free fonts. The site layout is very basic. They just list the name of the font in the font’s ‘type’ and that’s all the information you get before you download. This makes for fast downloads but you don’t know what you are getting… The one thing that I really didn’t like about this site is that they mixed in shareware fonts with the free fonts. About 1 of every 10 fonts on the site is a shareware font. I don’t know how they hope to sell anything because you have every size and shape of font imaginable on the site for free.

Visit the fontfreak site at this link:

These are breedlinks to the fonts I installed on my PC from this site.

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Fonts 500 advertises themselves as “The Webs Top 500 Free Fonts”.

This site has quickest and easiest layout for downloading fonts. They list several on a page but you don’t get to see much of the font before you download. Same as above only in smaller type but at least you know they are all free so you can download away! I did notice some overlap between this site and Font Freak.

This is a link to the site itself:

Here are the ‘breedlinks’ to the fonts I installed on my PC from this site.

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Urban fonts was a laid out a little differently. When you ‘mouse over’ a font type it shows you the alphabet in that font and that helps with the selection process but it also slows down your ability to grab a bunch of fonts quickly. So the tradeoff is better knowledge for time put in. Their site is well worth a look. At this point, I was getting tired of downloading fonts and I was getting there seemed to be a lot of overlap with the other 2 sites but it is still a good site and I was happy I found it.

This is the link to Urban Fonts:

These are the ‘breedlinks’ to the fonts I thought were best at this site:

Breedlink –

Breedlink –

Breedlink –


Exljbris, is a totally different site. This is a guy that makes his own fonts and has created a website to distribute them. He has 8 different high quality and original fonts that are all readable and will be nice additions to your font library. I’d recommend you go to their site and download each of them. One bit of advice, if you look at the list of fonts on the left of their web page, you’ll notice that the first is named delicious, I was confused and thought it was a hot link to bookmark their site but it isn’t… Just click on deliscious and it will download the font…


Those are the sites I’ve collected over the last couple of years. Please let me know if you know of a better site and I’ll try it out and probably put it in. This is a post that will be updated frequently so come back often to see if I’ve changed anything. Any new posts will be at the top and they will be marked as ‘new’.

Don’t Forage – Terabytes of Free Storage Available Online

Posted in Disk and File Mgt, Download Management, Free Storage on Internet, Frequently Updated, Utilities, Web Site on September 19, 2007 by Ethan Dickenson

This post is about file storage, not to be confused with photo storage, or a backup service. File storage can be used for a lot of different things and I’ve done my best to describe each service below. Generally, I’m talking about any type of file, could be photo, video, audio, text, word… files that you want to share with people, files that you want to store just to be safe and have another copy somewhere, or files you use for a website or a blog. All the services below allow you to link to the file you have uploaded to their site. spiderdanceToday you can store files and grant online access to your friends or the world. The amount of free storage available to everyone in the world is unlimited now. The computing industry has changed so dramatically. See the last paragraph of this post for my thoughts on this subject. But immediately below are links and descriptions to plenty of free storage on the web. I have not identified a ‘best of breed’ in this category because, as you will see, they all have slightly different market niches, messages, limits…

eSnips – Create an account and you can upload 5Gb of music, pictures, video, whatever you want. This site is designed to share with your friends and/or everyone in the world, however, the site your friends go to has so many scripts on it that it some browsers can’t read the page. I don’t want to put a negative spin on eSnips at all because their back end, which you will deal with, is great and I’m sure they will address issues as they come up. They have a flash uploader that works well for uploading several files. You can select several files at once, the file structure is straight forward, and you can mark files as private and manage a nice little 5GB archive for yourself at their site. They also have an uploader that integrates into your web browser and I really like the features it provides. You can tag, describe, and name your files before you upload and you can select to resize photos… If you can, this native uploader that integrates with your browser is the way to go. So enjoy eSnips because they are truly a great site.

MediaFire – is the first free storage site that I found that offers unlimited space. I wasn’t that wild about their upload page, it is pretty basic but it works and you can set it to download several files at once (about 8 I think) but you have to select each file. I bet they come up with something better soon, because today they are a little behind the curve on uploaders but that could change any day. MediaFire gets points for it’s file structure and sharing ability and, of course, the unlimited space.

