OpenDNS FamilyShield – Easy Mode

24 Jun 2010
June 24, 2010

OpenDNS FamilyShield

The OpenDNS folks made a pretty big announcement yesterday when they added “FamilyShield” to their lineup. This is like “easy mode” for home computer protection and is a pretty exciting product.

If you are already an OpenDNS user, this probably isn’t for you. But if you have friends or family that aren’t all that technical and need help this could be just the ticket. They can keep little Johnny or Suzy safe (or grandpa…) and not have to worry about software to buy and manage. Just set up the home router/firewall with the FamilyShield DNS server addresses and you’re ready to go. No cost, no account, no configuration, no maintenance. It all just works.

What does FamilyShield Block? The service blocks pornographic content, including our “Pornography,” “Tasteless,” and “Sexuality” categories, in addition to proxies and anonymizers (which can render filtering useless). It also blocks phishing and some malware.

For the more technical or tweakers, be aware that there’s no customization or tweaking either. For the average family that’s probably not going to be a big deal. If it is big deal then they can just step up to the “normal” free OpenDNS offering and get a few more options.

I think this is a great idea. I have a few family members that I will be switching over to this very soon.

Learn more at the OpenDNS FamilyShield product page.

A Quick Look at Flock 2.0 Beta

18 Jun 2010
June 18, 2010

flock-button-200x60The latest beta of Flock’s “social browser” is out now and I thought I’d give it a look this week. I’ve checked it out in the past but generally been pretty underwhelmed… In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever written about it before. However, this latest version is based on Chromium which is the same code running Google’s Chrome browser and I’m rather bull’ish on Chrome.

Here’s the pitch:

Flock is faster, simpler, and more friendly. Literally. It’s the only sleek, modern web browser with the built-in ability to keep you up-to-date with your Facebook andTwitter friends.

The install is simple, as is the initial startup experience. I created a flock account (seemed to be necessary to use the social features) and then pointed it towards my Twitter and Facebook accounts. The browser started and I have this nifty little sidebar on the lift that has all the activity from both services mixed in.

Using the browser is, for the most part, just like using Google Chrome with slightly different fonts and colors. Basically, this seems like another Chromium port with a sidebar so I looked a little closer at the sidebar.

I don’t love it.

OK, I don’t hate it, but it is missing a few features that really bug me.

  1. No Twitter Groups support. The Flock sidebar does support groups and offers some really cool features. But. No access to your pre-existing twitter groups
  2. No Facebook comments. Yes, you see Facebook status updates from your friends, but you don’t see any comments or “likes” that might be on those updates. You have to click them (one by one) to see if anyone commented. Ugh.

Odd design decision? The twitter stream shows everything, including replies where you don’t know both parties. Old school! I’m on the fence if that’s good or bad.

If you really like Chrome and want some social integration, then give Flock 2.0 beta a look – unless you’re big into setting up Twitter groups! I’m going to hold off for now and see what subsequent betas bring to the table. Perhaps there’s more to come that will make me a bit more excited to switch over.

Office 2010 Live on SkyDrive

10 Jun 2010
June 10, 2010

Years late to the party, but Microsoft has finally made their online office suite a bit more available to the general public. I learned about it from the “Office is now live on SkyDrive” article:

[…] if you live in the US, UK, Canada, or Ireland, you can head over to today to start viewing and editing Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and OneNote documents right in your web browser – and share them with your friends.

I’ve been playing with it a bit over the past few days and am pretty impressed. You can do all the stuff you’d expect: Upload existing docs to SkyDrive, edit them there or locally (with Office plugins I believe), collaborate, share, go mobile, etc.

Office Live on SkyDrive

The Web version of OneNote is especially worth a look. At first blush it is almost exactly like the real deal… but that blush fades after a little digging. Still, very impressive. Very useful.

What I really love is the fact that the tab key works so well for indenting / out-denting list items (which is one of my favorite features of the “real” OneNote). All the normal keyboard shortcuts work too: Ctrl-1 for the first tag item (checkbox by default), etc.

What’s disappointing about the web version of OneNote? You can’t customize the tags which is something I rely on for my own GTD’ish way (inspiration) of doing things. Sadly that doesn’t matter much because you can’t view/search by tags either. That’s a bit disappointing. I uploaded some of my old Notebooks but couldn’t open them with the online version. That too was a bit disappointing.

But still. Good stuff and worth a look.

Dropbox Selective Sync Experimental Build

07 Jun 2010
June 7, 2010

Dropbox - Secure backup, sync and sharing made easy.Here’s an exciting tidbit for the Dropbox users: Selective Sync is likely coming soon! This is an oft-requested feature and I, for one, am quite excited to see it coming. Just think, not every folder in your Dropbox will have to be synced to every machine.

I have an old Asus Eee 701 4G netbook – the old-school one with the 4GB SSD drive. Incredibly handy machine to have around for “utility” purposes, but I had to remove Dropbox from it because I had more in my Dropbox than this thing has storage! With this new feature I’ll be able to sync just the few directories I need on the netbook and still have enough space to, you know, install an operating system.

I haven’t installed the experimental build yet, I’ve had issues in the past getting too far ahead of the releases, but I’m really looking forward to a peek soon. Anyone running it – what did you think?