LastPass Really Works

I’ve always hated password managers. They’ve always seemed klunky, inconvenient, and poorly thought out. This all changed with LastPass.

LastPass, like other passwords manager, lets you save your passwords. So what makes it better?

  • It is free. They have a paid version, but it doesn’t give any extra functionality that I need.
  • It works directly in your browser (Chrome, Safari, Firefox, your phone, etc…).
  • It can auto-login to websites.
  • It can generate passwords automatically.
  • It knows when you log into a website, and asks if you want to save your username and password with almost no effort on your part.
  • Your passwords are saved, encrypted, in the cloud (no more worries about losing your only copy!).
  • Passwords are cached in your client so you don’t have to worry about not being able to log in if their server goes down.

And best of all, it simply works. I was up and running in minutes, and got so addicted to it the first day that I installed it on all my computers.

Download it at LastPass.com.

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Open Atrium

I’ve recently discovered Open Atrium. I love it!

Built on Drupal, this “intranet in a box” is the perfect solution for my company.

These are the things I love about it:

  1. Works without a lot of configuration, but is still highly configurable in case you need it to do something special.
  2. Allows you to define groups and limit access to each group. This means I can have a “The Awkward Turtle” group and only allow myself and my wife (we’re the only ones working on it) to even know the group exists, and I can also have a “Creative Barcodes” group and allow myself, my wife, and our graphic designer Anthony to see it.
  3. Gives you a dashboard with all of the pertinent information from all of the groups that you are a member of. You also have a group dashboard that only shows you the important information for that specific group.
  4. You can, on a group-by-group basis, enable several awesome included features:
    1. A blog
    2. A notebook (sort of like a wiki)
    3. A calendar (even supports iCal)
    4. A case tracker (for keeping track of feature requests and bugs)
    5. A shoutbox (good for microblogging)
  5. It looks great and is very easy for an end-user (or an admin) to figure it out.

There are, however, a few things I’m not terribly excited about:

  1. Documentation is a bit lacking, but that isn’t unexpected for beta software.
  2. Doesn’t work on PHP 5.3. I had to setup Apache to run both 5.3 and 5.2 to get it working. This wasn’t really surprising though, as a lot of Drupal stuff has problems with PHP 5.3.

Is it perfect? Not yet, but I think someday soon it will be.

For an example Open Atrium site, check out their own community pages.

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Save money AND make your site faster using a CDN

My most popular website, the Fake Name Generator, recently ran into two major problems:

  1. It was using too many server resources.
  2. It wasn’t as fast as I wanted it.

To solve these issues, I turned to SimpleCDN and their awesome “mirror buckets”. Basically you setup a bucket, point it at your base URL (in my case, http://www.fakenamegenerator.com), then update a few links on your website. Instead of linking to something like http://www.fakenamegenerator.com/images/logo.png, I link to http://fake.name.generator.lg1x8.simplecdn.net/images/logo.png. When the visitor pulls up the new SimpleCDN URL, SimpleCDN will see if they have a cached copy of my image. If they don’t, they download it from my server then serve it to the visitor.

How does this help?

First, the website is faster for the visitor. The images are served up from a server that is geographically near them and that is guaranteed to handle all the headers related to caching properly.

Second, my server doesn’t have to handle images or CSS for that site anymore. For the Fake Name Generator, that is 260,000 requests per day that Apache doesn’t have to handle. This makes my server capable of doing more without having to buy more memory or get a faster CPU.

So the big question: how much does it cost? $0.039 per GB. For me, that means for the low low price $7.31 per year, they’ll handle 94,900,000 requests totaling 187 GB.

The best part? They give you a free $15 account credit when you sign up, so I won’t pay a penny until 2012.

Check it out at SimpleCDN.

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Songbird

I have recently become a huge fan of Songbird, a free multi-platform media player based on Mozilla’s XULRunner.

If you are anything like me, you may be asking yourself what makes Songbird special or worth your time. Why not just keep using iTunes, VLC, or Windows Media Player? Here are my reasons for choosing Songbird over the competition:

  • It runs on my Windows 7 and Ubuntu 9.10 computers with the exact same interface and feature set.
  • Highly configurable playlists. For example, I can make a dynamic playlist that only shows songs that: have been rated 3 or more stars, haven’t been skipped more than 5 times, are at least 3.5 minutes long, and were produced between 1990 and 2000.
  • With a minor tweak, Songbird will save my song ratings in the MP3 file itself. This means I can put a song in my Dropbox, rate it at work, and by the time I get home the rating will be there, too.
  • Speaking of tweaks, Songbird is as tweakable and configurable as Firefox. You can get extensions, themes, adjust internal settings that most people don’t care about, change how the title bar works.
  • Has an internal web browser that knows when you’re on a page with music. This means you can quickly and easily download free music from places like Last.fm and have your new songs instantly imported into your music library.
  • Also because it has an internal web browser, I can open Slacker or Pandora in Songbird and save myself having an extra tab in Firefox. (Bonus: If Flash starts acting up in Ubuntu, I just have to restart Songbird and not my whole browser)
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Buying glasses online

Recently, I’ve been having some trouble reading small print on my monitor. After talking to my wife, I realized that my vision just isn’t what it used to be.

After getting my prescription, we hit up Sam’s Club and found a nice pair that would cost $127 plus 5% sales tax. Yikes! I just need a pair for when I’m at the computer.

So I took my search online and found Glasses Shop. I checked out their cheapest glasses and, with my wife’s help, picked a pair.

12 days later and I am wearing my brand new pair of glasses! For $27.40 I have a decent looking pair of glasses, a hard case, a soft bag, a cleaning cloth, and one of those little key chain eyeglass tools. They aren’t quite as good looking as the pair we found at Sam’s, but they cost $105.95 less and it isn’t like I’m trying to impress any girls where I work (except on days that I work from home).

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Review: What Dreams May Come by Richard Matheson

I’ve had some bad luck with books lately.

First, I finished What Dreams May Come by Richard Matheson. Aside from the horrible writing style (oh wo is us! the after life for bad people is soooo horrible you just can’t even imagine. like seriously. its really really awful!), the doctrine it tries to teach is so far from the truth and so detrimental to the development of any good society or individual that it was literally painful to hear.

For example, the doctrine of reincarnation, mixed with karma, is taught in the hopes of making people be good in this life. In reality, I think most people would use karma like their credit cards: charge up a huge debt now (sin) and file bankruptcy later (be born in a new life with no recollection of the previous one).

The next book I tried, Faithless by Karin Slaughter, had some serious adult content issues so had to be given up pretty early.

So I tried again with The God of War by Marisa Silver, and ran into the same issue.

Anyways, I’d greatly appreciate some recommendations if anyone has any!

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