Microsoft’s SkyDrive – offers a puny 500mb free and I recommend that you use it! They are a very stable organization and who knows whatsmall kid dance is going to happen with the economy. This site is not designed for you to put a file up and share it with the world. It is designed to be thought of as a remote drive for you personally. I keep personal documents that I really need on this site. I also have a Window’s Live Space account which is like your Windows homepage and is integrated with SkyDrive. I think you’ve got to have a .net ID, which I recommend you take the time to get if you have not done so yet, and the site also integrates with your xbox 360 gamertag. The uploader is file by file so nothing special there but the file structure is the most familiar the most secure and dependable. So if you’ve already drank the coolaid go get yourself your 500MB and sing your praise to the great SkyDrive in the sky.

SendSpace Lite – This service was originally organized as a site to transfer large files and that is still their primary marketing spin. I think they used to have a limit on the amount of data that you stored on their site but they evidently have switched it to ‘unlimited’ recently. The individual file transfer size limit (not to be confused with total storage limit) for free users is 300MB but you can split and join files and they have a good FAQ on their page about it. SendSpace has an uploader (beta) that you download and it runs on your PC. This is not a site you should use for backup because they are very clear about the service being ‘as is’ and without warranty and basically, if the service is available, you can use it. However, with the unlimited restrictions on the amount of data that you can store and the effective locally running uploader, you could push a lot of data out to them very quickly and efficiently but their marketing message is pushing strongly away from providing the type of service you need to depend upon for backup or general availability. You can read about it on their FAQ.

This is a great site to use if you’ve got some large datasets that you may want to share with other people and/or you just want to keep ‘casual’ backups of that data around. It is a great spot to put the large files that you might normally delete from your system. Their ‘MAX’ service (fee based) offers a lot of options which I think would be really valuable to software developers or copyright owners who need to manage the distribution of media. You can set limits on the number of downloads or the amount of time a download is good for. But everything I link you to in this site is free. I only wanted to point out the marketing position of the site and their major direction. Regardless, SendSpace can be of great value to home users like us who take advantage of free services.

I’m giving you 2 different links to SendSpace, they have a program that gives me points if you sign up for a free account through the first link. The points go towards their fee based service which I don’t know if I would find value in or not. Regardless, I guess I would prefer that you sign in through the first link but if you have any reservations about doing that please go a head and use the second link (which is the same you would get if you Googled ‘SendSpace’).

Divshare – I can’t find a size limit to the amount of space a registered user has on this site. They don’t advertise ‘unlimited space’ like some of the others but they don’t talk about size restriction either. They talk about the limit of a single file transfer of 200MB (2GB if you are a paying customer) but they don’t mention a ‘total size’ for any single user. Divshare has a great flash uploader and you can upload entire folders with it. They also have a native loader that is fast, easy and works really well. DivShare is clear about your files being available “forever” and they give you a link so you can share your filesgirldancer with anyone you please. You can also password protect your files. There is no search engine at their site so files are only shared with the people that you refer to the site. You can create your own ‘player’ at this site and put your logo on it. This is a great tool for maintaining a blog or a website and I may utilize it for that purpose in the future, especially if I decide to add video. I just found out they have an uploader that is integrated with WordPress so I’ve downloaded that and will report back and update this post once I see how it works.

Whew, this was a more detailed post than I intended it to be. However, unlimited space free of charge is truly worth taking some time to explain and I do wonder how all this will effect our computing environments and our culture. It is an amazing change that the market will take a while to digest and figure out how to use. Once that happens and the value is recognized and taken advantage of, the implications of this free unlimited space will reach deep into our culture. 15 years ago a 40MG drive ran you a couple hundred dollars and now you can get an unlimited amount of space for free on the Internet. You can store and grant on-line access to files of nearly any size and content (varies by service – IE nudity). It is truly a revolution and it is changing the way we think about computing. Once data transfer rates quadruple (or more, next 5 years) and space isn’t a problem, then think of the amount of media that will be hitting us. It’s out of control today but in 5 years it is going to have a gigantic impact on our culture.

Free Icons – Come and Get Em!

Posted in Desktop Enhancement, Graphics, Utilities, Web Site on September 11, 2007 by Ethan Dickenson

Napoleon Dynomite!

