New Yelp Augmented Reality Feature for iPhone 3Gs

Just read about this new feature for Yelp’s iPhone application.  After relentlessly shaking my iPhone with no sign of the new feature, I deleted the App and then reinstalled it from the AppStore.  After shaking 3 times, like magic, the new augmented reality feature was born.  Follow these instructions if you have an iPhone 3Gs.

1.  Delete your current Yelp Application (if you have it)

2.  Download the Yelp application from the AppStore

3.  Go to the main yelp results page on the Yelp App (after selecting that you do not have a Yelp account, or logging in)

4.  Shake your iPhone three times and you will see this:


5.  Click the Monocle button at the top right, and prepare to have your mind blown:


Indoors it does not work so well, but the cool factor makes it well worth the install.

Lending Club Review

Edit 9/7/09: Use this link to receive $25 free from Lending Club when you sign up.

Microloans are all the rage now.  With my “high-yield” savings account getting around 1.4% interest as of date, I needed something with a little more oomph.  I had some success with Prosper (despite 2 of my 12 notes defaulting), and shortly after Prosper entered its “quiet period” I got into Lending Club.

The interface of Lending Club is clean, and because you can invest as little as $25 in a loan, they make it very easy to help hedge your risk by diversifying into many different small loans.  I only put a little money in to experiment, but so far it has resulted in impressive results:

Here are the notes I have invested in, with some details obscured for privacy:

Transferring in funds in and out of Lending Club has proven to be relatively painless, and I plan to continue small investments to see how my strategy works.  No defaults as of yet, but it is still early.  My first defaults did not show up in Prosper for at least a few months.

Anyone else have any success stories with Micro Loan sites?

Edit 9/7/09: Use this link to receive $25 free from Lending Club when you sign up.

Build a Compact Linux Server for under $200

After having many headaches getting a LAMP environment running on Windows Vista, many limitations were soon reached, and I decided to set up a local Linux development server.  Keep in mind, I had zero experience configuring Linux, so it came with its fair share of roadblocks.  Once it was up and running, however, I realized it was one of the best decisions I ever made.  Here are the parts I used:

I am still tied to Windows Vista for my environment at work, so I needed a way to edit my PHP code, and view live web pages on Vista (testing in Firefox, IE, Safari).  I realize this testing could all be done via VirtualBox with avoiding Windows altogether, but as mentioned, I need a Windows machine at work (for now).

I did the initial configuration of the server using a faithful KVM switch.   After the nitty gritty was done, I set up Samba to allow a networked drive in Windows that mapped to the /var/www/html directory on my Linux  server.

After Samba was set-up, even a Linux novice like myself was able to do the remainder of the PHP/MySQL/Apache set-up using an SSH client on my Windows machine.  Using my favorite code editor, I was then able to start development, saving onto my mapped network drive, thus completing my local development environment.

How To Download Firefox Without a Web Browser

UPDATE 2/7/2013: Download Chrome Without a Web Browser.

I recently came across an interesting tutorial on how to download FireFox using only the command prompt on Windows XP or Windows Vista, and I have made it a little more user friendly.  This may come in handy in a variety of different situations, or it may just be used in an attempt to convince your friends that you are a hacker. In the quick tutorial below, please note that when I use quotes, it indicates exactly what you should type in, but do not type in the quotes themselves unless explicitly noted.

  1. Go to Start > Run > “cmd” and hit OK. This will load the command prompt.
  2. type “ftp” and hit enter.
  3. type “open” and hit enter.
  4. It will ask for a username, type “anonymous” and hit enter.
  5. It will then ask for a password, type “anonymous” and hit enter.
  6. Open the folder with the latest Windows release of Firefox by typing in:
    “cd pub/” and then enter.
  7. View the contents of the current directory by typing in “ls” and then enter.
  8. Switch to binary file mode by typing in “type image” and then hit enter.
  9. Choose the directory to download firefox to by typing “lcd C:” (Typing this will save it right to the root directory of the C: Drive.
  10. When you typed in “ls” from step 7, it should have listed a .exe file for you.  As of writing the latest version is Firefox Setup 3.0.11.exe.  In this case, we will type in: get “Firefox Setup 3.0.11.exe” (type in the quotes)
  11. Now go check in your c:/ drive, and you should see the .exe file downloaded.
  12. Type “bye” to exit the FTP mode, and then type “exit” to close out of the Command Prompt.

