Alexa Rank

Alexa has a very skewed way of ranking websites, it bases your sites rank off of the number of hits from people who have the Alexa Toolbar installed. Lame!

It has been suggested though, that adding one of Alexa’s widgets to your site might improve your rank, as it supposedly allows Alexa to register visits based off the number of times the widget has been loaded by unique IPs as well as those visits from users with the Alexa Toolbar installed.

In order to test this out, I’m going to add a traffic rank widget to Hijinks, which currently has a rank of 1,698,556. And at the end of the week, we’ll see if our rank actually increases.

Microsoft Academic Alliance

There’s two colleges in the town where I live. The state university, and the community college. The university has the football team, the prestige, and most importantly the student discounted software available for those who enroll. Naturally, I go to the community college ($47 per credit hour? Yes please).

I spent some time being bummed about my lack of cheap operating systems and copies of Office. Than I started in the Microcomputer program, and enrolled in the Microsoft Academic Alliance. I knew it included access to programming suites, but that was about it. Here’s a sampling of the more useful programs available for my educational pleasure:

  • Microsoft Access
  • Windows XP Pro
  • Windows Vista Business
  • Windows Server 2008
  • MS-DOS 6.0 (!)
  • Visio Professional 2007
  • XNA Creator’s Club Subscription

The one that really surprised me was the XNA Creator’s Club subscription. It’s basically an SDK for making games for the xbox, and the ability to rate and critique other member’s creations. You can learn more about it here. Normally they charge you 100 bucks for a subscription, which although a mere drop in the bucket compared to the price of say..Windows Vista still nothing to sneeze at.

HP TouchSmart Review

I got my HP TouchSmart IQ507 Monday afternoon, and after playing around with it for the last couple days, I have to say it’s an awesome machine. Awesome enough to warrant a quick review!

First thing you’ll want to do is open up the HP Touch Screen Controls and disable the Touch Screen Sound option under the Global Settings tab. Doing that will make your experience much more enjoyable.

The 22″ screen looks amazing, it sports a healthy 1680×1050 resolution, great for checking your email, playing games or watching videos. As I see it, the main drawback is that it’s a glossy screen, which is crazy reflective, but a necessary evil in order to properly protect the screen.

The touchscreen functionality isn’t quite ready for everyday Windows use out of the box, seeing as how a lot of things in Windows are a little small for accurately tapping with your finger (and since the screen isn’t actually touch sensitive and is merely using IR sensors to detect your finger creating a break in the IR field, it tends to be just a little off from where you want to click), so it can be quite frustrating. But I was able to make most basic tasks a little more bearable just by tweaking a few settings and adjusting to the screens minor misinterpretation of taps.

Windows Media Center is fantastic on the TouchSmart, even though some of the icons are a bit small and there aren’t a lot of configuration options for such things I was able to navigate with minimum difficulty. The TouchSmart does include a remote for controlling the Media Center as well, so once the novelty of poking your computer screen wears off you can control things from the comfort of your couch.

The included HP SmartCenter is more visually appealing than it is useful. Although it is by far the easiest program to navigate using the touchscreen, so HP did their job well in that respect. The best way I can describe the SmartCenter is to advise you to think of it as RocketDock meets your media library, meets a mediocre coverflow clone, meets Al Gore moonlighting as a professional hobo (this little gem is your reward for sticking it out and reading this article up until this point, yay for you!).
Also, every time I started the SmartCenter it re-enabled that annoying beep that the TouchSmart plays each and every time you touch the screen. Maybe I’m just easily annoyed.

I also took a few minutes to install a copy of Starcraft on the TouchSmart, and while the game doesn’t look at all visual stunning on a 22″ screen, it makes up for it with its very point-and-click oriented interface, making it a perfect candidate for a touchscreen computer. Simply put, playing Starcraft is awesome on the TouchSmart.

While the on-screen keyboard is fun at first, your wrists will likely cramp up after only a few minutes of “typing”, the functionality of it is further limited since the screen isn’t exactly multi-touch and it tends to lose track of your keystrokes after the first few when you try typing faster than one letter at a time.

In the more practical realm of data entry, the included bluetooth keyboard is a very nice slim form factor. It features minimal dedicated media hot keys, just mute and volume up/down controls, so the layout isn’t at all crowded. Don’t fret though, you’ll still be able to control your DVD or music from the couch even without your remote, since all the F keys have secondary functions assigned to them for media playback. My main compliant is that it’s ridiculously loud when typing.

Speakers on the TouchSmart actually surprised me, they’ve got decent range and fantastic volume, sound is crisp even on the higher end of the volume scale. I’ve owned numerous TVs that have had worse speakers than this system.

Anyhow, as I meantioned before I’m going to try and install OS X on it. I’ve partitioned the drive and am going to start out by trying the latest build of iDeneb. I’ll post an update in the next few days.

Invites for the boxee alpha

If anyone is interested in trying out the alpha version of boxee, just leave a comment with your email address and I’ll send an invite your way.
From their site:

On a laptop or connected to an HDTV, boxee gives you a true entertainment experience to enjoy your movies, TV shows, music and photos, as well as streaming content from websites like Hulu, CBS, Comedy Central,, and flickr.

DOS Tips: Part 1

Back in May I started a series of posts about how to better take advantage of the Terminal in OS X, now months later without my MacBook Pro, I’ve resorted to DOS. I suppose it is only fair that DOS gets a series of its own.

[1] net user administrator /random
Who knew Windows XP had a random password generator built in? Just make sure and write it down, or else you’ll be in big trouble next time you try and login.

[2] label C: new drive name here
Sure you could just rename the volume from My Computer, but this is more fun. Swap out C: for whatever drive letter is attached to the volume you’d like to rename and you’re good to go.

[3] cls
Clears the screen. Simple, yet handy.

[4] dir
Displays a list of files in the current directory.

[5] rd directoryname
The RD command lets you remove entire directories, just replace the directoryname variable with the name of the directory you’d like to nuke and fire away.