It is no easy task to get your system decorated with nice icons but when you live in front of your computer, the way I do, you have the desire to look at something familiar, pleasant, and customized. No one is able to create the ideal environment quickly. There seem to be little road blocks at every turn. In this post I’m going to do my best to make it easy for you to get great icons on your desktop and avoid some of the hassles that I had to go through.

The first thing you need to understand about putting icons on your desktop is that you can’t use a .png file as an icon on XP or NT or any of the older Windows operating systems (like Windows 2000 or 98…). I don’t know why there are so many sites that say they have “free XP icons” but when you go through the site all you find are .png files. There is no secret XP feature that allows you to use .png files for icons, they have to be converted to .ico files. No problem, you would think that you could just convert these .png files to .ico files and all would be well but it isn’t that easy because your computer uses several sizes of the icon so you can view them in a variety of ways. For example, when you select ‘view’ from file manager and then select ‘list’, you are viewing a 16×16 pixle icon but when you ask to ‘view’ a ‘thumbnail’ or a ’tile’ it is a 24×24 pixel icon. Therefore, it is important to understand that a .ico file has several pictures bundled into it and when you convert a .png file to a .ico file it only saves it in one size and when you are working with your computer you’ll notice that you can’t see the image because it is either too small or it is to big and is cropped so you only see about 10% of the image. Therefore, you can either find the right .ico files (which already have several sizes in them) or find a program that will not only convert the .png files to .ico but will also create the different sizes you need. This post is dedicated to finding .ico files that already have the different sizes in them. In a later post, I will be reviewing icon conversion freeware and giving you a recommendation.

This is a post that will be updated as I find new sites. If you know of a site that has some great .ico files please write me a note in the comments section. Check this post often to keep up with the latest icon sites!

Pixelgirl has one of the best sites for downloading icons on the web. Cool Icons, well organized, save yourself some time and still get some great icons by starting at her site.

Another top site for downloading icons is the IconFactory. Everything is organized well, meaning that icons are bundled into zip files for you to download and the zips are clearly labeled as either .ico, .png,…

Icon archive has a mix of old icons and new but they are organized well so the icons are bundled into categories so you can download several at a time. This makes it easy to grab a bunch of icons at once and you can pick the ones you want after you unzip it into a file on your PC. You might get some single size files here but you’ll eventually weed out the ones that don’t work. This site is still worthy. has some good icons but you have to weed through them. They have over 4,000 icons but they don’t have them zipped up so you can download them all at once. They have them broken down into categories and if you see an icon you like you can download it. Not a bad site if you’ve got some free time on your hands and you want to look around but make sure you’ve downloaded some of the iconcocaspeak.png ‘sets’ first. Otherwise you’ll end up killing too much time on icons and it can be a drag.


Freeiconsweb has the nicest looking icons of all but you can’t tell what format you are getting until you download the zip. The site is organized well into categories and the icons are packaged up in zips for you to download but when you get the zip it might contain all .png files. I would say about 40% of the files on the site have .ico files in them. Just a heads up… it’s a littlecocablogs.png more work but there are certainly some great icons here if you have the time.


NoNags is a site that you can get a lot of value from very quickly but it is a confusing site and can cause some frustration the first time you go there. They have a subscription service and they offer you to either download directly from them (which will cost you 20 bucks a year) or you can download from the mirror sites they list for free. They have about 40 archives and some of them have over a 1000 icons in them. The icons are a bit older but there are some very cool icons if you are willing to spend the night looking through the zip files to pick out the ones you want.

If you go to the Shareware Connection and search for ‘free icons’ they have some great archives available as well. Same thing as nonags… large archives that you need to go through but also some great icons if you are willing to pick them out.

Now that you’ve downloaded all those great icons it’s time to find an easier way to apply them to your folders. Grafile has one of the greatest tools I’ve seen. I only recommend freeware and I’m using the free version of their ‘My Folder Free’ program. They also have a shareware version named ‘My Folder Pro’ but the free version does everything I need it to. After you install the program it puts an option on your context menu that allows you to define a folder where you keep your icons. When you select a file you can choose to bring up a drop down menu of your icons or you can pick to tag the folder (approved, secure, delete…) and you can create other options. The initial setup is a little cryptic (the GUI) but it doesn’t take long to figure out and once you’ve got the context menu working you’re off and running! This is the best freeware for associating icons that I’ve ever seen. It will replace iColor folder (previous post) as the top freeware in this category. So go download it and have some fun!