UPDATE 2/7/2013: Download Chrome Without a Web Browser.

Update 7/29/2013: Updated URL structure per comment to

Backup Gmail Using Mozilla Thunderbird

Even with the new Google Gears Offline Gmail function in Google Labs, I still wanted to have a non-google-related backup of my Gmail account.  After researching the various options, I found that the easiest way to do so is to set up an old fashioned POP3 account in Mozilla Thunderbird, and let it sit and send/receive for a a few days.  Thunderbird makes it sickeningly easy to set up Gmail, as it includes all of the POP3 Gmail set-up information.  No need to worry about enabling SSL and TLS ports.  Ready to get started?

1. Download Mozilla Thunderbird here.

2. Install Thunderbird using the default settings

3. Open Thunderbird, and close out of any Wizard that may open.

4.  Go to Tools > Account Settings.  Then click the “add account” button at the bottom right.

5.  Select “Gmail” and hit next.

6.  Type in your name, and the username of your GMail account, and hit Next.  Hit Finish on the following screen.

7.  You should not be back in the “Account Settings” Window.  Click on “Server Settings” under your Gmail Account.  Change “Check for new messages” from the default setting of 10 Minutes, to something shorter, like 3 minutes.

8.  Hit OK, and you should be in the main inbox for Thunderbird.  Now, hit “Get Mail” or use the shortcut CTRL-Shift-T to start your messages downloading from Gmail.

9.  Messages download in batches of around 50 to 100 messages per time.  For large inboxes, it may take several days to download all of your messages.

10.  I noticed a lot of older duplicate messages in my inbox, so I downloaded the handy Remove Duplicate Messages Add-on for Thunderbird.

11.  After installing the Remove Duplicate Messages Add-on from Step 10.  Right click on your Gmail Inbox, and select “Remove Duplicate Messages.”

12.  In the next window, all of your duplicate messages will pop up.  All you need to press is the “Delete Selected” button, which will delete all of your duplicate messages, but leave the original ones intact.

Ooma Update after 5 Months of Use

Update 8/29/09: Check out my new Post on how Ooma + iPhone = Amazing Voicemail

It’s been about 5 months since I started using Ooma.  I must say that overall the service has been spectacular.  While I still worry that they will be able to keep up their business model, I was reassured after talking to an Ooma tech who told me that a very large percentage of their customers opt-in for the paid monthly service.

Some important things to note:

Quality of Service, Bandwidth

Despite setting up Quality of Service in my router, I occasionaly notice that the Ooma service gets fuzzy if I am running any network intensive applications including my Network Security Camera.  I noticed that if I am watching the network camera while away from home, and if someone is using the Ooma phone while at home, the service can get a bit shoddy.  This is not a problem for only Ooma, but any VOIP phone service.

I still need to tinker with the QoS settings a little more to make sure that my router gives Ooma priority bandwidth.  Even when downloading large files, Ooma does not seem to be affected, but with large upload activity from things like Bittorrent, and upstreaming of video, you may get different results.

System-Wide Service Reliability

Ooma experienced a system-wide service interruption on April 13th, 2009.  This happened to be on a day that I was implementing an Ooma system in a retail environment, and it caused some major headaches.  The main problem was that Ooma did not make any kind of e-mail blast, or noticable announcement on the web site, so I only assumed that there was a problem locally with our network or Ooma hub.

Since the outage, Ooma has implemented a number of corrective actions that will hopefully help not only alert us if an outage occurs, but prevent any future system-wide outages from occurring again.  Especially nice is their new Ooma_Status Twitter account to keep you up to date on system issues.

Overall after 5 months:

Very happy I did not go with Vonage and waste ~$25+ per month.  No noticable quality difference between Ooma and a regular landline phone.  It really beats talking on a cell phone too in terms of clarity.

Neat little tip:

You can disable that weird Ooma chime that plays every time you pick up and place a call.  Sign into the Ooma Lounge.

Click on Preferences > System.

Then in the drop down box, select “(Disabled)” for Ooma connection tone.  After about 3 minutes, your phone should have a regular dial tone, and no longer have the weird Ooma tune.

Update 8/29/09: Check out my new Post on how Ooma + iPhone = Amazing Voicemail

My Computer Properties from Start > Run

Just a little shortcut.  I happened to be using a locked down Windows Vista computer that would not let me access the “properties” of the My Computer icon.  I needed to change the computer workgroup, and could not seem to get into it.  I looked to see if there was a registry entry to edit for workgroup, but instead came up with this alternative.