For those of you who have nice icon editing programs or who have some way to turn .png files into icons or if you are interested in animated .gif files, you might enjoy going to myspace icons. It is a staggering collection of thousands of .png and .gif icons.

Scripts Ahoy! – Stylish Greasymonkey Needed 4 Filtered Gmail

Posted in Entertainment, Firefox, Firefox Extension, Google, Web Site on September 8, 2007 by Ethan Dickenson

I don’t do too much with scripts but there are a couple of sites where they really add value. Firefox has 2 script extensions, Greasemonkey and Stylish. These ‘script engines’ run against the html between when the browser pulls the data from the web site and when the data is presented to you. Therefore, the script is usually written for a specific site. The most popular sites are; Google – search, mail, images, reader, calendar and YouTube, and Yahoo and a few others. So unless you use these sites the script extensions will be of little value. I personally use Gmail and some other Google pages frequently so I’ve found some interesting scripts and I will give you some links to the scripts I use (see below). Recently, I’ve noticed people writing scripts to change the Firefox GUI. I changed my theme to a ‘dark’ design which will shade every theme and I really like that feature.

When Firefox first came out I tried Greasemonkey and was intrigued by it. I loaded up several themes and after about 6 months of fooling around with it I decided to slim down my browsing environment and I uninstalled nearly everything. Since then I’ve built up and slimmed down several crazy larrytimes. A few months ago I installed Stylish and found a couple of scripts I really thought added value but then I read about a Greasemonkey script in Lifehacker that identified a script that customized Gmail’s filter assistant (I recommend this script, see link below, for anyone that uses Gmail and its filtering features). So now I’ve got both the Greasemonkey and Stylish extensions installed. I wish the two of them would merge so we could cut Firefox overhead. In general, I’ve learned to keep my Firefox extensions as slim as possible. So it would be a nice improvement but my Firefox configuration still runs very fast and when viewed as a complete browser, it is an unbelievable solution.

As a side note, when the filter assistant mentioned above first came out it was a Stylish script. But then I lost it (for whatever reason) and I couldn’t find it again and it finally resurfaced as a Greasemonkey script. Maybe the Stylish script is still out there someplace or maybe someone will port it to Stylish some day. I may look at that myself. 🙂

I will continually update this page and add/subtract the scripts I use in my configuration of Firefox.

Breedlink: Stylish

Breedink: Greasemonkey

My Stylish Scripts

Scripts To Change Stylish
Dark Blue Redesign of Stylish
User Styles 3 Column Display
Google Redesign Blue
Scripts to change Gmail
Customize New Header Line
Attachment Icon Replacer
Inbox With Nex Style
Sidebar with Renovated Style
Scripts to change Firefox Application
Darkstyle for Firefox: 
The best thing about the Darkstyle script is something that the script author
doesn't have a picture of on his page.  It puts these bands around your tabs 
and marks your 'active' tab with a red band as opposed to the 'inactive' blue 
tabs.  I love it because it enables me to see which tab I'm truly focused on.
See Picture below:

Add Bookmark Dialog: Show Folder Tree 


addbookmarkIt has always bugged and
confused me when I go to
add a bookmark and you can't
tell where you are going
to put it. They change the
way the directory tree interacts
with the user when saving
a bookmark and I could never
understand why they would do
something like that.  This script
solves the problem.  This should
definitely be a part of the
standard product.  Why oh why would
they make it harder than it has to be!

Global – Changes Apply to Every Page

Bright Focus (buttons, links, text boxes)
Icon Identifiers for Links

My Greasemonkey Scripts

Greasemonkey scripts to change Gmail
Filter Assistant 


Be Unique! – The Best Wallpaper Sites on the Internet!

Posted in Desktop Enhancement, Entertainment, Graphics, Photo, Web Site on September 2, 2007 by Ethan Dickenson

The RoseHere is where I will post an ever expanding list of greatest wallpaper sites on the Internet. You need to check back often because I will continue to update this post. On the links below, I trimmed most of the addresses because they were very long. The links work but the links are longer than the addresses shown.

More will follow. If you know of a great site for wallpapers please leave a comment below. The only condition is that they provide multiple resolutions to search from. Then we won’t end up with sites that only have a photo or two.