To edit the properites of My Comptuer in Windows Vista or Windows XP:

  1. Start > Run
  2. Enter: sysdm.cpl and hit enter

Install PHP on Windows Vista

Update 8/23/09 Despite all of the hard work getting PHP installed on Windows Vista, I found a pre-configured WAMP stack that works great inVista  Check out Server2Go!  You can even install it right to a thumb drive.

Update 8/14/09 – After finding many limitations in ultimately successful set-up of LAMP on Windows Vista, I caved in and set up a Linux server for under $200.  After all is said and done, this proved to be a much better, and seamless solution to having a local production environment.

These instructions were adapted from a nice tutorial found at

Before you begin:

  • I recommend the text editor Notepad++ for editing config files.
  • If you are like me, you may have remnants of unsuccessful PHP/MySQL attempts installed on your Vista machine.  In order to be successful in this installation, you must uninstall any previous installations of PHP, MySQL, XAMPP, WAMP, etc.

Download the latest PHP .zip package for Windows.

Create a folder named php on your c:drive, and extract the zip file there.  The path will be c:/php.

After the files have unzipped, open the c:phpphp.ini-dist file in Notepad++, then hit file, save as, and save a copy of the file to the c:windows folder, naming it php.ini.

Next, you need to install IIS 7 by going to My Computer, “Uninstall or Change a Program,” and then “Turn Windows Features on or off”

Navigate to “Internet Information Services” and enable the Web Management Tool and WWW Services selected below:

After clicking OK, it will take around 5 minutes for all of the components to install.  Then open the IIS Manager by going to Start > Run > C:windowssystem32inetsrvinetmgr.exe

Double click on “Handler Mappings”:

Click “Add Script Map”

Now, map *.php to your php5asapi.dll file which you most likely extracted to c:/php.

Click yes to Allow ISAPI extension:

Open up Notepad++ (start > run > notepad++ ).  Create a new blank page and write it it:

Then save the file into the c:inetpubwwwroot with the name test.php.  Navigate your browser to http://localhost/test.php

If you see the standard PHP info page, then you can take a sign of relief, as PHP is now successfully installed on your Windows Vista machine.  Now it’s time to make a few more tweaks.

Let’s set it so windows knows to default to index.php when visiting a directory via HTTP.  Go back to the IIS Manager: C:windowssystem32inetsrvinetmgr.exe

Double click on “Default Document”:

Click “Add.”

Type “index.php” and hit OK.

Now, let’s make a few quick edits to the php.ini file in your C:/Windows directory.  Open up Notepad++ and then open C:/Windows/php.ini .  We need to set the correct extension directory if you ever plan to use an extension like MySQL.  To do that, simply edit the following line (line number may change on future released of php).  Note that when we originally unzipped the PHP files, we saved it to a folder like C:/php.  We have to tell the php.ini file where this folder is in order for the extensions to run properly:

Since we’re in php.ini, we might as well make a few more changes that will help our future installation of MySQL and other applications.  Create a folder in C:/Temp called phpsessions.  Then edit the following line of php.ini so PHP knows where to save your temporary session files:

Finally, we need to enable some necessary extensions in the php.ini file.  To do this, we simply delete the semicolon from the beginning of the following lines:

Ok, final final step.  Go to the folder you originally unzipped PHP to, copy the libmcrypt.dll and libmysql.dll and paste them to your c:/windows directory.  This will be necessary later when we install MySQL.

Your all set for PHP.  Stay tuned.. I will update this page with a link to the Installing MySQL on Windows Vista next.

Update 8/14/09 – After finding many limitations in ultimately successful set-up of LAMP on Windows Vista, I caved in and set up a Linux server for under $200.  After all is said and done, this proved to be a much better, and seamless solution to having a local production environment.

Update 8/23/09 Despite all of the hard work getting PHP installed on Windows Vista, I found a pre-configured WAMP stack that works great inVista  Check out Server2Go!  You can even install it right to a thumb drive.

Open Microsoft Excel in Two Separate Windows

If you try to open a new spreadsheet from the file menu in excel, it just overlaps your current view.  The side by side view is not much help either, even with two displays.  To open up a completely separate Microsoft Excel Window, simply have one excel sheet open, then go to the Start Menu and open up Microsoft Excel again.  This will run another completely independent instance of the program.